Men’s basketball aims to top NESCAC

Ranked fifth by Div. III news, seventh by The Sporting News and eighth by D3Hoops entering the 2010-11 season, men’s basketball appears ready to roar out of the gates for yet another successful season. Last year, the men fell to the UW-Stevens Point in the final game of the NCAA tournament. This season, they will look to better last year’s already impressive performance.

Two of the team’s three highest scorers are returning from a squad that won 30 games last year. Tri-captain Troy Whittington ’11 and All-American tri-captain James Wang ’12 averaged 11.1 and 17.3 points per contest respectively, and both are still looking to improve upon those numbers this year. Wang registered 4.4 assists per game and shot a remarkable 56 percent from the field last year – a number practically unheard of for a guard. Whittington blocked 80 shots and served as a ferocious presence in the paint both offensively and defensively.

Despite the loss of seven of last year’s seniors, including All-American Blake Schultz ’10 and major contributors Alex Rubin ’10 and Joe Geoghegan ’10, the talent of the returning players is undisputed. The Ephs’ returning players will form a foundation that will be built on by an influx of rookies. So long as the squad works hard in practice and focuses on fundamentals, they’ll be a successful group that has the potential to peak at the right time.

“One of the challenges this season is that we are very inexperienced, because we graduated seven total seniors [and] three starters,” Wang said.

Mike Maker returns this season for his third year as head coach, along with assistants Shaun Morris and Kevin Snyder ’09. Maker arrived at the College in 2008 and has since led his team to win 81 percent of their games, including a 21-game win streak and a solid NCAA run last season. The team also claimed its second consecutive Little Three title last year.

“Our overall goal is to just try to maximize our potential,” Wang said. “Even though we lost a lot [in our seniors], the pieces we return and added are very talented, and so the main thing is to try and get better each and every day. If we focus on doing just that, then winning should take care of itself.”

The men will jumpstart their season with the Williams Invitational this weekend. The men will play host to Southern Vermont at 8 p.m. on Friday, and play will continue through Saturday before the team hits the road and plays Wesleyan at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.