Men’s hoops looks to replace defensive stars lost to graduation

There may be a bunch of familiar faces on the court when men’s basketball opens its season November 20, but it will be a very different team. Gone from last year’s ECAC champion team are Andrew Conley ’01, the reigning NESCAC defensive player of the year, Manny Benjamin ’01, the 2000-01 squad’s only all-NESCAC team selection and sixth man Joe Weiss ’01.

Though all three were important contributors on the offensive end of the court, the real burden of their departure is on the defensive end.

“Nobody has indicated they can be a defensive stopper,” said head coach Dave Paulsen ’87. “Chuck Abba [’04] could be that guy on the perimeter, but I have no clue who can fill that role on the front court.”

Paulsen’s biggest concern, however, is a lack of veteran leadership on the team. In fact, there is not one senior on the team’s roster. The team will look to co-captains Drew DeMuth ’03 and Tim Folan ’03 to fill that void.

DeMuth was the team’s main threat in the paint last season, averaging 11 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. As the team’s leading free throw shooter, DeMuth became an extremely dangerous presence for the Ephs. Paulsen is confident that after a strenuous off-season training program, DeMuth will be an even stronger force for the team this season.

Folan, who at times last year could dominate games, will need to be more consistent this season from game to game. He will need to be smarter on the defensive end and avoid the reckless play that often found him in foul trouble. Still, Folan has shown an ability to score when the team needs it most and, as a result, led the team in scoring in NESCAC games.

Mike Crotty ’04 is the third member of the 2000-01 starting lineup who will return this season. Crotty, the NESCAC rookie of the year and Williams single-season assist leader, is more than capable of elevating his game to new levels. He can be deadly from behind the three-point arc, though at times last season seemed to shy away from shooting in deference to the veteran members of the team.

Ben Coffin ’04 and Abba will likely round out the starting lineup to start the season, though John Fitzgerald ’03, Bobby Coppola ’03 and a deep first-year class will all keep pressure on the five starters.

With the season slated to begin this Saturday at the Rivier College Tournament, the team has a ways to go before it is where Paulsen would like it to be.

“We’re at a tremendous disadvantage as most Division III schools can start practice on October 15, but NESCAC rules prevent us from starting until November 1,” said Paulsen.

That said, the team will have at least a few days to get into playing shape as the teams it will see at Rivier are not among the strongest on their schedule. The honeymoon period will run out on November 20 when the team faces a Union squad that gave them a run for their money last season in a thrilling 75-74 Eph win last year.

Gametime will be 8 p.m. in Chandler Gymnasium.

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