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High hopes for men's basketball

By Stephen LaRochelle '14

November 29, 2012

For the second straight season under head coach Adam Stockwell, the Hamilton men’s basketball team is off to a promising start.

No, they haven’t won eight straight non-conference games like they did last year. In fact, they’re only 2-2. Still, the immediate future looks bright for the Continentals.

One reason for optimism comes from Hamilton’s relatively strong showing against an undefeated NYU team that pummeled the Continentals by 37 points just one year ago. The Violets bested the Continentals by the more modest margin of 11 points when the two teams met in the championship of the Hamilton Thanksgiving tournament on Nov. 25.
“NYU was a very talented, veteran team,” Coach Stockwell told the Hamilton’s Sports Information department after the game. “Their experience came to the forefront as they were more consistent in their playmaking on both ends of the court. Moving forward, it shows us how precise we need to be in all facets of the game. Although the result was not what we wanted, we learned a great deal about who we are and where we are heading this season.”

Hamilton struggled out out of the gate offensively against NYU, shooting a cool 33% in the first half. The Continentals recovered with an impressive 50% shooting streak in the second, but by that point the damage had already been done.
Coming in to this season, Hamilton knew that it needed to fill the massive gap in scoring and rebounding production left by the graduation of all-NESCAC performer Pat Sullivan ’12. Sullivan, who is
now playing professionally in Ireland, averaged over 17 points per game and led the Continentals with 135 boards in 2011-12.

“Anytime a team loses a scorer like Pat,” Stockwell explained, “it becomes imperative that other members step up and take stronger roles.”

As the leading returning scorer, junior guard Greg Newton has picked up the majority of Sullivan’s slack thus far. Newton, who earned Liberty League Rookie of the Year honors as a first-year in 2011, leads the Continentals with 16 points per contest. That’s six points better than the 10 ppg he averaged last year. Hamilton’s offense has also received a welcome boost in the form of 10 points per game from freshman guard Matt Hart. Hart, who came to Hamilton via Orchard Park, NY, scored a personal best of 13 in the Continentals narrow win over Union College on November 24.
Fortunately, Hamilton has the luxury of a balanced offensive attack in which any number of players are capable of posting double digit scoring performances at any time. Senior captains Ken Click and Hans Schulte, sophomores Bradley Gifford and Joseph Lin, and juniors Matt Dean and Marlon Bascombe will all likely put up impressive numbers at some point this season. Each player brings something unique to the Hamilton offensive attack. From Click’s post moves, to Schulte’s mid-range jumper, to Gifford’s three-point range and Lin’s speed and passing ability, Hamilton will need each of these players to showcase their skills if they hope to post a winning record in the ultra-competitive NESCAC this season.

“We are slightly more balanced having four players between 8-16 ppg,” Stockwell added. “It will be interesting to see, over the course of the season, who is consistently productive as teams start to learn more about us.”

Another reason for optimism this year is that the traditionally loaded conference in which Hamilton plays is looking somewhat less loaded so far this year, at least in the eyes of those who vote in the d3hoops.com poll. Last year, three of the nations top ten ranked squads hailed from the NESCAC, and one of them, Middlebury, held a firm grip on the top spot for nearly the entire season. Two NESCAC teams- Middlebury and Amherst, who eliminated Hamilton from postseason play last year- are currently ranked in the top ten. The overall conference record currently stands at 30-20. NESCAC teams were 51-11 at one point last year. Still, the NESCAC is likely the best, or at least the most deep, conference in men’s DIII hoops. Whether teams are ranked in the top ten or not, every NESCAC conference matchup is a major battle.

“At this point,” according to Stockwell, “all areas [of our game] need to improve considerably to compete in the NESCAC after winter break.”

Hamilton will host SUNY IT on Dec. 1 at 3 p.m. in its next home contest. The University of Rochester comes to town for a 7 p.m. start on Dec. 5.

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