Men’s basketball will feature a new look this season as it seeks to defend its NESCAC title without Harlan Dodson ’11 and Div. III New England and NESCAC Player of the Year Troy Whittington ’11. The team finished with a 29-3 (10-1 in the NESCAC) record last season, qualifying for the Div. III NCAA tournament as the NESCAC champion and advancing to the Final Four for the second straight season before falling in the national semifinal.
The Ephs enter the season ranked No. 3 in Div. III, but the team is avoiding emphasizing its success last year in preparing for the upcoming season. “Being at Williams, we always feel like we have a target on our back, no matter what the ranking is,” tri-captain Brian Emerson ’12 said. “We have to prove what we can do on the court throughout the season.”
The team returns 11 members, including tri-captain James Wang ’12, who was a Third-Team All-American last season in addition to being named to the first team Div. III New England and the First Team All-NESCAC. Wang has been named a preseason First-Team All-American this year.
The men will turn to returning centers Emerson, Sean Hoffmann ’13, Mike Mayer ’14 and rookie Ed Flynn ’15 on the inside defensively. “We’re going to really have to come together as a team to replace Troy’s rebounding ability and his interior defense,” Wang said.
Offensively, the team retains all three starting guards in Wang, Nate Robertson ’13 and James Klemm ’13, and will turn to Taylor Epley ’14 to fill Dodson’s role as the starting forward. “Taylor has to take on Harlan’s minutes,” Wang said. “He’s definitely ready for that. He’s definitely talented, and he’s definitely mentally prepared.”
Maker is confident that Wang and Robertson, who both play point guard, will create success for the team. “I think we have the best back court in the country at our level,” Maker said. “James and Nate complement each other very well.”
Wang and Emerson emphasized that the team is avoiding setting long-term goals for the season in favor of focusing on one game at a time. “We’re trying to take it one by one and not look ahead,” Emerson said. “We know that if we look ahead to any one game, we’re going to lose when we overlook anybody.”
Maker enters his fourth season as the men’s head coach. He has a 76-14 record in his tenure and has led the Ephs to two consecutive Final Four appearances. “Coach Maker is one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for,” Wang said. “He enables his players and gives them confidence to play. We definitely could not have had the past successes we’ve had without Coach.”
The team will host the Williams Invitational this weekend. The men will take on Southern Vermont on Friday at 8 p.m. and Salem State on Saturday at 3 p.m. Williams will round out its opening week with a game against Wesleyan on Tuesday. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.
While Maker emphasized that some of his starters are facing nagging injuries from the offseason and will be game-time decisions this weekend, the team is prepared to hit the court.
“We’re excited and ready to go,” Emerson said. “We’ve been working hard since the end of last year, and we can’t wait to get back out there.”