Men’s hoops to ride experience

After failing to secure an at-large bid to the Div. III NCAA tournament last season, men’s basketball is looking to take an experienced squad deep into the NESCAC playoffs. The men fell to Middlebury in the NESCAC quarterfinal last season, but with a strong squad of returning players, the Ephs will seek to lead the conference once again.

Despite their postseason performance, the Ephs compiled a strong 17-8 (5-5 in the NESCAC) record. The men’s conference play last season was characterized by decisive victories and heartbreaking narrow losses. The men twice lost to Amherst by two points, falling 67-65 in a nailbiter on Jan. 25 and 80-78 on Feb. 10.

The Ephs will have to accommodate for the loss of a stellar senior squad, as last season’s tri-captains James Wang ’12, Brian Emerson ’12 and Jordan Mickens ’12 provided valuable experience and a strong skill set. Wang was a three-time All-American, earning recognition in his 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. While Wang was hampered by injury for much of his senior season, the men will have to replace the dynamism he brought to their offense.

The Ephs will turn to the leadership of guards and co-captains Nate Robertson ’13 and James Klemm ’13 to provide offensive consistency for the program. Klemm started all 25 games for the Ephs last season and was third on the team in points per game, averaging 11.2 points per game.

In addition, Taylor Epley ’14 and Michael Mayer ’14, who each earned significant playing time last semester, will look to lead the team from forward and center, respectively. Mayer led the men in rebounds per game and points per game last season, averaging 6.2 boards and 13.6 points per game. The men will miss the offensive presence of Hayden Rooke-Ley ’14, who is taking time off for an injury.

The men’s squad also includes two sophomores – Daniel Wohl ’15 and Ed Flynn ’15, both of whom got significant looks last season – and two rookies, Luke Thoreson ’16 and Adam Harrell ’16. The men also welcome Ryan Kilcullen ’15, who played at Boston College last season, to the team this year.

Head Coach Mike Maker enters his fifth season with a career record of 93-22. Maker’s coaching staff has changed significantly, as the Ephs welcome Assistant Coach Derek Johnston and Assistant Coach Scott Day to the staff. Prior to their appointments with the team, Johnston was the varsity men’s basketball coach at Lexington High School in Lexington, Ala., and Day was the varsity men’s basketball coach at ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

“Our main goal is to improve as a team every single day whether that be in a practice or game situation,” Klemm said. “It’s a long season, but we believe that more concrete results like winning a NESCAC championship or making a run in the NCAA tournament will happen as  long as we take care of everything.”

The men will open their season against Southern Vermont on Friday at 8 p.m. in their home Williams Tip-off tournament. They will play the second game of the tournament on Saturday. On Nov. 20, the men will get their first look at conference rival Wesleyan in Middletown, Conn., before hosting MCLA on Nov. 25. The team will also challenge RPI away on Nov. 27 and tackle Stevens at home on Dec. 1.