Author: Dan Russell Staff Writer
The Middlebury College men's basketball team enters thisr season a radically altered and much younger team, bidding farewell to nine seniors from the '00-'01 season. Last season, the team went 11-13 and qualified for the first inaugural New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament, narrowly losing out to Colby College in the first round, 54-49. Very few teams in the country have lost quite so much in terms of experience, and the Panthers will rely heavily on the lone two remaining upper-classmen, co-captains Chris King '02 and Eric Bundonis '03, for leadership. They are aided by two of the seniors from last season, Jon Cormier '01 and Chad Malone '01, who have stayed on as assistant coaches, joining Coach Ed Agard along with Head Coach Jeff Brown on the Panther bench.
This year's team, in spite of, or perhaps because of, their youth and inexperience, should be a very intriguing and exciting team to watch. They are a team in which any player could conceivably step up and play a big role on any given night, and in which everyone must be ready to make a significant contribution.
In that respect, they are much like last year's team, which distributed the ball well and got major contributions from each of its players, often with a different player having a big night statistically each game. As with last season, this year's team should have a very balanced attack.
The team will return six sophomores, who, after a year of apprenticeship, will be called upon to play immediately and are anxiously awaiting the chance to take command of the team and showcase their talent. The team also welcomes seven freshmen who will see considerable playing time. Hopefully they will give them a much needed opportunity to actively learn Coach Brown's system.
"The goal of this team so far has been coming in and busting our butts everyday, learning the system on both offense and defense and working together. It would be great to improve on last years' record, but we have to take it one day at a time, especially since we are so young. If everyone comes to practice everyday looking to get better individually and play together as a team, we can get so much better as the season progresses," Bundonis said.
They will compensate for their lack of experience with quickness and depth, two hallmarks of Coach Brown's system. They have great potential, and if they can come together quickly and play as a cohesive unit, they will be very dangerous. They are an explosive young team who will rely on their superior speed and conditioning to stretch the floor and get easy baskets in transition, and should be expected to push the ball even more than in past years.
The veteran presences of Cormier and Malone will prove invaluable in guiding the team and helping the younger players adapt to the new system, especially with only three days remaining until their first game.
The Panthers begin play on Friday, Nov. 16 in the Lopata Classic tournament against a very good Washington University in St. Louis team in St. Louis, Mo. It should prove be a great test for the Panthers as they face arguably the strongest team they will see all season. The Bears went 23-4 last year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Panthers will play this weekend's games somewhat short-handed up front, without the services of sophomore forward Nate Anderson '04, who is out with injury, and with sophomore center Chris Matthiesen, recovering from an injury, although he is expected to play.
The Panthers will then play either the championship game or the consolation game either against St. Joseph's or Skidmore. Then will return to Pepin Gymnasium for their first home game against Hamilton on Nov. 29.
Men's Basketball Eager to Develop Its Youth
Author: Dan Russell Staff Writer