Coming off an appearance in the Div. III NCAA quarterfinal, men’s basketball is returning a strong contingent of three starters as the team prepares to tackle a talented NESCAC field. The men rode a 26-5 (9-1 in the NESCAC) record to the Div. III NCAA tournament last season after being narrowly edged by Amherst for the NESCAC crown. Amherst is currently ranked No. 1 in preseason Div. III polls, while the men have secured the No. 3 spot heading into play this weekend. Relying on returning starters and a talented rookie class, the men are prepared to challenge Amherst for first in the NESCAC.
The team is hoping to rely on the depth of its roster heading into the season. “Our team’s greatest strengths this season are depth, experience and size,” tri-captain John Weinheimer ’14 said. “We have a great first-year class, and everyone on the team is in a position to contribute.” The team will need to rely on this depth, having graduated two of its stalwart starters in guards Nate Robertson ’13 and James Klemm ’13. Robertson was the team’s primary ball-handler, orchestrating the team’s offense with confidence and poise. Klemm was a sharp shooter whose ability to sink shots from behind the arc helped the men open up the court.
“With the loss of Nate [Robertson], this year we do not have the typical point guard who will always bring up the ball,” Weinheimer said. “Multiple players will step up to share the ball-handling responsibilities. James [Klemm] was a phenomenal shooter, and Sean Hoffmann [’13] and Parker McClelland [’13] provided great energy and defense off the bench. Fortunately, we have many guys who are ready to step in and fill those roles. We do return three starters, so we won’t look too different from last year’s team.”
Among those starters will be tri-captain Michael Mayer ’14, who was named
an All-American last year. Mayer broke out as a two-way impact player last season, providing strong field goal shooting and steady defense for the men. Tri-captain Taylor Epley ’14 will also look to continue his role as an offensive powerhouse for the Ephs, while Daniel Wohl ’15 will seek to build off an impressive sophomore season as one of the Ephs’ starting guards. Weinheimer also built up significant playing time last year, serving as the men’s top player off the bench and contributing key baskets down the stretch.
While the men are certainly focusing primarily on their first game of the season against Southern Vermont on Friday, they are also looking forward to stacking up against some of the division’s best teams. “Right now we are just working to be ready this Friday for Southern Vermont,” Weinheimer said. “We do know that Amherst and Middlebury are two teams that have been very successful recently, so it is always fun to play them. We play Hamden-Sydney during our winter trip, which will be a great challenge for us.” Williams will take a crack at Hamden-Sydney on Jan. 2, and the men will get their first look at Amherst away on Jan. 11 before playing them again on Jan. 22 at home. The team will tackle Middlebury late in the season on Jan. 31.
While these games will help the men evaluate how they measure up to top competition, the team is focused on succeeding in playoff basketball this season. “We always want to win the NESCAC regular season and tournament titles and win the Little Three,” Weinheimer said. “We have high hopes this year and ultimately want to advance further in the NCAA tournament than we did last year.”
The Ephs will start their journey to the postseason this weekend with a pair of home games. Williams will open the season by hosting Southern Vermont at 8 p.m. on Friday before hosting Salem State on Saturday at 3 p.m. Friday’s game will be at MCLA, while Saturday’s will be in Chandler Gym.