David Downs, quite possibly the best Division II men’s basketball player in the country, is motivated by past failures.
For starters, there’s the three losses the Seattle Pacific men’s basketball team suffered to Western Washington last season, including a heartbreaking defeat in the Western Regional title game.
It was the second straight year the Falcons came up short against the Vikings in the regionals.
Despite a No. 1 ranking in The Sporting News preseason rankings and a No. 2 spot in the polls, Downs admits he’s a little obsessed with Western.
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“To me they’re still No. 1 because we haven’t proven anything to them,” said the 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior point guard. “Until we beat them or until we beat the top teams in the league, then that’s when we’re No. 1.
“To me we have some work to do this year to prove not only to ourselves but to other people that we’re ready to start playing in the big games.”
Next up for the Falcons (3-0) is Friday’s 7 p.m. home opener at Brougham Pavilion against Colorado Christian.
Downs, who is averaging 25 points, is looking to build on an incredible start after leading SPU to the Disney Tip-Off Classic title and winning GNAC player of the week honors.
“Because of what he did, in some of our upcoming games it may be different going forward,” coach Ryan Looney said. “He’s going to have to then make the decision to get other people involved.”
The Falcons boast a diversified attack that features 6-8 forward Patrick Simon, a Washington State transfer, junior center Cory Hutsen and guard Riley Stockton, the nephew of Hall of Famer John Stockton.
Downs, Simon and Stockton are prolific three-point shooters, while Hutsen is a low-post threat.
“With what we have and everything we’ve been through, the season is a success only if we get past the Sweet 16,” Downs said. “We do that, then I think we have to re-evaluate our goals and take it game by game.”
Talking about the postseason in November makes Looney cringe. “The message that we deliver to our guys is it’s not about winning and losing, it’s about the process,” he said. “We try to handle every single day — whether it’s practice or a game — as its own unique entity. … You do that, then wins and losses will take care of themselves.”
Still, admittedly Looney relives the postseason defeats to the Vikings in his private moments.
“I think about it all the time,” he said, laughing. “I just don’t always communicate it with my team.”
The Falcons posted a 27-4 record last season, including a loss at San Francisco State.
“If we would have won that game, then we play that (regionals) game right here in this gym,” Looney said. “You never know which game will decide your season.”