Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively, not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us. Also, now that the season is under way, treat this as our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far, not just a regular preview.
Trinity suffered a heartbreaking loss to Middlebury in the NESCAC finals. After a nearly perfect regular season in conference, only losing to Amherst on January 30th, the Bantams, hampered by injuries, fell in the final 70-58. They were pretty much the best team in the conference all year, completing the 1-2 NESCAC punch with Amherst at the top, but didn’t perform quite as well at the tail end of the season. They were an experienced, well seasoned, and dynamic team. However, four out of the five of Trinity’s starters graduated and moved on to the real world. Their only returner is Ed Ogundeko ’17. For most teams this would leave a bleak outlook for the year and a plan for rebuilding, however, Coach James Cosgrove and the Bantams have other plans. Ogundeko is no ordinary player. He led the league in boards and is plenty to build a team and a season around.
The Bantams still stare down several holes in their lineup left by the class of 2016 at the guard and forward positions. Shay Ajayi, Rick Naylor, Jaquann Starks, and Andrew Hurd combined to average 37.3 PPG and 9.5 assists/game, making up most of the Bantams’ production. However, the four only averaged 13 REB/G combined, which barely bests Ogundeko’s 10.6 REB/G, leaving less of a hole down low. Trinity’s Coach Cosgrove clearly planned out the transition from one era to the next as he brought in six first year players to aid in adding depth and production that will help the returners cope for the holes in the lineup. Joe Bell, Kyle Padmore, and Nick Seretta should be the major contributors from the class of 2020, offering help to returners Jeremy Arthur ’19, Eric Gendron ’18, Langdon Neal ’17, and Chris Turnbull ’17 who are likely starters for the Bantams. These inexperienced players have struggled so far, as Trinity has struggled to a 1-3 start. The Bantams need some production outside of Ogundeko in order to continue to be a top tier NESCAC team.
Projected Record: 7-3
2015-2016 Record: 19-8, 9-1, Lost in NESCAC finals, Lost in first round of NCAA Tournament
Head Coach: James Cosgrove, 7th year, 90-67
Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 (19.5 PPG, 5.2 REB/G, 2.3 A/G, 40.1% 3PT)
Forward Shay Ajayi ’16 (13.9 PPG, 7.3 REB/G, 48.3% FG)
Guard Rick Naylor ‘16 (5.6 PPG, 1.2 AST/G, 30.1% FG)
Guard Jaquann Starks ‘16 (11.7 PPG, 2.2 REB/G, 2.4 AST/G)
Guard Andrew Hurd ’16 (6.1 PPG, 4.8 AST/G, 2.1 REB/G)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Guard Langdon Neal ‘17
Neal enters his senior season as the clear replacement for Andrew Hurd ’16 as he played in all of the Bantams’ 27 contests and averaged 14.1 minutes/game in 2016. He shot 39% from the field last year en route to a modest 3.7 PPG, 1.6 REB/G, and 1.6 A/G. Neal, a former walk-on player at American University, transferred to Trinity last year and should find his groove after one year in Cosgrove’s system. His D1 talent should translate over well to a starting position after sitting behind Hurd last year and one of four major contributors off of the bench a year ago. The Bantams will look for him to improve from beyond the arc as he shot just 1 of 4 from three-point range in 2016. Hurd had incredible 3-point efficiency as he shot 46.9% from deep and was a threat, whereas Neal’s range was limited. If Neal can become more of a shooting threat, it should open up the court for Ogundeko, who should be the clear target for opposing defenses.
Guard/Forward Eric Gendron ’18
Gendron enters as pretty much a lock to start this year after finishing fourth on the team last year with 8.2 PPG. He led the team in free-throw percentage and 42.2% from 3-point range last season, good for 7th in the NESCAC. He will likely play at the 2 position after Jaquann Starks’ departure (three guards in total graduated last year) leaving Trinity with a bigger lineup than most teams. At 6’4’’ Gendron should be one of the bigger shooting guards in the league, but has the ability and touch from deep range to back it up. The junior averaged 20.2 minutes a game last year and was a clear sixth man on a team that was dominated by upperclassmen. His 92.7% clip from the charity stripe led the team, and his eight double-digit point performances suggest that he could easily become the second leading scorer behind Ogundeko.
Forward Chris Turnbull ’17
Senior captain, leader, and four year player Turnbull looks to transition into the starting lineup as he was another major contributor off of the bench a season ago, averaging 16.5 minutes per game. His 3.8 REB/G and 5.7 PPG were solid for the time he got, especially considering Ogundeko’s ability to grab nearly every rebound in a game. The 6’4’’ player should fit well into the small forward position as he is backed up by plenty of bigger players down low. This should give him some opportunity to shoot as he showed flashes of big game capabilities after raining down 14 points twice last season. His veteran and experienced presence should offer the generally young Bantam team some guidance and an example of how to stick out the bench for a few years and earn a captainship and a spot in the starting five. Turnbull isn’t going to make or break the Trinity season, but he should still play as a staple and consistent contributor in the lineup, offering reliability and a solid amount of rebounds, probably coming in right behind Ogundeko on the team’s leaderboard, in a lineup that is filled with questions and intrigue heading into 2017.
Forward Jeremy Arthur ‘19
Arthur is one of the aforementioned question marks headed into this winter. Arthur transferred to Trinity last year from Westchester Community College and because of his late arrival didn’t make his debut until January 7th against Elms College. Coach Cosgrove played Arthur sparingly, averaging just 10.3 minutes in the games he played, but he performed well towards the end of the year and scored nine points against Middlebury in the NESCAC semifinal game. He is a big 6’4’’/210lb. and should be able to handle himself well down low with the help of Ogundeko. Arthur’s consistency will be a major factor in how much he helps out the Trinity offense, but he should be able to rack up the boards with the big men. Someone needs to replace Ajayi, who grabbed 7.3 boards per contests last season, creating a big gap in the Bantams defense. Arthur might just be that guy.
Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17
This guy is a beast. There’s nobody in the league who is even close to as good as him down low. His ability to get rebounds outperformed all other competitors by over 2 REB/G, an incredible difference. I’ve already mentioned him in most of the other blurbs and that’s because the team is going to rely on him to have any chance to compete this year. Sure, there are some solid newcomers and pretty good returners from the bench last year, but Ogundeko is the clear shining star on this squad. Without him, the Bantams just don’t have much of a chance. Lucky for them, he should be able to carry the team as much as one player can – Ogundeko will likely lead Trinity in points and rebounds, getting close to the NESCAC league lead in both too. His double double capabilities will be nightmarish to opposing centers who have to deal with the 6-6 230 pound beast down in the front court. This preseason All-American, captain, and center was the NESCAC defensive player of the year and should increase his rebound totals without a major defensive presence in the lineup with Ajayi gone. His season high of 22 points last year against UMASS-Boston should be eclipsed in nearly every contest and he should also score well over 50% of the time from FG range. Opponents’ game plans will center around how to stop Ogundeko, and for good reason. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t at least 1st team All-‘CAC at the end of the year.
Diamond in the Rough: Guard Nick Seretta ‘20
I’m not going to lie here, I’ve been pretty lazy about writing this article. It took me a while to find a time to interview Coach Cosgrove and I kind of put the preview on hold for a while with football season wrapping up. On top of that, as many college students could agree, going home for Thanksgiving had me feeling some type of way [Editor’s note: and then I slacked pretty hard on the whole editing part of the process, pushing back the publishing date even further]. On the bright side though, this has allowed me to see what Trinity’s playing time distribution looks like after their first two games, and it’s evident that Seretta should be a major contributor from his contributions early in the young season. The 6’3’’ swingman from Middlesex, CT is averaging a huge 24 minutes per game and scored 11 points against Southern VT in his first collegiate contest. Since then, he is averaging 7.5 PPG and 3.3 rebounds per contest too. The high flying first year can dunk with the best of them too, and he should be a big playmaker and an exciting weapon down the road for the Bantams. Cosgrove highlighted how Seretta should be one of the major first year players to make an immediate impact at the college level, especially considering Trinity’s lack of guards. Youth is in quantity in Hartford, and Seretta is just one of many young guns Cosgrove looks to unveil in 2017.
Between Neal, Gendron, Arthur, and Turnbull, Trinity looks to have a solid lineup as they will be led by senior sensation Ogundeko. However, the four replacements from last year’s NESCAC regular season winning team might not be up to the task. Yes, they have experience and great coaching, but none of them really standout as big playmakers and guys who can go off during a game the way that Ajayi or Starks could. Arthur in particular has had some big games, but other than Ogundeko, the Bantams have struggled to score during their 1-3 start.
This hole will hopefully lead to big impact seasons from several of the first years, including the aforementioned Seretta as well as Joe Bell ‘20 and Kyle Padmore ‘20. Bell has struggled thus far, only playing in 8.3 minutes per game and going 2-14 shooting, but his time will come as the season progresses. Padmore should have a bigger role at the guard spot evidenced by some early big minutes off of the bench. So far he is averaging 14.3 minutes per game. Padmore has shot efficiently, but only has 5 points so far this season, a number I suspect will rise as the season progresses. He has racked up a total of four boards in the first two contests though and should only increase his production as he finds his role and gets comfortable at the college level.
The 6’4’’ guard saw the opening in the lineup from a season ago and is hungry to take minutes away from the returners, as any competitive player should be, but drastic improvement throughout the course of the season is not out of the question here. He drilled a three pointer against Southern Vermont in a tough overtime loss, and should only drain more as the season goes on. Guards for the Bantams will be flying in and out of the game as they don’t have any clear stars taking the ball up the court, but they might be fine with a dribble-by-committee approach.
There are a lot of things up in the air for Trinity in this young season as they look to repeat as NESCAC regular season champs and overcome upset losses last year to win some rings. They have a long road ahead of them with ample transition into what is a new era in Hartford. Ogundeko is going to do everything he can to end his college career with a bang, and the seasoned Coach Cosgrove shouldn’t roll over easily either. Regardless of how they stack up, Trinity won’t go down easily; they are always a player in the title race, and if the young Bantams can adjust to the college level and complement the elderly Trinity ballplayers, they will be dangerous.