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GCU Men’s Club Basketball Season Recap: Lopes prove resiliency in volatile campaign

GCU Men's Basketball player dribbling and surveying the court
April 16, 2020

By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff

The season felt akin to keeping a sinking boat afloat using some duct tape and glue for Grand Canyon University Men’s Club Basketball White Head Coach Lamont Lane.

The Lopes battled through injuries, key departures and lineup tweaks all year, yet still nearly captured a National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Region VI title in what was their last game of the season in early March.

Despite its late-season charge, GCU White finished the season with a 10-12 overall record, taking third in the National Club Basketball Association’s (NCBBA) Southern Pacific East Conference.

“We were just trying to piece it together as we went,” said Lane, who wrapped up his first season at the helm of GCU White. “I had to put guys in roles they weren’t used to because of losses at key positions. The guys did the best they could.”

GCU’s season had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.

The Lopes began the year by taking two of three games against Arizona State University before suffering near-sweeps at the hands of Arizona State University Downtown and GCU Purple. GCU was later swept by ASU in its last three-game series of the season heading into NIRSA.

A significant factor in the team’s struggles were the losses of 6’7” forward Elyon Zevenbergen and point guard Dante’ Nobles, who aggravated an ankle injury at midseason.

The key departures resulted in significant changes to the starting lineup.

“Losing those two guys changed the whole dynamic of the team,” Lane said. “It changed everybody’s role. Guys that were used to getting open and shooting now had to handle the ball and facilitate a little more after Dante’ went down. When we lost Elyon, we lost a lot of our inside presence.”

Even so, GCU found its stride at the NIRSA Region VI Tournament, which was hosted at the Canyon Activity Center.

The Lopes won five games in total to advance to the title game, cruising past San Diego State University, 51-39, in the quarterfinal before downing in-state rival ASU Downtown, 50-33, in the semifinal.

GCU’s bid to win the tournament on its home floor was foiled by CSUSM, which controlled the title game from the jump in a comfortable 12-point victory — effectively ending the Lopes’ season.

“We were starting to find our identity at NIRSA,” Lane said. “We had a defensive mindset, and we were starting to have fun on that end of the floor. The guys were starting to play some great team defense.”

Trever Ballard, Christian Zitney and Dustin Troutt were among several players fueling GCU’s run at the tournament.

Ballard, who will graduate early this spring, juggled a variety of roles and was the team’s top scorer. New to this year’s team, Zitney was a spark plug and turned into an impact player for the Lopes.

“I give Trever a lot of credit because his role changed a lot as the year went on,” Lane said. “He could have gotten frustrated, but he stayed positive. He really held people together.”

“Christian is one of the best athletes on our team,” Lane continued. “He was initially a starter, but ended up becoming our sixth man and provided great energy off the bench. I was very impressed with him.”

More than the wins and losses, Lane was most impressed with the team’s chemistry. He hopes to keep the good vibes going into next season.

“The players worked well with each other and had a tight bond,” Lane said. “All of us associated with this program want the players to play together — regardless of the outcome. Our focus going forward will be on building off our small successes this year.”

Interested in reading other GCU Men’s Club Basketball recaps? Head to the team page to check out the content!