In 2019, Western Michigan men’s basketball will enter year 17 under head coach Steve Hawkins. The Broncos season fell off the rails a year ago after they lost 10 straight games, tying a school record. Now, looking to improve on a lackluster 2018-19 season posting an overall record of 8-24 and a conference record of 2-16, the Broncos might just have a lot to look forward to.
The Broncos have a healthy mix of young legs and high basketball IQ veterans, who will put an emphasis on defensive communication, rebounding and tempo. The most impactful return is redshirt junior Brandon Johnson. Mike Flowers, who is working on a comeback of his own after injuring his knee over the summer said Johnson’s presence on the team will be a big addition.
“Getting Brandon back gives us a different type of play coming from the bigs, an element we didn’t have last year,” Flowers said.
Flowers was a big part of the offense last season scoring in double figures in 26 games during his sophomore campaign. Flowers commented on what he brings to the Bronco program.
“I bring a leadership element to the team, I’m a junior now and last year I felt like I got a lot of experience,” Flowers said. “I feel I’m also bringing a creative element to this team. Helping everyone get better and getting them in their spots.”
Comeback is the mantra this year for Johnson who makes his return this season after taking the entire 2018-19 season off to fully rehab a knee injury. The 6'8" forward was scheduled to make his return on Dec. 15 last season, but instead then sophomore Johnson decided to use a redshirt and come back at 100 percent. Johnson enters the season with a new outlook on his play as he looks to compete at the highest level possible every time he steps out on the court.
“For me every game is the most important game of the year, with me missing a year and a half of basketball I’m taking every game as serious as possible,” Johnson said. “Regardless of the competition, D1, non D1, I’m taking every game with the same mindset.”
With a family-like approach to the way the team works, it’s changing the ethos of the program. The Broncos add three freshmen in Titus Wright, B. Artis White and Chase Barrs. WMU suits up six upperclassmen including two seniors.
“[The] team this year Is more of a family, we’re always around each other and more connected than before,” Johnson said. “We’re ready to get to work and energy is always hype around here. Completely different from last year.”
Last year the Broncos couldn’t find ways to close out games and finish late. They averaged a deficit of six points in their 24 losses last season.
“Majority of the games we were in last year, we’d end up losing late in games to turnovers and late mistakes,” Johnson said. “However, this year that won’t be a problem. The goal of the team is a MAC championship. If we don’t get a MAC championship, we failed.”
WMU men’s basketball open their preseason against Kalamazoo College on November 2.