Despite the team’s tough last-second loss to the University of New Mexico Lobos on Saturday, the CSU men’s basketball guard’s spirits are high. An optimism he shares with the rest of the team as they move forward.
The Rams are 12-8 overall, but 3-4 in Mountain West Conference play. It’s tough for Bejarano to avoid making comparisons to last year’s team, where he was the sixth man. CSU had half the losses of this year, but Bejarano is confident that this year’s team will leave their own legacy.
“There’s a lot of basketball left. We can still make a run, it’s never too late” Bejarano said. “I believe the first interview I had, I said ‘I believe in this team.’ I feel we can still go a long ways and we can still prove people wrong.”
Junior J.J. Avila was not a part of last year’s team to make comparisons, but he is on board with Bejarano’s optimism. He totaled only 8 points, though he usually leads the team in scoring, so he was disappointed in his performance against the Lobos.
He plans to alleviate that disappointment against Nevada Wednesday night.
“If it’s hard to get motivated after a loss, you shouldn’t be playing,” Avila says. “I apologized for letting the team down because I didn’t play as well as I should have. But, coach teaches us that if one side of the ball isn’t going your way, you have to put all you have in the other side. They are coming off of a loss, so we are going to get their A-game; but we are ready.”
For head coach Larry Eustachy’s part, he could not have asked for more from his team. He is a man that hates to lose, but he did not see losers walking off the court in Moby Arena Saturday afternoon. He saw a team that will use today’s disappointment as next week’s motivation.
“I thought our guys played so courageous, it’s hard to play when you’re not making shots,” Eustachy said after the New Mexico game. “This team fights and we went down swinging. I feel bad about how it ended but we will move forward. We have an even tougher game at Nevada.”
Though Avila plans on acing every attempt, if he or his teammates find themselves struggling to the basket once again, he will tell them what Eustachy tells him.
“If shooting isn’t going right for you, don’t get your heads down. Just work hard on the other side,” he said. “I know we are ready.”
For Bejarano, he just wants the team to focus up and play the same game they did in the second half of the UNM game. They will have their defensive work cut out for them in the shapes of Michael Perez, Deonte Burton and Jerry Evans Jr – the team’s three leading scorers. All of whom average double digit points per game – Burton with 21.7 – and all of whom rank in the top-5 for rebounds.
“I know his game well, we played ball together,” Bejarano said of Perez who is also from Tucson, Ariz. “But I’m not worried, we have been playing some excellent defense. We take more pride in our defense than offense, so we can’t be afraid.”
Though he still has another year left to play after this, Bejarano does not want to coast through the remainder of the season – and he doesn’t want his teammates to either.
“Everyone is trying to talk about next year, but I can’t get this year back and no one else on this team can,” Bejarano said. “So I’m just trying to get them to buy into this year and play basketball.”Sports Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @c_rasta5.