Wisdom Comes Not With Age: Bates Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Bates College Bobcats 

2016-2017 Record: 15-10 (4-6 NESCAC), lost to Middlebury in NESCAC Quarterfinals

2017-2018 Projected Record: 12-12 (2-8 NESCAC)

Key Losses:

F Malcolm Delpeche ’17 (13.2PPG, 8.8REB/G, 3.1BLK/G)

F Marcus Delpeche ’17 (15.1PPG, 9.7REB/G, 54.3% FG)

G Jerome Darling ’17 (8.2PPG, 2.9AST/G)

Projected Starting Lineup: 

G: Shawn Strickland ’18 (Injured most of 2016-2017)

Shawn Strickland
Shawn Strickland ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Leading a relatively unproven crowd in the 2017-2018 campaign is team captain Shawn Strickland. After a successful sophomore year, Strickland was injured for most of last season, playing sparingly at the end. He is a tenacious on-ball defender who provides a pesky matchup for whoever he is guarding. His ability to score and his outstanding court vision make him a threat on offense, but the Bobcats are going to need him to expand his range this year. He has shown that he is capable of knocking down the occasional 3-pointer, but with the loss of the Delpeche twins, he will have to show that he can provide a much more substantial amount of offense. What really sets Strickland apart is his basketball IQ. He is a very mature ball-handler who has to be prepared to quarterback a team that is very underclassmen-oriented, and keep the game at the pace Bates would like.

G: Nick Gilpin ‘20 (5.2PPG, 3.6REB/G, 3.6AST/G)

Nick Gilpin
Nick Gilpin ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

For much of his first season, Gilpin subscribed to the “coach’s son” stereotype, pretty evenly filling out the stat sheet. What was nice about Gilpin’s freshman season is that he showed steady improvement as the year went on, developing into his role as a starter. While he may not be a massive presence on the floor, his surprising athleticism helps him in rebounding as well as absorbing contact and finishing around the rim. He, too, will need to expand his range to help the new-look Bobcat offense, because their four-guard offense is only going to be successful if they can stretch the floor and knock down threes. Gilpin spent a lot of time at point guard last season and will likely continue to do so this season, so maturity from him will be crucial if he wants to keep up with the terrific guard play throughout the conference.

G: Jeff Spellman ’20 (9.6PPG, 2.9 REB/G, 51.4% FG)

Jeff Spellman
Jeff Spellman ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Perhaps no one will be more vital for the Bobcats’ success this season than Jeff Spellman. Although he only stands at 6’2”, Spellman is one of the best athletes in the NESCAC. He did not see full minutes after coming off injury last year, and only had one start, but his style of play will likely benefit most from the loss of Malcolm and Marcus. While they were absolute beasts down low, Spellman requires space, and they planted themselves in the middle, often clogging the paint. His skill in creating shots coupled with his ability to get to the rim and finish through contact makes him one of the most deadly guards in the league. This talent did not get a chance to fully blossom with the Delpeches down low, so look for Spellman to explode into a breakout second year.

G: Max Hummel ’19 (6.7PPG, 35.6% 3P%)

Max Hummel
Max Hummel ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Hummel has an interesting role on this year’s team because at 6’4”, he’s one of the taller players on the roster; however, he likes to play around the perimeter. This is acceptable, because he shoots threes at a solid 35.6% clip, but this team needs more production than just that. The rebounding void that the twins left results in a team-wide need to crash the boards. I’m not saying Hummel needs to be hauling in 10 rebounds a game, but he will need to produce more than the 1.9REB/G he was contributing last season.

This spot in the starting lineup is definitely up for grabs, because with Hummel’s de facto responsibility as a role player, much time in this spot will rotate between a few people. Tom Coyne ’20 and Justin Zukowski ’18 will help expand the court with sharpshooting abilities off the bench in this spot. Bates’ biggest issue is size, because they will start only one player over 6’3”, so if they are looking to go with a bigger lineup, we will definitely see them go deeper into the bench to be able to match the size of some of the other NESCAC powers.

C: Nick Lynch ’19 (Injured most of 2016-2017)

Nick Lynch
Nick Lynch ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

A lot remains to be seen from Nick Lynch ’19, because he is another Bobcat that is entirely unproven. His size at 6’7”, 230lbs makes him an obvious choice to play at the 5 in this lineup, but what to expect out of him is a bit of a question mark. He got decent minutes as a freshman, but was injured for almost the entirety of the 2016-2017 season so he has a lot to prove this season as one of the older players in the lineup. With the fast-paced offense that Bates expects to run, Lynch will have to spend time on the bench getting rest, especially after not having played a full season in two years. Lynch’s role is akin to that of Aron Baynes on this year’s Celtics squad: clog the paint, rebound, and hit a shot once in a while. He, too, is part of the supporting cast to go along with Bates’ up and coming backcourt, but how his talents will be utilized within the offensive scheme is yet to be seen.

Breakout Player:

 G: Jeff Spellman ’20 (9.6PPG, 2.9 REB/G, 51.4% FG)

When I said that Spellman was going to have a breakout second season, I meant it. Ever since stepping on campus last fall, Spellman has bit quite the enigma. After being recruited by a number of strong Division I programs in the northeast, Spellman ultimately enrolled at Stonehill to play on the basketball team there. He spent less than a week there before deciding to take a gap year, and reopen his recruiting process. Enter Coach Furbush. Furbush had always kept an eye on Jeff, but made sure to keep his distance when he clearly had his sights set on playing at the Division I or II levels. As it turns out, this was exactly what Spellman was looking for, so he elected to take his talents to Lewiston and famed Alumni Gym.

Jeff Spellman ’20 is a dark horse candidate for the scoring title this season.

Like I said before, Spellman is athletic specimen who has one of the quickest first steps in the league. His ability to score and defend almost any sized guard makes him one of the most versatile players on this team. The most is going to be asked of him, because his ceiling is by far the highest of anyone on the roster. He got his feet wet last year, but Bates will need him to dive all the way in if they are going to have success.

Everything Else:

Bates will certainly see some of the biggest changes of any team this season. Graduating two of the biggest nightmares in recent NESCAC memory results in a completely new scheme under Coach Furbush. As a coach, he and the Bates staff have always prided themselves on being defensive-minded, liking to grind out wins in low-scoring games, often in the 60s and even 50s. Like the best tend to do, Furbush tailored their game plan around what they have: athletic shooters who like to run. The Bobcats will live by the mantra that the best defense is a good offense, because for them to be effective this season, they will have to spread the floor, shoot a lot of threes, and run. From a fan’s perspective, this will make Bates games infinitely more fun to watch, as many of their scores will end in the 80s and 90s. You may have noticed that I have barely mentioned defense at all thus far, and that was fully intentional. Truthfully, the defense is going to be lacking, but with this Golden State Warriors-esque offensive game plan it is hard to envision many low scoring games this season.

Ask anyone in the game and they will tell you that there is no such thing as a “building year.” While I am not saying that the ‘Cats need to rebuild, they have a ton of youth on their roster, with 11 of their 17 players being either a freshman or sophomore. This means that a lot will be asked of the youngsters, even the freshman. The addition of James Mortimer ’21 and Sunny Piplani ’21 gives Bates a bit more size that they had been lacking. Mortimer ’21 will definitely see extended minutes, because at 6’4”, he has the size to defend just about any position, while his athleticism will keep him on the floor in the high-speed offense. Piplani ’21 offers a much-needed 3 and D type presence. He is a deadly sharpshooter who will be crucial in spreading the floor, but he will be asked to rebound and defend against some of the biggest players in the conference, so we’ll see what he has to offer.

Another exciting newcomer is Kody Greenhalgh ’20. Although he was recruited to play both football and basketball at Bates, Greenhalgh decided to only play football last season. This year, he committed to basketball, where he is likely more talented anyways. His athleticism at guard provides another option to employ in this scheme that will require a lot of moving parts. The depth that he brings will be important, especially because he joins this guard-heavy sophomore class.

Because of all the youth that Bates has, their early season, non-NESCAC schedule will be huge for their development. They have matchups with Trinity, Bowdoin, and Colby prior to winter break, none of which count towards the conference standings. These games will be hugely important in the maturation of the young guys, because getting to feel the intensity of a NESCAC game without the same stakes allows them to try different things and see what fits best with their team. Last year Bates lost at home to Colby by a point, but then went on to beat them handily in the game that actually counted, so we are able to see how vital those early-season games are.

Bates enjoys the best home court advantage in the league.

Although Bates enjoys by far the best home court advantage in the league, the scheduling gods were nice to opponents this year. Two of the five home conference games will be played when students haven’t returned to campus yet. As a Bates fan, this is devastating news, because almost every year the Bobcats are able to pull off a home upset like they were last year, handling then-no. 4 nationally ranked Tufts. A disclaimer for Amherst, Trinity, and Hamilton who have road trips to Lewiston at the very end of the year: come to play, because no one forgets their visit to Alumni Gym.