Now that the first snowfall has come and gone, winter sports are officially under way and that means it’s time for basketball season. Practices have been taking place for several weeks now, and the first week of games is finally upon us.
The men’s basketball team has seen success in recent years, but they struggled last season. This year, they’re looking to get back to their winnings ways.
Senior guard Tom Coyne echoed this sentiment, “So far our team is very confident and we believe that we can have a special year,” he said. “Last year didn’t go as well as we hoped, but we have used that as motivation and have really worked hard in the offseason.”
The good news is that the Bobcats return a good portion of their lineup from last season and have a system in place that is suited to their strengths.
“We have a lot of talented guards who can all shoot and create [opportunities] for others,” Coyne added. “You can expect to see a team that plays very hard and spaces the floor on offense so we can let our playmakers create.”
Over the last three years, guard play has been a point of emphasis–particularly after the loss of the Delpeche twins, which removed Bates’ built-in advantage in the post. This year’s junior and senior classes consist only of guards, and talented first year Stephon Baxter will greatly add to the depth that they already have.
Having a plethora of guards has its advantages and disadvantages, but Head Coach Jon Furbush knew that it was time to start bringing in some big men to fill the void that existed, especially now that their best post player from last season, Nick Lynch, has graduated.
Three of the four first years on the 2019-2020 squad are over 6’6”, and they’ll look to make an impact right away.
“Omar Sarr and Cam Riley are two big men who have proven they belong. Cam is 6’9” with soft touch and a ton of potential, while Omar is 6’8”, super athletic and only getting better,” commented Coyne.
These two will be joined by forward Jacob Iwowo ‘23, who stands at about 6’7”. “Jacob plays on the soccer team so he joined us late, but he has really hit the ground running and has been playing well in practice,” Coyne said.
Big men are at a premium in the NESCAC and all around Division III, so adding some much-needed height will have a quick and significant impact on the program going into the season. The only other big man on the roster is sophomore Kenny Aruwajoye, who developed greatly over the course of last season, but certainly can’t be expected to do it all on his own.
The Bobcats begin the season with 11 non-conference games in preparation for their 10-game NESCAC schedule, which starts the second week of January. The non-conference schedule includes a two-game trip over the holiday break to Miami, where they’ll take on perennial powerhouse Scranton University and St. Joe’s College (CT) who is led by former great UConn coach Jim Calhoun.
They’ll jump right into the thick of things in January when they open conference play with Wesleyan, Amherst, and Hamilton, who have been three of the league’s top teams over the past few years.
The season officially kicks off on Nov. 20 when the Bobcats host Husson University right here on campus in Alumni Gym.