By Todd Thomas. Staff Writer.
Truman’s men’s basketball team is having another challenging season. The Falcons are currently 2-21 for the 2017-18 campaign. But the won-loss record is somewhat misleading, since they have been competitive in many games as they battle through a tough NJCAA D1 schedule.
There are only three games remaining on the Falcon’s regular season schedule and they want to play their best ball as they enter the post-season tournament. Cooksey is confident they can close out the season better than they started and show that the 2-21 record does not reflect their real skill level.
After nearly seven seasons, Falcon head coach John Cooksey has learned to cope with the losses on the court, as he continues to develop a stronger basketball program year-by-year. Like any coach, he strives to win basketball games but, more importantly, he said he wants to teach life and academic skills to the student-athletes that he coaches.
Cooksey began his career at Truman as a volunteer academic counselor. Then, within a few months he decided to use his 15 years’ experience and accepted the position of head basketball coach. Soon after that he also became a business professor.
Being a coach as well as a teacher allows him to affect the players both on and off of the basketball court.
“My influence is that I want them to come to school. They don’t have to do cartwheels but if they stay in school and start to see the bigger picture, and become better students and better basketball players, I am ok with that,” Cooksey said. “I want to see my players grow as students to grow as athletes, and to grow as human beings. And this year we haven’t lost any players due to ineligibility.”
Recruiting top athletes who also want to excel in school can be daunting. The school hasn’t established itself as a basketball mecca and the crime in the Uptown community can also deter some potential candidates. However, the positives of the community and school offset some of the negativity.
“There are things I wish didn’t happen and not to downplay it because crime is a serious issue, but I’ve never worried about my own well-being in this neighborhood.” said Cooksey.
Cooksey also emphasizes the role community colleges play, not just in Uptown, but throughout the city of Chicago.
“Community colleges are here to make this a great city – not just for a few, but for everybody. That is our mission. Access to education. That access to education lifts the entire community.”
On the court he does want to get more wins. However, a major hurdle at the junior college level is the short time a player spends on the team. At the most a student will play for two seasons, but many players are transfers, so they only play for one season.
“Freshmen only start to figure it out during the second semester, so the shelf life of an athlete is short, and at this level it’s even shorter,” he said. “I think we’re making strides, but it has been more challenging than I expected at first.”
The Falcons close out the season with three home games at Truman’s Dave Rowlands Sports Center. Coach Cooksey and his team expect the best for these upcoming games: “We want to go 5-0 to close out the season. If we play well we can win some games in the postseason, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. When we play cohesively as a unit we are pretty good. We’ve played well against really good teams all season, we just need to block out the past and focus for the forty minutes we’re on the court.”
Another issue with Truman basketball, and other sports at the school, like soccer, is attendance at the games. There are many factors that come into play as far as getting students out to games, but Cooksey affirmed he is working on increasing attendance by connecting with Chicago Public Schools, and other innovative ways to garner more fan support.
“We’ve got to market it, but it’s a commuter campus and people go to school and then they leave when their classes are over, and most of our games are at night.” But also remarks that basketball is an entertaining event and the attendance at Dave Rowlands Sport Center is free for Falcons games.
Yesterday the Falcons defeated Kennedy-King College 76-73. This was the first of the five games the team is expecting to win.
Truman’s basketball team will close the season with the following games:
Date Day Opponent Location Time
02/17/18 Saturday Kankakee CC (H)Dave Rowlands Gym 1:00 p.m.
2/20/2018 Tuesday Malcom X MXC Gymnasium 7:00 p.m.
02/22/18 Thursday Olive-Harvey (H)Dave Rowlands Gym 7:00 p.m.
02/24/18 Saturday Kishwaukee (H)Dave Rowlands Gym 1:00 p.m.