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.
The Bobcats were destined to struggle from the start in 2015-2016, as the graduation of point guard and team engine Graham Safford ‘15 was a difficult storm to weather. Despite a stellar season from forward Mike Boornazian, Bates was unable to make waves in an especially deep NESCAC talent pool, finishing at 2-8 in the league and missing the postseason tournament. And unfortunately, 2016-2017 doesn’t look any easier for the Bobcats, as Boornazian has also moved on to greener pastures. Combined with the marked improvements of Hamilton and Connecticut College, Bates is in danger of again finishing towards the bottom of the league.
However, Bates has two tall beacons of hope in the persons of senior twins Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche. Two of the most athletically gifted big men in the league, neither Marcus nor Malcolm has ever quite dominated like they seem to have the ability to. But this season is their last chance. Marcus has consistently shown a wider array of offensive skills, while Malcolm has proved to be more of a defensive and rebounding force. For Bates to have any chance at success this year, both big men will have to become threats on both ends of the court.
Projected Record: 1-9
2015-2016 Record: 10-14, 2-8, did not make NESCAC tournament
Coach: Jon Furbush, 6th year, 104-99 (.512)
Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘17 (11.1 PPG, 6.2 REB/G, 55.8% FG)
Forward Malcolm Delpeche ‘17 (8.4 PPG, 6.4 REB/G, 1.1 BLK/G)
Guard Shawn Strickland ‘18 (8.4 PPG, 3.5 A/G, 33.9% 3FG)
Forward Mike Boornazian ‘16 (15.0 PPG, 5.8 REB/G, 2.9 A/G)
Guard Josh Britten ‘16 (7.5 PPG, 1.1 STL/G, 38.2% 3FG)
Guard Shawn Strickland ‘18
Standing at 5’9” with his high tops on, Strickland is not the most imposing figure on the court. But in an impressive sophomore season, he showcased a variety of skills that make him a key member of the Bates team this season, and next season as well. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.5 assists per game last season after only appearing in five games as a freshman. He even flashed a solid outside shot, hitting 33.9% of his three pointers. In a team that is low on both outside shooting and experience at the guard position, the keys to the offense should be in Strickland’s hands.
Guard Justin Zukowski ‘18
Bates still has a lot of uncertainty at the guard position leading up to the first weekend of games, but Zukowski is a serious contender for one of the starting spots. Zukowski appeared in 23 games as a sophomore, earning two starts and an increase in playing time as the season went on. The high point of his season came when he scored 19 points (on 5/9 shooting from three) against Trinity on February 6. As I mentioned earlier, Bates has a severe lack of outside shooting, so Zukowski has a major role to play if he can hit shots like he did that day against Trinity.
Forward Malcolm Delpeche ‘17
It can be really tough to be a twin, especially when your brother gains the reputation as “the better twin.” For his whole career, Delpeche has been a step behind his brother Marcus in terms of offensive development. Last season was no different, as he averaged only 8.4 PPG to Marcus’ 11.1, and shot only 46.3% from the field. Both those numbers are lower than Bates would like to see them given his talent. Bates’ offense this season should largely run through the two brothers down low, giving Malcolm more opportunities on offense. His biggest role for the Bobcats is on the defensive end, where he averaged 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He is a smarter, more versatile defender than his brother, and is Bates’ truest rim protector.
Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘17
Breakout Player: Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘18
Bates will most likely run their offense largely through the Delpeche twins. And as the more offensively polished of the pair, Marcus should get tremendous offensive opportunities. At times last season he showed excellent footwork on the block, and has had the athleticism and touch to be an elite finisher at the basket. One area in which he needs to improve if he wants to make a first team run (which is within reason) is passing out of double teams. It was too easy last year to force him into turnovers by applying pressure. His defense and rebounding numbers will also need to go up. His brother takes some blocks and rebounds away of course, but Marcus is too often slow on help defense. If he can average 1.5 blocks and 8 rebounds, very reasonable numbers for a player of his skills, he could be a legit first team candidate. And more importantly, Bates could be considerably better than we predict.
Bates has a very unconventional team for the current structure of the NESCAC. They are short on guards, and led by two big men in Malcolm and Marcus Delpeche. This obviously gives them some advantages, as there aren’t many teams in the league that can match up athletically with that frontcourt. However, even if both those guys become scoring threats inside, teams that have three point shooters will probably outscore Bates pretty consistently. You can’t shoot threes from the low block (Editor’s Note: Fact).
The fifth starting spot for Bates is still up for grabs. It will probably have to be a guard, as neither Delpeche brother is skilled enough to play on the perimeter as a 3. In that case, the starter will most likely be a freshman. Bates has a strong class of guards, all of whom will compete for minutes and possibly that starting spot. Nick Gilpin ‘20 may have the edge given his good size for a guard (6’3”, 185.) There are also several returning candidates to fill out the starting lineup. Quin Leary ‘17 (who I won a Hoop Camp championship with in 2008, no big deal) and Jerome Darling ‘17 would both provide experience at that spot. It may honestly come down to a game time decision between the freshman, Leary and Darling for the final starting spot. Given Bates’s need for perimeter scoring, the decision will probably be based mostly on whoever shows the most offensive firepower over the next couple days of practice.
I want to close this article with a love note to Bates’ Alumni Gym. It is, quite simply, the best gym in the league. Not in terms of quality (in fact, there are several weird dead spots on the court where the ball bounces half as high) but in terms of character and viewing experience. There’s something about Alumni Gymnasium that makes basketball seem purer than other gyms around the league. Maybe it’s the way that a miss off the back rim makes every pipe in the building vibrate, or the brick walls that seem straight out of Hoosiers, but Alumni Gym is in tune with the natural rhythms of the game. That feeling is only exacerbated during the season, when Bates’ loyal fans pack the bleachers, creating the most aggressive fan environment in the league. The insanely close proximity of the bleachers to the court increases the intensity. It’s an incredible experience to watch a game there, and I highly recommend it. Bates has a tough road to climb this year, but improvements from the Delpeche brothers and the unwavering support of their fans could make for some surprises out of the Bobcats.