Baby Camels Are Growing up: Conn College Season Preview

Bo McKinley '16 leads a still young Conn College team. (Courtesy of Conn Athletics)
Bo McKinley ’16 leads a still young Conn College team. (Courtesy of Conn Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

Conn was a very young team in 2014-2015, and it showed on the court as they went 0-10 in the NESCAC. However, they weren’t a pushover, losing four of those games by single digits, and they return the entire rotation from last year’s team. The roster is still very young with point guard Bo McKinley ’16 the only senior on the team. After hitting rock bottom last year, this season has to be one that shows progress. Just staying close is not going to be enough for the Camels. Conn College wants wins, and they have the personnel to do it.

2014-2015 Record:

7-16 overall; 0-10 NESCAC (11th); Did not qualify for NESCAC Tournament.

Head Coach: Tom Satran, 14th season, 124-185 (.401), Conn College Class of 1994

Returning Starters: Five

PG Bo McKinley ’16 (8.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 30.0% FG)
G Lee Messier ’18 (12.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 35.4% 3PT)
F Colin Pascoe ’18 (4.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.1 apg)
F Isaiah Robinson ’18 (9.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 43.5% FG)

C Zuri Pavlin ’17 (13.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 50.7% FG)

All five starters return from a year ago, and the hope is that those three sophomores make big jumps in their second season. So far the Camels have mixed up the starting five with Daniel Janel ’18, a reserve for most of last season who came on strong near the end of the season, in the starting lineup. The Camels are not lacking 6’5″ and 6’6″ bodies, but they don’t have anybody taller than that who can really act as a defensive rim protector.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG Bo McKinley ’16 (8.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 30.0% FG)

McKinley has been a stalwart for this team, staying on the team as others have dropped off. As the point guard and only senior on the roster, McKinley has a clear leadership role for the Camels. He is not exactly a superstar, but he also has to take on a lot of responsibility on both ends of the floor. He is not quite quick enough to drive by his defender, but he still can do a better job of distributing the ball than last year when he had just 2.4 APG.

G Lee Messier ’18 (12.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 35.4% 3PT)

Messier can shoot, and so far this year he has been doing a heck of a lot of it. He is shooting a somewhat ridiculous nine three pointers per game so far (that’s the most in the NESCAC), and he is making them at a 40.7 percent clip. That is the biggest reason why he is leading the Camels with 16.7 ppg through three games. His overall field goal percentage is lower than his three point percentage, and he has to be less reliant on jump shots. Messier is a solid two-guard besides just scoring, capable of chipping in a few assists and rebounds per game.

G Alex Tonhazy ’18 (8.4 ppg, 35.1% 3PT, 3.5 rpg)

This is the one position that is really up in the air, and the coaching staff is waiting for everybody to be healthy before really figuring out who exactly will fill this spot. I’m putting Tonhazy here because of the way he finished the season last year. Highlighted by a 28-point game vs. Trinity, he averaged 13.0 ppg in the final six games of the season, the only six games that he started. Tonhazy has had a very slow start to the season playing in just two of the three games so far and not starting either of those.

F Isaiah Robinson ’18 (9.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 43.5% FG)

Robinson has not played so far this year because of several nagging injuries, but he should be back in the next few weeks before Christmas. It will take him a little time to get his conditioning back so he might not really be at full strength until New Years. When he is healthy, Robinson is another bruiser inside with Pavlin. He did hit a little bit of a wall in NESCAC play with his scoring dropping to 7.7 PPG with a subpar 35.9 shooting percentage. He is a better player than that, and the early injuries might actually have the benefit of making him fresher for later in the season.

C Zuri Pavlin ’17 (13.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 50.7% FG)

The man in the middle, Pavlin is one of the best big men in the NESCAC, which is saying something given the caliber of players like Chris Hudnut ’16 and Tom Palleschi ’17. Pavlin is a grinder who outworks his opposition, and that is how he led the NESCAC in rebounding last year with 11.5 rpg. He also led the Camels in points last year, but he might see those numbers drop a little this season. Because he isn’t great at creating his own shot, he will give up some possessions to players like Messier, but ultimately I think Pavlin will become more efficient and retain pretty much the same scoring numbers. That is of course good for both Pavlin and the team. If the Camels play smaller and shoot more threes, that will also help Pavlin.

Breakout Player: F David Labossiere ’19

Am I choosing Labossiere just to show you that sick video  … maybe a little given that the freshman has not played much so far. The coaching staff is excited about how he will grow over the four years, but this year will be a little more of a process as Labossiere gets more up to speed on the defensive schemes for Conn. He will be somewhat of a situational player with heavy minutes in some games and less in others. The early returns are promising beyond just that one video with Labossiere averaging 4.7 ppg and 3.7 rpg. His minutes might get squeezed as others get healthy, so he has to continue to prove that he is good enough now to get minutes.

Everything Else

The Camels are 1-2 early on, and they got their first win Sunday over Roger Williams. The key for them is on the defensive end, where they were the worst in the NESCAC last season. Nobody on the roster has identified themselves as a defensive stopper, and the lack of any perimeter stopper really hurts them against certain teams. As mentioned above, the Camels are not healthy right now, and that is not helping the team gain a rhythm early, though it is allowing some players to get good minutes. Guys like G Sean McNally ’18 and F Daniel Janel are getting a good amount of minutes, and they are going to be needed as important bench players all season.

One of the reasons why Pavlin gets so many rebounds is because nobody else on the roster is competing for them. After having one of the worst overall rebounding margins last year, Conn is right back near the bottom of the league through three games. Last year it was understandable given the youth on the team, but given that the players are now a year stronger, they should be better at holding their ground underneath.

Last year the Camels started three players (Robinson, Pavlin and Pascoe) who were NOT at all threats to shoot the ball. Many teams have four players who can pop it from downtown, and the simple arithmetic of three being more than two makes it advantageous for Conn to shoot more threes than they did last year when they were tied with Tufts for the second-fewest threes made. If they get a little more production from deep and clamp down on the boards, the Camels will knock some teams off. At the very very least, they are going to put a scare into a lot of teams.

No Hart, No Linsanity; Who Will Guide the Continentals? Hamilton Season Preview

Jack Dwyer has taken over the point guard position for a young Continental team. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Jack Dwyer has taken over the point guard position for a young Continental team. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

Last season was a year of growth for the Hamilton Continentals, both for players new and old. With the decisions of Matt Hart to transfer to George Washington and incumbent senior Bradley Gifford to hang up the sneaks, Head Coach Adam Stockwell was unexpectedly left with a depleted roster for 2014-15. As a result, freshmen who weren’t expected to play very much earned valuable experience, and PG Joseph Lin ’15 played like one of the league’s elite until an injury towards the end of the season.

The Continentals must once again overcome the loss of their two most important players from a season before – this time to graduation – with Lin and sharpshooting forward Peter Kazickas ’15 on to greener pastures. Coach Stockwell is waiting for a veteran to emerge at the center of this unit, like Lin last season or his predecessors Hart, Greg Newton ’14 and Pat Sullivan ’12. The Hamilton basketball team is entering its fifth season competing in the NESCAC, with its best finish being a 5-5 conference mark in 2013-14. With a lack of experience on the roster, Hamilton will be hard-pressed to match that 5-5 record, but the program is moving in the right direction with a bevy of talented youngsters now on board.

2014-2015 Record:

14-10 overall; 2-8 NESCAC (10th); Did not qualify for NESCAC Tournament

Head Coach: Adam Stockwell, 5th season, 55-43 (.561)

Returning Starters: Four

PG Jack Dwyer ’18 (3.8 ppg, 3.6 apg, 32.0% FG)
G Jack Donnelly ’16 (8.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 43.2% 3PT)
G/F Joe Pucci ’18 (5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 41.8% FG)
F Ajani Santos ’16 (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg)

Coaches always say that the past is the past and players have to earn their stripes each new season, but they don’t always choose lineups with that philosophy in mind. This year, it’s very apparent that Coach Stockwell is giving nothing freely to his veterans. Santos and Donnelly, who started 23 and 22 games last year, respectively, are out of the starting lineup, while Dwyer and Pucci, who each started 12 contests a year ago, have apparently locked down starting spots. Donnelly is still racking up minutes and has seemingly embraced the sixth-man role, but Santos looks to be in the dog house right now with just 10.3 mpg through three games so far. Coach Stockwell hasn’t let on what’s behind the severe drop in Santos’ playing time, instead reiterating his confidence that the big man can get back on track, and citing some outstanding efforts from some younger big men. If I had to ponder a guess, I’d say that Santos’ constant foul trouble and temper have hindered him. That’s only a guess though – there is plenty of season left to see how things work out.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG Jack Dwyer ’18

The Hamilton lineup is extremely fluid right now, with 11 (eleven!) guys seeing double digit minutes per game, but Dwyer looks the the closest thing to a lock for me the rest of the season. He’s a true point with great quickness and good strength, given his size (5’11” 175 lbs). His scoring binge over the weekend was impressive, but not surprising to those around the Hamilton team. Don’t expect quite that level of production (16.0 ppg through three games), because he doesn’t shoot the three ball at all, but he can hang in the low teens range in points. There are some great, if unproven, shooters on this team, and Dwyer is the man to get them the basketball.

SG Peter Hoffman ’19

Hoffman is obviously green as a freshman, but he’s immediately become a scoring threat and is second on the team with 11.7 ppg. Unlike Dwyer, Hoffman can light it up from deep, and at 6’5″ he complements the smaller Dwyer well. Classmate Tim Doyle ’19 started the first two games in this spot, but Hoffman started the last, and it’s going to be a constant battle to see which youngster can solidify his position, but both will continue to see minutes.

G/F Joe Pucci ’18

Pucci is tall – 6’7″ – but has guard-like athleticism. Just a sophomore, he has the ability to become a leader for this young squad. He should be able to do a little bit of everything for the Conts – score some points, rebound and defend those tough wing players. With Pucci at the 3, Hamilton will be going against the NESCAC grain which seems to be trending towards three-guard sets. It’s a risky strategy, but one that could pay dividends if Pucci can defend his smaller match ups.

F Andrew Groll ’19

Another freshman expected to play big minutes, Groll is going to be counted on to be a physical presence at 6’6″ 240 lbs. Coach Stockwell has high hopes for the way Groll will develop, and he applauded the way Groll gets after rebounds on both ends of the floor. He might not be the most refined offensive player just yet, but with so many shooters around him and coming off the bench, Groll could stick in the starting rotation.

F Ajani Santos ’16

This is a gut call, because the early signs are that Santos is being passed over by the young forwards – Groll, Pucci, Kelan McConnell ’18 and Karl Koster ’18. Obviously, his league-worst 88 personal fouls and eight ejections for fouls last year were a big problem, but there has to be something else going on here. Unless a player gets in trouble or comes into camp completely out of shape – and I’m not saying either of these things are true, nor is there any evidence that either is the case –  you usually don’t see a team’s most used player ride pine early on the next season. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I think it has to be made right for Hamilton to be competitive. As talented as the Hamilton youngsters are, Santos will be needed to provide some senior leadership if this team is going to go far.

Breakout Player: G Peter Hoffman

It’s not often that a freshman comes into any college league with the talent and opportunity to be an immediate star. In this case, Hoffman has both. He’s got great size for a two-guard, can shoot from anywhere (including the free throw stripe), and is a great perimeter defender, according to his head coach. There is a lot of competition at the guard spot for Hoffman, and he probably won’t see much more than 20.0 mpg with Donnelly coming off the bench and playing an important role, but he can be an efficient scorer and make an impact on both ends of the floor.

Everything Else:

Backing up the shifty Dwyer at point guard is the more strategic Wes Wilbur ’17. They won’t both be on the court very often, but when they are Wilbur will shift to the two-guard spot. The disadvantage of having them both on the floor is that it takes away the three-pointer from the Continentals game, and even though they didn’t shoot the three much last year, they were the most efficient three-point shooting team in the NESCAC. Donnelly and Hoffman are excellent outside shooters, and I would expect most of the minutes to feature the threesome of Dwyer-Donnelly-Hoffman on the court. Kyle Pitman ’17 is the last guard in the mix, and he brings great range to the floor, too.

The frontcourt minutes are totally in flux with the expected return to relevance of Santos. Right now, Groll, Pucci, Koster and McConnell are taking up most of the time, but something will have to give if Santos is going to reemerge. Groll and Koster are Stockwell’s workhorses down low, banging bodies and getting rebounds. McConnell is undersized at 6’5″ but is another sharpshooter, while Pucci does a bit of everything, too, but as noted above, with him at the 3-guard, Hamilton might get run off the court by some quick and skilled back courts. The x-factor for the Hamilton frontcourt, once again, is 6’11” Zander Wear ’18. Wear came to Hamilton with a lower level of basketball experience than most freshman in the league, but has taken a big leap from a season ago. Still, with so much youth and talent amongst the Hamilton big men, it will be an uphill battle for Wear to break in.

Coach Stockwell is running with a deep rotation right now and allowing the cream to rise to the top. It’s a good strategy early on, and one that many NESCAC coaches employ, especially with a younger roster like Hamilton’s. The only worry is whether the Conts can build up enough chemistry with the guys who are going to be on the court come NESCAC time in January. Can they rely on freshmen and sophomores to lead them to the NESCAC playoffs? Or will Donnelly and Santos go out with a flourish in their final college season? Hamilton may be the toughest team to predict at this point this season. The good news for Hamiltonians is that youth and talent are aplenty in Clinton.

Not Rebuild, Not Reload, But Reiterate: Wesleyan Season Preview

PG BJ Davis '16 has blow-by speed ... just ask Jayde Dawson. (Courtesy of Rob Matson, Amherst College Office of Communications)
PG BJ Davis ’16 has blow-by speed … just ask Jayde Dawson. (Courtesy of Rob Matson, Amherst College Office of Communications)

Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

After a whirlwind offseason spent hosting SNL, flirting with starlets and just generally enjoying the incredible international recognition that stems from winning the NESCAC championship, Wesleyan has come back down to earth and is ready to compete for the top prize again. The Cardinals used a balanced attack to overcome a rough start to league play last year (Middlebury made them look like my JV middle school squad last season in Week 2 of the NESCAC schedule) to beat top teams Trinity and Amherst on their way to the championship. Four Cardinals averaged more than 10 points per game last season; guards BJ Davis ’16, Harry Rafferty ’15 and Jack Mackey ’16, as well as forward Joseph Kuo ’15.

And therein lies the strength of Wesleyan’s 2015-2016 unit; every single one of those players is back. This “core four” gives Wesleyan a surplus of experience, something that is rare in the youth-driven NESCAC. However, many of the teams that Wesleyan beat last season have retooled significantly in the offseason. Williams is 3-0 this season, with the best freshman class in the league already paying dividends. Wesleyan’s finals opponent, Amherst, is loaded, with players like Johnny McCarthy ’18 (the hype train keeps on rolling) who were a little raw last year stepping up in a big way. Wesleyan returns most of their talent from last year, but they are in danger of the league growing up around them while they stay rooted in one spot.

2014-2015 Record:

19-9 overall; 5-5 NESCAC (t-4th); won NESCAC Championship over Amherst 74-70 in OT; lost to Skidmore 81-66 in the first round of the NCCA Tournament

Head Coach: Joe Reilly, 8th season, 90-84 (.517) 


Returning Starters: Six

G BJ Davis (11.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, .385% 3PT)
G Harry Rafferty (10.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg .379% 3PT)
G Jack Mackey (11.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, .381% 3PT)
F Joseph Kuo (11.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
F Rashid Epps (7.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, .593% FG)
F Joe Edmonds (9.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .441% 3PT)

All of the above players started at least 17 games last season. As you can see from these numbers, Wesleyan’s hallmark in 2014-2015 was a balanced scoring attack with a healthy dose of three-point shooting from dangerous three guard lineups. However, their most deadly three-point shooter from last season, Joe Edmonds ’16 at 41 percent, has been out for most of the preseason with a foot injury and has yet to get back on the court. Additionally, the consistently dangerous Jack Mackey has been struggling to overcome a variety of injuries. He’s played good minutes so far, but come off the bench in two of the Cards’ three games and is struggling shooting the ball at just 5-23 overall and 3-17 from three. This has led to a shakeup in the experience-laden Cardinals’ starting five.

Projected Starting Lineup: 

PG BJ Davis (11.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, .385% 3PT)

With Edmonds and his scoring touch gone for greener pastures and Mackey struggling mightily, BJ Davis becomes even more crucial to the Cardinals’ success. Davis is playing a ridiculous 35.3 mpg early on. One of the most talented and athletic guards in the league (if you get the chance, try to find his tip slam against Middlebury on YouTube. Oofta), he was excellent last season at playing within the system. However, this season he will have a longer leash, and it could be very exciting watch him explore his new freedom.

SG Harry Rafferty (10.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg .379% 3PT)

Rafferty was a breakout star last year for the Cardinals, emerging in his sophomore season as a consistent scoring threat and excellent perimeter defender. He stays within himself beautifully, as the entire Wesleyan team does, and will be a crucial cog in Wesleyan’s machine this year. In their first three games he has upped his scoring to 12.7 points per game, and has six steals already on the season.

SF PJ Reed ’16 (2.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, .311% FG)

A junior who played very sparingly last season, Reed has stepped into the starting lineup due to the struggles and health of Jack Mackey. However, Mackey has continued to play heavy minutes off the bench while Reed is simply a placeholder. This is a spot in Wesleyan’s starting lineup that will need to be resolved for them to compete in the top tier of NESCAC this season. I would expect Mackey to figure it out once he is fully healthy and return to the starting lineup, with Edmonds rotating with him once he recovers from his own injury, but if he doesn’t, Reed has good size at 6’5” and could see heavier playing time as the year goes on. Additionally, Wesleyan has one of the top freshman guard recruits in the league in Salim Greene ’19, who will press both of those players for playing time once he recovers from a concussion suffered in the preseason (it seems like Wesleyan should be a little more subdued in their preseason intensity.)

PF Joseph Kuo (11.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg)

Kuo and Epps combine to give Wesleyan one of the staunchest defenses in the league, particularly around the rim. However, Kuo is no specialist. He led the team in scoring last season, and has good touch around the rim as well as on mid-range jump shots. He and Epps both benefit greatly from drives and dishes from Wesleyan’s killer rotation of smart guards, something that shouldn’t change this season with the emergence of Davis and Rafferty. He has struggled somewhat finishing this year, shooting only 40 percent so far, but that should level out as Wesleyan’s rotations get more consistent.

 C Rashid Epps (7.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, .593% FG)

Epps is the centerpiece of Wesleyan’s defense. A cagey defender with strong instincts and athleticism, any scoring Wesleyan got from Epps last season was a bonus. However, his impressive shooting percentage from last season shows his good touch around the rim, and this season so far he has upped his scoring to 10.3 points per game, while still rebounding well and shooting at a 61 percent clip. Epps is the kind of solid, consistent center that teams like Middlebury and Williams, who often get killed inside despite solid perimeter talent, would love to have.

Breakout Player: BJ Davis 

It’s an overstatement to say that Davis was held back by Wesleyan’s balance last year. He still averaged nearly 12 points per game, and was able to put the team on his back (a la Greg Jennings) several times. Also, he got a NESCAC championship ring out of the deal, so I doubt he’s complaining. However, he always seemed to have First Team talent that would never be backed up by his numbers. This season thus far has seen a change in that. Davis has stepped out from the crowd to the tune of 23.3 points per game on 57.6 percent shooting from the field and 56.3 percent from three. Obviously those shooting percentages are not sustainable, but his quickness and athleticism have combined with leadership and experience to create a very dangerous weapon. And with Mackey starting slow, the floor is Davis’ to carry the team more than he ever needed to last season. He looks to be very ready.


For all to TL;DR people out there, here’s the summary of Wesleyan’s chances in 2015-2016. They return most of their scoring from last year, and added a potential game changer in Salim Greene. However, Greene is a freshman and is struggling with a concussion. For them to succeed this season and possibly repeat as NESCAC champions, they will need the players from last year to both stay consistent and improve to keep up with a young and talented league. In the first three games of the season, this has been a mixed bag. A bad opening loss to Lyndon State showed the worst-case scenario for the Cardinals; they didn’t have any players explosive enough to get them a hoop when they needed it. However, the next two games featured BJ Davis shoving that idea somewhere dark and out of the way to the tune of 23 and 31 points in two wins. If Davis is truly making a First Team leap in his senior season, Wesleyan will get their experienced leaders Mackey and Edmonds back from injury and reserve a spot in the top tier with Amherst and Trinity. If he’s going to come back to earth, then the Cardinals’ brand of stolid balance and consistency might not be enough in the ever-shifting NESCAC basketball universe.

Cliché alert: sports is a copycat business, and the NESCAC has taken note of the Cards’ championship recipe. Wesleyan won by relying on a three-guard set and a short, six-man rotation. Expect other teams to start copying that strategy. Middlebury will roll out Jack Daly ’18, Jake Brown ’17 and Matt St. Amour ’17 all at once. Williams is basically playing with four guards and C Edward Flynn ’16 for stretches with a couple of freshmen forwards coming off of the bench. Wesleyan also won because their best players played the whole game. No other team relied so heavily on so few players. Mackey, Davis, Rafferty, Kuo, Edmonds and Epps all played at least 22.1 mpg last year – Chris Tugman ’15 was next with 11.2 mpg. Coach Reilly is staying with that strategy this season. Davis, Mackey, Rafferty, Kuo and Epps are all over 26.0 mpg. F Nathan Krill ’18 is at 13.7 mpg. Once Edmonds comes back, he will jump back into the six-man rotation, and Greene could stretch that to a seven-man, but that’s still a shorter bench than most teams. It’s a risky strategy, and the Cardinals will need to get healthy and stay healthy in order to be successful.

Polar Bears Need a Supporting Cast: Bowdoin Season Preview

The middle three seniors lead an in flux Bowdoin team. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Seniors Matt Palecki (44), Lucas Hausman (21) and Jake Donnelly (11) lead an in-flux Bowdoin team. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

The first person that anybody who watched a Bowdoin game in the past few years noticed was legitimately seven foot tall center John Swords ’15. The big man was a unique player in the NESCAC, and he blossomed into a two-way force his final two seasons. He would disappear on offense at times, but he was indisputably a terror on defense as a rim-protector. Swords is gone as well as point guard Bryan Hurley ’15 and forward Keegan Pieri ’15.

Bowdoin made the NCAA tournament just two season ago, but almost every contributor from that team has graduated, a huge amount of turnover especially for a non-elite NESCAC team that is not able to land quite the recruits some schools can. The good news is that the one contributor still remaining from the NCAA team is Lucas Hausman ’16, who became a scoring monster in the second half of last season and was a preseason First Team All-American. Behind him are a bunch of players that need to step into bigger roles, but offer an intriguing mix of potential.

2014-2015 Record:

18-8 overall, 7-3 NESCAC (t-2nd); lost in NESCAC Semifinals to Amherst 76-56; did not qualify for NCAAs

Head Coach: Tim Gilbride, 31st season, 432-304 (.587)

Returning Starters: Three

G Jake Donnelly ’16 (3.0 ppg, 1.4 apg, 2.3 rpg)
G Lucas Hausman ’16 (20.7 ppg, 87.8% FT, 1.6 apg)
F Matt Palecki ’16 (9.2 ppg, 34.6% 3PT, 5.7 rpg)

All three seniors on the roster are returning starters which tells you a lot about how Gilbride relies on improvement year to year from his players. Donnelly started the second half of last season after  Pieri  got hurt and the Polar Bears went to a three-guard starting lineup. Palecki more than tripled his scoring output from his sophomore year as a junior, and he is a grizzled vet that Bowdoin can rely on.

Projected Starting Five

PG Jake Donnelly (3.0 ppg, 1.4 apg, 2.3 rpg)

A steady player, Donnelly is never going to be the point guard who is the key player on offense, and he will not come close to the numbers that Hurley put up. However, he doesn’t need to be the primary ball-handler so long as he is able to bring the ball up the floor and consistently hit three pointers. His strength is more on defense where he will guard the top perimeter threat whenever Bowdoin plays man-to-man defense. It is also a possibility that Donnelly gives up minutes as the season goes along to some of the younger guards on the team.

SG Lucas Hausman (20.7 ppg, 87.8% FT, 1.6 apg)

The senior can score, and we know that. In his three games so far, he’s averaged 31.3 ppg, and it’s been pretty much as expected. Bowdoin will need him to diversify his game for them to take a step forward, though. Because teams are going to be so focused on him, Hausman has to be able to be better at getting his teammates involved: 1.6 apg is not going to cut it. He also has to get better defensively. Swords served as a safety net for Bowdoin’s guards that just doesn’t exist anymore. The expectations for Hausman are high, but he still has to stay within himself offensively and not try to do everything on his own.

F Matt Palecki (9.2 ppg, 34.6% 3PT, 5.7 rpg)

After having such a breakout junior year, one might think Palecki could will a similar jump as a senior, but that isn’t the type of player he is. The forward is a low-usage player who is able to stretch the floor by hitting the three but also gets a good amount of points off of offensive rebounds. What he is not is somebody that you give the ball in the post to and expect to get points from. He will be a key offensive player but not an initiator of his own offense. Defensively, Palecki is nominally the center, but nobody will mistake him for the same type of player as Swords. Not a great leaper, he is more apt to draw charges than get blocks.

F Neil Fuller ’17 (3.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg)

Last year was basically a lost season for Fuller because of injuries, and he needs to put that behind him. Another 6’6″ body, Fuller has more lateral quickness than Palecki so he will match up with most power forwards. He is not much of a threat from three, but he does like to work out of the high post where he has enough athleticism to attack slow-footed defenders. However, he isn’t likely to have the ball in his hands very often in order to make those kinds of plays.

F Jack Simonds ’19

The most intriguing player on the Bowdoin roster, Simonds was the talk of the team in the preseason, and he backed that up when he had 21 points in the second game of the season. The big lefty represents the best choice for a second-scorer emerging besides Hausman. He will remind Bowdoin fans of Keegan Pieri in his ability to hit contested mid-range jumpers, and he might also already be a better shooter from deep than Pieri was. How much of an adjustment playing against college players is remains to be seen, but it can often take big men a year or two to catch up.

Breakout Player: F Liam Farley ’18 (3.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 90.9% FT)

This pick is a not-so-educated guess that Farley is going to be an important perimeter scorer whenever Hausman sits. Farley is one of the few Bowdoin players who is best with the ball in his hands, but he too often settles for jump shots. The presence of Simonds tempers expectations for Farley, but he should still have a much better sophomore season in order to give Bowdoin more depth.

Everything Else:

This is a weird roster because there is no clear center or real point guard right now. Instead, Gilbride is going to have to figure out how to create offense in an unusual way. And though there is not a true point guard who can break down a defense right now, Tim Ahn ’19 has the skill to develop into that player. He will need to get better understanding the schemes Bowdoin runs in order to get a good amount of playing time. PG Bryan Hurley was a hugely important player, and his loss should not be discounted. Jack Hewitt ’17 is the lead big man off of the bench, and there is not a big drop off to him from Fuller or Palecki.

The biggest worries for Bowdoin are on that defensive end and in the half-court offense. They don’t have the personnel to stay in front of players out on the perimeter, and Gilbride will not go to zone as much as last year when Swords was able to play in the middle. Bowdoin didn’t have to worry about any rebounding problems in their zone because of Swords, but they now have to rebound as a team, and playing in the zone makes them more susceptible to offensive rebounds. After having one of the best defenses in the league with Swords, the Polar Bears might find themselves having to score 80 points in order to win games.

The worst case scenario for Bowdoin is that the pieces never really fit together. In that situation, the focus would be on how many points Hausman can score. And while that would be fun at times, it would be a disappointment for a team that finished second in the NESCAC last year. The ceiling for this team is still pretty high given that they have the best player in the NESCAC, but it might take this unit a while to figure out how exactly they will work best playing together.

Strong Starting Five for Mules: Colby Season Preview


Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

The high point for the Mules last season was a span of less than 24 hours after they had beaten Hamilton to move to 3-0 in NESCAC play and stood atop the NESCAC standings. From then on, the schedule stiffened and the wheels came off for a 1-6 finish and the eighth seed in the NESCAC tournament.

Oh, and their best player Chris Hudnut ’16 was lost to a knee injury for the second half of the NESCAC season. The Mules never caved in any games, and they came incredibly close to upsetting Trinity in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs. A few important players are gone because of graduation, but the core, made up of a huge 2016 class, is back to try to get Colby out of the middle of the NESCAC standings.

2014-2015 Season: 13-12 overall, 4-6 NESCAC (t-8th); lost to Trinity in NESCAC quarterfinals 66-63; did not qualify for NCAAs.

Head Coach: Damien Strahorn (Colby ’02), 5th year, 41-57 (.418)

Returning Starters: Five

G Luke Westman ’16 (13.1 ppg, 73.2% FG, 1.9 A/TO, 4.8 rpg)
G Ryan Jann ’16 (13.4 ppg, 38.5% 3PT, 5.8 rpg)
F Patrick Stewart ’16 (11.4 ppg, 43.3% 3PT, 6.9 rpg, stats from 2013-2014)
F Sam Willson ’16* (11.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 87.9% FT)
F/C Chris Hudnut ’16 (19.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.8 apg)

*Started all 25 games after Stewart ’16 injured his back in prior to the start of the regular season.

When healthy, these five seniors are the best group of seniors any NESCAC team can throw out there, and they offer balance and ball-sharing in a lot of places. Willson and Stewart are both more power forwards than wings, which won’t be much of a problem on offense because both of them are able to hit from deep. On defense though, the Mules will have to worry about keeping up with smaller teams that will push the ball and try to take advantage of the Mules lack of defensive speed.

Projected Starting Five:

PG Luke Westman ’16

This point guard comes into his senior year as a co-captain of this Colby team. Westman is a player who has the ability to fill the score sheet in different ways. He is never going to shoot threes, but he does almost everything else. While being the most consistent mid-range shooter for Colby, he also will be an important player in facilitating the offense, as well as strengthening the backcourt defensively with his ability to force turnovers. He’s arguably the most athletic point guard in the NESCAC also.

SG Ryan Jann ’16

Last season, Jann led the team in 3PT field goal percentage (38.5) which helped open things up underneath for teammate Chris Hudnut ’16. Averaging a team second best 13.4 ppg, Jann’s role as a scorer will surely be called on again, and in heavier doses considering the loss of Colby’s other 3-point weapon Connor O’Neil ’15. The key is balancing that volume with efficiency so that Jann is not taking shots away from Hudnut.

G/F Sam Willson ’16

After Patrick Stewart ’16 was lost for the season with a back injury, Willson was asked to step into the four spot and fill the empty space in the starting rotation. Willson quickly adjusted to his role underneath providing the Colby offense with a weapon to complement Chris Hudnut inside the paint. Even when Hudnut went down and Willson had to play center, he fought valiantly and was able to do enough to keep Colby in games.

F Patrick Stewart ’16

Stewart comes into this year as one of the biggest uncertainties for the Mules. It’s already been well documented that he missed his entire junior season with a back injury, after being a consistent starter since his freshman year. While he’s stationed down low on paper, Stewart has the ability to drift out beyond the arc and knock down the long shot. That threat from three is something most NESCAC coaches dream of in their forwards, and Stewart has it for real.

F/C Chris Hudnut ’16

Co-captain Chris Hudnut has been the go-to guy for Colby since he was brought into the program three years ago. The team leader in points per game and rebounds per game, his presence will be greatly appreciated after he went down last year with an ACL tear 17 games into the season. The best part of his game has to be his crafty moves in the post, but don’t count him out for a three pointer here and there, as Hudnut has the confidence to take any shot on the floor if left open.

Breakout Player: G Joe Connelly ’17

Assuming the Mules don’t catch the health bug this year like they did in their 2014-2015 campaign, the starting five is projected to be all seniors. That being said, one player that seems poised for a breakout year is junior guard Joe Connelly. Connelly appeared in all 25 games for Colby last year, and although he didn’t have electric numbers that would cause opposing defenses to fear him, it’s clear that Coach Strahorn has a lot of confidence in his game. Connelly is a player whose motor can run with the best in the NESCAC, and who’s not afraid to get inside the paint to help out with the rebounding game of the Mules. With or without injuries to the starting five, I believe Connelly will be a player who will provide a spark for this team.

Everything Else:

If you haven’t gathered it by now, the big story for Colby going into their 2015-2016 season is whether or not they can stay healthy. While the losses of Stewart and Hudnut last year were significant blows to the team’s success, it gave upcoming players an opportunity to step up and make their presence known. The depth of this team is something that their head coach has noted as being a strength going into this year. Besides Connelly, guards Pat Dickert ’18 and John Gallego ’16 provide more offensive play-making off the bench.

The Class of 2016, which makes up the entire starting five, plus a few more, was the first recruiting class of Coach Strahorn. The seniors will be the driving force of this team, and while they have all contributed up to this point, it will be interesting to see how successful they will be as one unit out on the court together.

One big question going into this year is whether or not Colby can find a way to shore up their defense. We said the same thing last season, but I can’t say we saw any improvement as they were ranked second to last in the NESCAC in points per game (72.1). Offensively they have the weapons both inside the paint and beyond the arc to challenge opposing defenses, but in the end defense is going to be something to watch for the Mules this season.

No Longer the Road to Salem, but the Road to Redemption: Middlebury Season Preview

PG Jake Brown '17 is the engine that makes the Panthers go. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
PG Jake Brown ’17 is the engine that makes the Panthers go. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

One word describes Middlebury’s 2014-15 season: disappointment. I know that’s terribly harsh, but there was no one around the league that would have predicted that the Panthers would miss the NESCAC tournament for the first time since 2005 – especially after the team’s 9-0 start to the year. Once NESCAC play began, though, it was all downhill, and fast. Panther-killer Graham Safford ’15 once again finished off Middlebury in the NESCAC opener. In 2013 Safford drilled a three-pointer with 11 seconds left to steal a win in Pepin Gymnasium, and last season it was four made free throws down the stretch to ice a home win for Bates. Next came the Tufts Jumbos, who sent the Panthers back to Vermont with a 80-63 loss.

The Panthers finished 17-7 and 4-6 in conference. The rotation lost forwards Hunter Merryman ’15 and Dylan Sinnickson ’15 (now playing with UVM), who accounted for 40 percent of Middlebury’s points last season. Without those two in the lineup, there is a serious lack of outside shooting, and the biggest question will be how to replace two 6’5″ bodies with range and the athleticism to get to the rim.

Middlebury’s reign of dominance – eight consecutive NESCAC appearances from 2007-14; six consecutive NCAA appearances from 2008-13; NESCAC titles in 2009 and 2011; an Elite Eight trip in 2013; a Final Four in 2011 – feels pretty far in the past these days. The Panthers are going to be fighting to finish in the top half of the NESCAC this season.

2014-15 Record: 

17-7 overall; 4-6 NESCAC (t-8th); did not qualify for NESCAC tournament

Coach: Jeff Brown, 19th season, 291-174 (.626)

Returning Starters: Two

PG Jake Brown ’17 (7.2 ppg, 6.3 apg, 1.5 apg)
SG Matt St. Amour ’17 (12.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.8 apg)

This should really say 2.5 returning starters. The “.5” comes from F Connor Huff ’16. Huff had a 12-game stretch last season where he started every game, and early on this year he’s come off the bench in the Panthers’ first two contests but played 19.5 mpg. Huff is a bit undersized in the front court, but plays with heart and has a high basketball IQ. That’s about as cliché as it gets, but Huff is dependable and you know he will play smart basketball. He’s efficient from the field and from the stripe and will rarely turn the ball over.

Projected Starting Five:

PG Jake Brown 

Brown is a traditional pass-first point guard. His quickness and ball handling skills are unmatched, and with the way uncle and Head Coach Jeff Brown likes his teams to run, Jake Brown is perfect for this offense. He learned under the tutelage of future Middlebury Hall of Famer Joey Kizel ’13, and even though Brown is a much different style of player, he’s made this team his the way Kizel once did. I think he’s the most critical piece to the Panthers’ success, but the passing, running and defense are a given. It’s the shooting that’s the issue. Middlebury fans have heard about how great of a scorer JB was in high school, but he seemed to have lost his jumper before arriving in Middlebury. He’s worked extremely hard on that part of his game, and the early returns are great – Brown is 10-16 (62.5% FG) from the floor and 2-3 from deep. He needs to be an outside threat to make up for the losses of Merryman and Sinnickson.

SG Jack Daly ’18 (2.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.7 apg)

The two and three guard positions are interchangeable, and if you want to stretch the definitions a little bit, the point guard position is fluid, too. Middlebury will probably run with four guards on the floor at points this season, and they’re able to do it because they have another true point in Jack Daly. At this point, Daly is a bit like a Brown-light. He was hampered by an ankle injury for most of last season, which lead to some pretty poor shooting numbers, but is now healthy and has stepped into a major role. He’s a strong perimeter defender, too, which might provide Coach Brown with an opportunity to take Jake Brown off the toughest match ups sometimes, which could further lead to an offensive boost for the younger Brown.

SF Matt St. Amour

St. Amour is quite the enigma in Vermont. A two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and 2,000-point scorer in high school, coming from a high school so small it wouldn’t even fill up an intro econ class at Middlebury, he couldn’t have had much higher expectations. St. Amour got a good amount of playing time as a freshman, but he struggled to adapt to the college game and his shooting percentages were ugly. Then his season ended prematurely with a torn ACL in February. His sophomore campaign started off decently, but it was a miracle that he was even able to play 20-plus minutes just nine months after blowing out his ACL. It was an up-and-down year for St. Amour … until the last six games of the season. Something clicked for the sophomore, and, in the words of Coach Brown, St. Amour “dominated”. For Middlebury to be competitive in the NESCAC this season, St. Amour might have to be the team’s top scorer and be a multi-faceted threat on offense. He has the ability to shoot from deep, mid-range, and get to the hoop. He has a tendency to get into awkward positions when finishing, though, which has resulted in some brutal landings. If he can stay on the floor, 2015-16 could be St. Amour’s coming out party.

PF Nick Tarantino ’18 (3.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.9 bpg)

Tarantino reminds me of the guy below, C Matt Daley ’16. Tarantino has a bit more range in his game, but they’re both long and athletic. Right now, Tarantino is effectively splitting time with Huff, and I think that continues pretty much all year, but with such a guard-heavy rotation, it’s almost necessary to keep Tarantino’s height out there on the floor. At 6’7″, he can adjust shots and discourage interior passing. Can he guard thicker big men, though? And will he be able to slow down the stretch-4’s of the league? I don’t envision that being much of a problem, because there aren’t really many of those guys established in the league right now (maybe Williams’ Kyle Scadlock ’19 is that guy, but only time will tell), but it could definitely be a problem in non-league games.

C Matt Daley (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 56% FG)

Matt Daley, the perennial X-factor for the Panthers. I don’t think that he’s had a month during his entire career where he’s been healthy the entire time. He dealt with a lower-body soft tissue injury at the start of the preseason, but for now, at least, the athletic big is cleared and ready to go. Daley has a lot of finesse in his offensive game – think Tom Palleschi ’17, but more style – but he can get feisty, too. His frame reads as pretty slender (6’8″ 215 lbs), but he’s not an easy matchup for any opponent. My favorite example – the Middlebury game versus Tufts two years ago. Daley was – predictably – battling back from an injury, and so was only able to play 15 minutes, but 10 of those were some of the hardest fought minutes in the second of a game that I’ve ever seen. Hunter Sabety went 8-8 in the first half with a bevy of defenders failing to stop him. He went 0-1 in the second half and got so upset with Daley’s defense that he nearly spear tackled the Panther at one point.

Daley can be one of the game’s best offensive big men and rim protectors … or he could get hurt and miss a long stretch of games. He’ll be needed if Middlebury is to return to relevance this year.

Breakout Player: C Matt Daley

Daley has probably been my pick for Middlebury’s breakout player four years running. I think this is the year he finally makes me look good. Health is really the only question. If healthy and able to play hard for 30 minutes, he will put up numbers. Big ones.

Everything Else:

In case you didn’t figure it out, Middlebury has a lot of guard depth, but not much when it comes to the front court. Expect a deep rotation until New Year’s, as Coach Brown tries to figure out the best combination. Other guys in the mix will include guard Bryan Jones ’17, guard Hilal Dahleh ’19, guard/forward Zach Baines ’19, forward Adisa Majors ’18 and forward Eric McCord ’18.

Jones is another very athletic player. He was great for short stretches last season off the bench, coming in to provide energy, and he can shoot pretty well. However, Dahleh is more likely to amass minutes in the backcourt. The freshman can stretch the floor with a nice, lefty three-point shot, and can handle the ball if Brown and Daly need a breather, but his defense might be a question.

There is a lot of hype around the super-athletic Zach Baines. We throw around the term “athletic” a lot when talking about “student-athletes”, but if there was some kind of superlative suffix that I could throw on that word to describe Baines, then I would. Baines is “athletic-est”, if you will. He throws down with ease. He’s got about a 10-foot wing span. But he’s skinny and his game might take time to develop. With Baines at the four, Middlebury will have a tough time defending opposing frontcourts, but as the three Baines could be a matchup nightmare.

Majors and McCord round out the frontcourt rotation. I’ve gone back and forth on my prediction for McCord. Hampered by an injury in the preseason, McCord hasn’t had much of an impact in the team’s first two games, but he’s unique to the Middlebury roster at 6’7″ 254 lbs. Since the graduation of Pete Lynch ’13, the Panthers haven’t had a strong interior presence to both score the basketball and play tough defense. McCord, who hails from the same high school as Lynch, could become that player. However, with Tarantino and Daley both healthy – and strong minutes from Huff cleaning up the boards – there might not be a need for McCord right now. The Panthers have actually out-rebounded their opponents in the first two games. The bigger issue has been perimeter shooting and stopping their opponents from putting the ball in the hoop.

The beginning of the season is always tough for NESCAC teams, with games against opponents already three weeks in to practice and with two to three games under their belts. Heck, NESCAC Champion Wesleyan lost to Lyndon St. in its opener. Lyndon State! The 2013-14 Williams team that went to the National Championship lost to Southern Vermont in its season opener that year. Something about those pesky little Vermont schools … Panther fans, don’t be too disheartened just yet, but if shots still aren’t falling at the end of Christmas break, they might want to start figuring out what it will take to get Sinnickson back from UVM and Merryman from Spain. Furthermore, one front court injury for Middlebury and it could be a field day for teams like Tufts, Williams, Amherst and Bates that have talented front courts.

And lastly, I know I’m going to catch some heat around campus for being so critical … good thing it’s almost Thanksgiving break.

Trust Is the Key to Williams’ Success … and (Maybe) the Best Freshmen Class in the NESCAC: Williams Season Preview

The slender Bobby Casey '19 and his classmates might represent the best recruiting class in the NESCAC. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
The slender Bobby Casey ’19 and his classmates might represent the best recruiting class in the NESCAC. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Last season was a transition year for Williams. Even though their .500 record wasn’t the best in the ‘CAC, Williams made a strong run. Recent graduates Dan Wohl ’15 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 had outstanding and mirroring years, both leading the team in points per game with 19.7, earning All-NESCAC Honors and signing pro-contracts with teams in Israel. These two shooters will definitely be missed and whoever is going to fill their shoes has a mighty, but not impossible, job to do.

Williams lost in the NESCAC quarterfinals to Bowdoin 87-74 last season, which is tough to swallow after making it all the way to NCAA D-III Finals two years ago. Head Coach Kevin App cited trust as the missing link.

“We weren’t happy with the way we started or the way we finished, but when we played balanced and trusted one another on the court, we pretty much won every game. … It was hard for the team to open up and trust each other. The moments it did happen, I saw great things. … It’s like dating someone. You have to let your guard down at some point and open up to them.” – Head Coach Kevin App

2014-15 Record:

15-10 overall, 5-5 NESCAC (t-5th); lost in NESCAC Quarterfinals to Bowdoin 87-74; did not qualify for NCAAs

Coach: Kevin App, 2nd year, 15-10 (.600)

Returning Starters: Two

PG Mike Greenman ’17 (8.6 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.7 rpg)
G Dan Aronowitz ’17 (10.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 45% FG)

With Wohl, Rooke-Ley and F Ryan Kilcullen ’15 having graduated, there are three vacancies in the starting lineup. A lot of scoring production is gone, but Greenman and Aronowitz are seasoned vets by this point who can lead their teammates.

Projected Starting Five:

PG Mike Greenman (8.6 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.7 rpg)

Greenman played in all 25 games and averaged 8.6 points a game and was elected to be one of the three captains along with seniors Edward Flynn ’16 and Luke Thoreson ’16. Despite his diminutive size, Greenman runs the offense well and can occasionally hit a few shots if the defense doesn’t respect him. Greenman has had great success on the court and Coach App has full confidence that Greenman can lead this team to a winning season.

G Chris Galvin ’18 (2.5 ppg, 1.5 apg, 38.1% FG)

Galvin is going to be a much bigger factor this year. He provides a second option to Greenman with his ability to create for others, and at 6’3″ is going to be tough to guard.



G Cole Teal ’18 (3.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.0 A/TO)

Teal had a successful year as a freshman, according to App. He played a ton of games and has made impressive improvements on the court. The games that he did start, he put his best game forward, playing solid defense and adding points to his team’s rocky offense. Teal is going to be counted on to increase his production this season.

G Dan Aronowitz (10.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 45% FG)

Aronowitz had an outstanding season as a sophomore. He played in all 25 games last year, starting 23 of them and averaging 10.6 points per game. Though Aronowitz played only 13 minutes in the Ephs’ season opener, I’d be shocked if he didn’t lead the Ephmen in minutes and points by the end of the season. He scored 353 points in his first two seasons while playing second (and third, and fourth) fiddle to Wohl, Rooke-Ley and Taylor Epley ’14.

C Edward Flynn (1.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 58.3% FG)

Flynn is a senior center who knows the program inside and out. He has the ability to dominate the paint and therefore, open up shots for guards like Arnowitz and Greenman on the perimeter. He is also critical to what the Ephs want to do on offense. They need production from the paint in order to succeed with a four-out, one-in system, and while there are a bevy of first-years than can play center, Coach App would prefer his veteran and captain to really solidify himself in that role.

Breakout Player: Chris Galvin

Be on the lookout for Chris Galvin ’18 who played in all 25 games last year as a freshman and averaged 20.2 mpg. This season could be huge for the sophomore guard.

Everything Else:

Last year’s team was heavily perimeter-oriented. With a deep recruiting class this year that features a couple of big, athletic frontcourt players, this edition of the Ephs will be much more balanced. The most established big man returning for Williams is center Edward Flynn, but he played just 6.1 mpg last season. There’s truly a void in the Williams frontcourt, but the coaching staff hopes that a few newcomers can step up to fill that space. It could be traditional big men Michael Kempton ’19 or Jake Porath ’19, but top of that list is Kyle Scadlock. At 6’6″, 205 pounds and very athletic, he’s not a traditional center, and he might remind some Ephs fans about current Michigan forward Duncan Robinson … Scadlock just so happens to wear Robinson’s old number, too. Scadlock’s stat line from his college debut: 5-10 FG for 14 points and 10 rebounds. He also ripped off at least three slam dunks in the game. Half of the teams in the league had three dunks all of last season.

While the starting lineup features four pure guards, Scadlock, F Marcos Soto and F James Heskett ’19 will get plenty of minutes off the bench and bring some height to the floor. Clearly, the Ephs have an athletic team, but will they be able to matchup with some of the better frontcourts that teams like Bates and Amherst can roll out?

Adding a talented frontcourt to an already loaded backcourt (and beefing up the backcourt, too; see, Bobby Casey ’19) will make the Ephs a force to be reckoned with once again. When they were competitive two years ago their offense flowed through All-World center Mike Mayer ’14. Who can be that guy? Scadlock doesn’t seem to be a sit-in-the-post type, but he still brings size and skill that Williams lacked last season. Flynn will need to take a monumental step forward if he is going to fill that void. Time will tell if this freshman class is as good as advertised. If so, the credit is due to Coach App and his staff for their recruiting efforts, and that bodes will for Ephs’ fans in the future as the program begins its climb back to national prominence.

The Rich Get Richer: Amherst Season Preview

Connor Green '16 is the key to Amherst's season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Connor Green ’16 is the key to Amherst’s season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

I was considering just copying and pasting last year’s preview since Amherst’s roster is pretty much identical to last season’s, but I decided they deserved a write-up. Seriously though, Amherst lost nothing. They only graduated one senior and the main rotation is completely intact. This is one of the situations where Amherst’s biggest strength is also its weakness – depth. The coaches don’t anticipate many players (if any) playing 32-35 minutes, but rather most will play 18-24 minutes. It can be tough on a player’s psyche if he’s not allowed to get into a rhythm. It’s critical that the squad gets used to playing as a team and not as individuals if they want to be successful this year.

The returning Lord Jeffs had the opportunity to travel to Italy as a team this summer, giving them a chance to gel together and get a head start on learning how to play with such depth. Amherst won’t be the quickest team in the league, but they have an experienced, mature group, and their basketball IQ will carry them throughout the season.

2014-15 Record:

21-8 overall; 6-4 NESCAC (t-5th); lost NESCAC Final to Wesleyan 74-70; Lost Second Round of NCAA Tournament to St. John Fisher, 87-70


Coach: Dave Hixon, 38th year, 741-265 (.737)

Starters returning: Five

PG Reid Berman ’17 (4.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.9 A/TO, 47.9% FG)
G/F Connor Green ’16 (16.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 37.3% 3PT)
G/F Johnny McCarthy ’18 (11.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.9 bpg)
F Jacob Nabatoff ’17 (6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 38.2% 3PT)
F David George ’17 (10.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg)

The entire rotation is back, and that includes alternate point man Jayde Dawson ’18. Dawson began the year as the Jeffs’ point man, but halfway through the season he and Berman switched roles, and both men played better basketball. Dawson came down from D-I Fairleigh-Dickinson, but it looked like he was pressing too much last season. He has the physical ability to be one of the league’s best guards. He just might have to do so off of the bench this season, unless he can wrestle the starting gig back from Berman…

Projected Starting Five:

PG Jayde Dawson

Point guard was the toughest position to predict, because Jayde Dawson is so evenly matched with fellow point guard Reid Berman. At the end of the day, however, I feel that Dawson’s physical attributes are more enticing out of a starting point guard (Dawson is 6’2” 190 lbs. while Berman is 6’0” 175 lbs). However, this year the coaches are stressing the fact that their starting lineup doesn’t really matter. Berman and Dawson will get their minutes determined by how each is playing. Where Dawson needs to improve this year is his focus on taking care of the ball; he averaged 1.8 turnovers per game last year and just 2.0 apg. I don’t doubt that these numbers will improve in Dawson’s second year at Amherst. As one of the very few exceptionally quick players on Amherst, Dawson’s athleticism will allow him to play at a high level against teams that are more athletic than Amherst overall.

SG Johnny McCarthy

Reigning NESCAC ROY Johnny McCarthy now has some experience under his belt, and he will lead this team from the shooting guard position this season. McCarthy asserted himself as the defensive MVP of this Lord Jeffs squad last year, guarding the best player on every team last year (as long as he was under about 6’6”), and his team leading 32.2 mpg forced him to get all the freshman year jitters out early. It’s hard to say anything bad about this kid – he was second in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and assist/turnover ratio last year, while leading the team in steals per game – AS A FRESHMAN. McCarthy will definitely be in the running for All-NESCAC honors this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the talks for Player of the Year when the end of the season nears.

SF Connor Green

If you’re not familiar with the name Connor Green at this point, you probably haven’t watched an Amherst College basketball game in the last three years. Green has been the center point of this squad’s offense for a couple years now, leading the Lord Jeffs in scoring last year, and taking a back seat only to D-III POY Aaron Toomey ’14 the year before. What makes Green so difficult to guard is a combination of two factors: his lightning fast release and his willingness to shoot from anywhere on the court. No matter what the situation, Green isn’t afraid to shoot, and his quick trigger often allows him to get shots off before the defense is ready to contest his shot. Defenses are aware of this, but they have trouble stopping it because of how well he gets to the hoop. He’s a matchup nightmare because he also has the ability to back down smaller defenders. There is a huge elephant in the room, though – his frighteningly cold play down the stretch last season. Between the NESCAC Semis and the Second Round of the NCAAs, Green shot 13-54 (24.1%) over four games, a shocking departure from the guy who lit up Middlebury and Tufts the two games before that for 29 points a piece. This team needs Green playing well to succeed. Hopefully the senior is back on track, and if he is, Green should lead Amherst in scoring again.


F Jacob Nabatoff

Jacob Nabatoff is an interesting player because he doesn’t light up any statistical category in particular; he’s just pretty solid across the board. At 6’8”, 215 lbs, Nabatoff is a big body that requires a lot of attention from opposing players on the boards. Though he was just fourth on the team with 4.7 rpg, his aggressiveness and toughness down low opened up rebounding opportunities for smaller players like Green and McCarthy, and those boards came in just 20.8 mpg. I don’t expect Nabatoff to have a very different year than last season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – he’s a smart player that seems to understand his role, and if he continues to stay within himself and buy into the team concept, his time on the floor will be very significant.

F David George

David George is one of those guys who doesn’t need plays drawn up for him. He’s active on the boards and on defense, and just makes plays happen. Though McCarthy is the best one-on-one defender on the Amherst roster, George is truly the anchor of this defense because of his shot blocking ability. George’s knack for protecting the rim allows his teammates to play more aggressively both on and off the ball since they know that he has their back if they get beat. I expect a similar year offensively for George, but defensively I expect him to take off.

Breakout Player:

 G Jeff Racy ’17 (10.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 42.3% 3PT)

Jeff Racy didn’t start a game last year for the Lord Jeffs, but he still averaged the fourth most minutes and points on the team. Racy is listed as a guard, but his 6’5” 210 lbs. frame makes him a swing man. His game is shooting the three, bottom line. The Amherst coaches are excited about how Racy has improved his jumper over the offseason, and his ability to shoot consistently from the arc pays huge dividends for this offense.

Everything else:

The other important pieces for Amherst this year are Eric Conklin ’17 and Michael Riopel ’18 (in no particular order). Conklin, who transferred to Amherst from Arizona last year, is maybe a bit undersized in height, but makes up for that with his physique. At 6’6”, 235 lbs., Conklin will be the primary backup for George down low, and will be expected to both bring energy to the boards and bang around in the post. Plagued by injury on and off last year, Conklin struggled to get into a rhythm, which is why his minutes weren’t quite as high as we expected them to be, but those numbers should increase this season. Conklin finally realized that D-I potential towards the end of the season, going off for 37 points on 18-20 (90%) shooting in the NESCAC Final and NCAA First Round game. Finally, Michael Riopel is a player to watch off the bench this year. It’s scary to think that this kid is somewhere between eight and 10 off the bench, but that’s just a testament to how deep this Amherst roster really is. Last year Riopel measures in at 6’5” 200 lbs., and the coaches say he has made big gains in the weight room during the offseason, and his improved strength and size will surely increase his effectiveness. Finally, don’t sleep on 6’10” first-year center Joe Schneider ’19 either. At that height, Schneider will immediately become the tallest center in the league.

With the amount of outside shooting Amherst has this year between Green, McCarthy, and Racy driving lanes should open up for Berman, Dawson and Riopel. The main thing to watch out for in Amherst this year will be their ability to play together. With so many weapons, it is certainly conceivable that they could struggle with finding the right mix, but the coaches are insistent that the players are buying into the team attitude, and if that’s true, this squad has as good a shot as any to win the league title.

Are the Jumbos Better without Their Big Man? Tufts Season Preview

As the only real interior presence for the Jumbos, C Tom Palleschi '17 will need to alter shots and rebound for Tufts - and stay out of foul trouble. (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
As the only real interior presence for the Jumbos, C Tom Palleschi ’17 will need to alter shots and rebound for Tufts – and stay out of foul trouble. (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

The biggest news in the Tufts offseason is, without a doubt, the loss of Hunter Sabety. Though he was injured on and off for the majority of last season, Sabety still averaged 14.9 ppg and gave the Jumbos much more versatility down low. The combo of Tom Palleschi ’17 and Sabety was arguably the most talented bigs combo in the NESCAC, but it also created some structural issues for the team. When Sabety was healthy, it almost felt like Tufts was playing three different styles during each game: one for Sabety as the lone big, one for Palleschi as the lone big, and one for a lineup that included both centers. Though deadly at times, this definitely led to inconsistency for the Jumbos, and the coaches believe that the squad will be much more in sync this year when they can maintain one offense throughout.

2014-15 Record:

13-12 overall, 6-4 NESCAC (4th); lost first round of NESCAC tournament to Williams in Overtime, 87-77; did not qualify for NCAAs

Coach: Bob Sheldon, 28th year, 386-289 (.572)

Starters returning: Four

G Stephen Haladyna ’16 (7.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 spg)
G Ryan Spadaford ’16 (7.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.5 3pt/game)
G Thomas Lapham ’18 (3.4 ppg, 1.7 apg, 41.8% FG, 46.9% 3PT FG)
C Tom Palleschi ’17 (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg)

The Jumbos technically return four starters, but Palleschi is the only one who was a consistent starter last year. Spadaford and Haladyna split time pretty evenly in the starting lineup, and Lapham also started about half the games, splitting the other half with Tarik Smith ’17. Smith started the first 11 games of the season – Lapham started the next 14 in his stead. Drew Madsen’s ’17 name could also be thrown in the mix here, but the majority of his starts came when Sabety was injured last year, so his starting experience is also limited.

Projected Starting Five:


G Ryan Spadaford

Spadaford, a natural two guard, will see time at all three guard positions this year, as the Jumbos will look to play smaller and push the tempo. As a senior co-captain with Haladyna and Palleschi, it will be interesting to see Spadaford evolve as more of a leader on the court since the last two years he has played more as a quiet member of the supporting cast. He has shown that he can light it up for stretches, but consistency is certainly something to look for in Spadaford this year. If he can get his jump shot going, that will do wonders for the premier shooters on the team, Haladyna and Vinny Pace ’18.

G Stephen Haladyna

Haladyna was rightfully disappointed after his junior campaign due to his step back in offensive production. Haladyna went from starting every game he played and averaging 12.4 per game as a sophomore to splitting time and putting up just 7.8 ppg. The biggest reason for this drop in scoring is that Haladyna struggled to get a rhythm from behind the arc, possibly because he was the only established shooter in the Jumbos lineup and was feeling the pressure. The senior co-captain needs to get hot early and stay hot throughout the season, proving to be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle on the offensive end for Tufts.

G Vinny Pace

Pace should without a doubt see an increase in production this season after a pretty average freshman year. Pace has improved physically and has developed much more consistency on his jump shot. Defensively, Pace’s wingspan and athleticism will surely prove valuable for the Jumbos, who I’m sure will look to pressure opposing teams with more trapping defenses than in past years. The coaches are very excited to see how Pace plays this year, and for good reason. Now that he has gotten used to the very different pace of college ball (I crack myself up), I am projecting Pace to be in the running for one of the All-NESCAC teams as we approach the end of the season.

F Ben Engvall ’18

This could be a bit of a surprising pick to some, but Engvall could see big minutes out of the starting lineup for Tufts this season. Madsen will likely switch in and out with Palleschi, leaving the four spot open. Meanwhile, the Jumbos will want their two quickest guards, Smith and Lapham, coming off the bench, where Smith had a lot of success last year and where Lapham won’t feel too much pressure: this is where Engvall comes in. Engvall’s value is that he is really the only true forward on this team, and he fits right into what the Jumbos are going to try to do this year: run. Engvall can play bigger than he is and is unafraid to bang around in the post, but he can also help spread the floor and handle the ball when he’s matched up against bigger opponents. Engvall is going to play a sneaky huge role for the ‘Bos this year.

C Tom Palleschi

As a redshirt junior, Palleschi is looking to follow up on a strong return to the court last year in which he was selected to the Second Team All-NESCAC. He led the NESCAC with an average of 2.4 blocks per game, while finishing 13th in rebounding and 16th in scoring with 6.1 and 12.0 per game, respectively. Much of the Jumbos’ success will depend on Palleschi’s ability to stay out of foul trouble since the Tufts roster is loaded with guards.

Breakout Player:

G Vinny Pace

How could I not like Vinny from New Jersey here? But seriously, Vince Pace is the real deal. He has shown he can put up big points at times, but his consistency didn’t fully develop last year as some anticipated it would. I’m expecting a big year from Pace on the offensive end of the court since Tufts will have to rely heavily on their guard play throughout the season. With so few true bigs on the Tufts roster, Pace will likely be matched up against bigger, less athletic players due to his length and size (6’5”, 180 lbs). The coaches are high on Pace this year, and if he can take advantage of the matchup problem that he is going to create, I don’t see anything stopping him from becoming one of the leaders on this team.

Everything else:

The Jumbos will almost surely be trying to push the tempo this year with their surplus of guards, and the sophomore class is the most important part of the picture. There are seven sophomores on the team (six returners and one transfer, G Kene Adigwe, from Claremont McKenna College), all of whom are guards besides Engvall. This class had their opportunity to gain experience last year, but they don’t have too much time to learn anymore as they make up the core of this team. I’ve already mentioned Pace and Engvall’s importance above, and Lapham clearly played a part in Tufts’ success last year, but a couple other names to watch this year are Stefan Duvivier ’18 and Everett Dayton ’18. Duvivier is an athletic freak who excels in pushing the tempo and getting to the hoop. He does triple jump and high jump for the Tufts track team in the spring, so you can imagine how hard Duvivier can throw it down. Duvivier could play an instant-offense role. Meanwhile, Dayton is a very solid, well-rounded guard. His length is important on defense, and I think his biggest asset comes in his versatility at both ends. Dayton will see time at the 1-4 positions, and will causes turnovers when the Jumbos go to press/trapping situations on defense. Though not a sophomore, Tarik Smith is very important to the Tufts game plan. He will probably be the primary point man once again, even if he technically comes off the bench. Smith went from averaging 6.6 ppg and 4.4 apg as a starter to 12.9 ppg and 2.6 apg. Once Coach Sheldon made that transition, Smith stopped worrying about being a true point, and started using his elite athletic ability to put the ball in the hoop.

The other key for Tufts this year is going to be their ability to rebound the basketball. They will clearly be outsized (they only have three players over 6’5”), so if the Jumbos don’t gang-rebound they will run into issues. I know I mentioned it above, but it is absolutely vital that Palleschi stays out of foul trouble. Madsen does not present the same size as Palleschi, and rebounding becomes a lot tougher when your one true center is out of the game. Expect Duvivier, Pace, Engvall and Haladyna to present themselves as secondary rebounders to Palleschi and Madsen this season.

NESCAC Basketball is Awesome: 2015-2016 Season Introduction

Oh sweet lover, so nice to see you again. The transition from the gridiron to the hard court is a quick one this year, and we would be lying if we didn’t admit that we are a tad bit under-prepared at the moment. Make no mistake, that NESCAC work ethic is already in gear, and we are getting up to speed very quickly. Team previews are going to be rolling out starting tomorrow morning, and we have our biggest group of writers yet contributing on them. That large group of writers, which includes writers from Middlebury, Bowdoin, Bates, Tufts, Williams and Trinity is one reason why we are so excited for the coming season.

The other reason is the depth of quality basketball teams in the NESCAC this year. You can start with the fact that 97.7 percent of the minutes played in the NESCAC championship game between Amherst and  Wesleyan were done so by players who are back this year. Both the Cardinals and Lord Jeffs return practically their entire rotations from last year, and so one might assume that it’s a foregone conclusion that those two will once again meet each other in the NESCAC Championship game.

Oh, but you would be so so wrong. While those two, as well as Trinity, have to be considered the favorites out of the gate, other potential contenders are Colby and Tufts. Behind those teams are units like Bates, Bowdoin and Middlebury that have more than enough talent to beat anybody but also have significant question marks. Conn College, Williams and Hamilton are all also potentially dangerous.

I’ll avoid doing a brief overview of every team because you will learn so much about those teams in the Previews. Instead, here are what I think the biggest storylines for NESCAC basketball are this winter, presented in no particular order.

Still love this photo from the NESCAC championship game. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Still love this photo from the NESCAC championship game. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
  1. How all that talent at Amherst works: Coach Dave Hixon has talent out of the wazzoo, and while there are obviously worse problems to have, it won’t be easy to figure out the rotation. If Amherst sticks to their rotation down the stretch last year, their backups will be PG Jayde Dawson ’18, SG Michael Riopel ’18, SF Jeff Racy ’17, PF Eric Conklin ’17, and most likely C Joe Schneider ’19. That unit could beat a lot of NESCAC schools straight up, no exaggeration. The lineup combinations are endless, and the Jeffs might spend the early parts of the season with playing Racy at power forward and having David George ’17 be the lone big man on the inside in charge of controlling the boards and protecting the rim.
  2. The amount of points Lucas Hausman ’16 scores: The reigning NESCAC POY and Preseason All-American averaged 20.7 PPG overall and 24.7 PPG in NESCAC games, and at times it feels like he was put on the earth to put the ball through the basket in small D-III gyms. The potential problem for Hausman is that teams are going to game plan for him like crazy because of the loss of John Swords ’15 and Bryan Hurley ’15. What happens to Hausman if teams go box and one or play man but double him whenever he gets the ball? This story might not become as important until January when teams really devote time to game planning opponents.
  3. Whether losing Hunter Sabety ’17 turns into addition by subraction: The talented big man for Tufts took his talents away from the NESCAC this summer and will be sitting a year off before playing at D-I Hofstra next year. Sabety was not healthy for much of last year anyway, and the Jumbos really only had one short stretch where they played well with him. His departure means that Tom Palleschi ’17 is the clear top dog on the roster, and the offense will flow through him. The Jumbos now need to find consistency besides Palleschi inside, but whoever plays there will not need to be an important part of the offense for the Jumbos to succeed.
  4. The possibility Middlebury is even worse this year: This blog began as an evolution of PantherNation which focused almost exclusively on Middlebury basketball and football. Our forerunners were so accustomed to a high level of Middlebury basketball that they called their season-long documentary of the Middlebury program in the 2013-2014 season “The Road to Salem“, where the D-III Final Four happens. The basketball gods disapproved of that hubris, and the past two years have seen Middlebury fall well back into the pack with last year’s shocking miss of the playoffs the crushing final blow. This winter the Panthers return just one player who averaged double digits. The talent is there, but the Panthers need massive statistical improvements from several players to be good.
  5. The number of impact freshmen: So much talent is back in the league this year, especially among the top teams, that freshmen might struggle to crack the rotation. Some schools like Williams and Bowdoin are relying on at least one freshmen to immediately contribute, but there are more teams that are already close to filling their rotation with just the players who are returning. I’m personally loathe to identify in the preseason what freshman are going to make a big impact because I’m not an expert at interpreting high schoolers’ tape, but a lot of freshman are entering with impressive pedigrees. We’ll see how long it takes for them to make it matter where it counts.
  6. The upside of Trinity: Even though they lost in the NESCAC Semifinals, the Bantams still had clearly the best season of anyone last year going 9-1 in conference and being 24 seconds away from going to the NCAA Final Four. The top three scorers – Jaquann Starks ’16, Shay Ajayi ’16 and Ed Ogundeko ’17 – are all back, but the Bantams lost a good deal of depth, particularly in the front court with George Papadeas ’15 and Alex Conaway ’15 graduating. Two young front court players are going to have to become rotation players in part because Ogundeko is frequently plagued by foul trouble. The Bantams will probably play everybody close, which will make them fun to watch.

Also, our coverage will wane a little bit during the month of December. After all, not only is it non-conference games going on, but we also will have Finals to attend to. Just consider this a little forewarning. We will be full tilt January on though. Great Scott, are we excited!