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'Manifesto' helps guide Davidson basketball team

Last season, the good times for Davidson basketball had never seemed so good when the Wildcats made it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. The question this season: Will the good times be that good again? Many Davidson fans certainly think so. Season ticket sales are up by 2,000. Sellouts at Belk Arena are common. And yes, Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline is still a fan favorite. But talk to the players themselves, and the hype and fervor fade away. The team's focus turned to this season almost immediately after last season's loss to eventual national champion Kansas. Not long after that game, coach Bob McKillop found a four-page letter on his desk. "They met as a team and put together this four page manifesto, and it covered a variety of topics from the standpoint of basketball technique, training methods, practice sessions, schedule, involvement in the community, the way we would travel, diet," McKillop says. "So every aspect of their lives as student athletes was included in this particular manifesto." Senior forward Andrew Lovedale says players wanted to express their commitment to improvement on and off the court. "It's something that said 'let's get better.' We just felt as a team that we did do some really good things, but there was room for improvement," Lovedale says. "So we sat together and came up with something that sort of talked about what we felt we needed to do as a team, where we could improve. Not just improve ourselves, but live our lives as role models for little kids who look up to us in the community." McKillop encourages this attitude. He says a good basketball team is like a strong family. "It's very much like at the dinner table, in the America that I grew up in when families would gather every Sunday and every evening and have dinner together and communicate about what happened at work or at school. That kind of communication, I believe, kept families together. "The basketball team is very much like a family, and the more you communicate, the more you know about each other, the more you are able to get an understanding of each other, and so the more you are able to cooperate." Will Reigel is one of the new members of the family. He's a freshman walk-on from Charlotte Latin High School. Reigel talks about the team's values with the same intensity as Lovedale. "Our team unity sets us apart from other schools and other teams. We've got a motto, trust commitment care, and we live by it, by the code. And treat each other with all three of those things all the time, and it's really big for us," he says. For Reigel, Davidson basketball really is a family affair. His dad was a Wildcats point guard years ago, when Bob McKillop was a young assistant coach. "It's pretty special to be able to put on the jersey, and think that he had done the same thing. It had always been my main goal to play here more so than anywhere else," Reigel says. I just wanted to play here, regardless." While he appreciates where the team has been, his focus is on the future. "It's pretty special to be able to come in here and have the expectations we do have. I don't have any doubt that we can live up to every single one of them. Being able to play with these guys, you realize just how good they are, and how good we can be." The Wildcats will be tested over the next month. After Saturday's game against North Carolina State, the schedule includes three NCAA tournament teams from last year - Duke, West Virginia and Purdue.