By SAM DONNELLY
Although it was just a scrimmage, the UNH men’s basketball team seems ready to compete this season. The Wildcats kicked off their season with the annual Blue vs. White Scrimmage. The game was four eight-minute quarters. The White team defeated the Blue team 53-38.
Senior Ronnel Jordan led the White Team, and all scorers, with 15 points. Freshman Pat McNamara hit three three-pointers for 11 points to lead the Blue team.
With a new season comes a new look. With the graduation of seniors Tommy McDonnell and Matt Miller, there is room for other players to step up and earn more playing time. Miller, whose appeal for a sixth year was denied by the NCAA, was part of the starting five last season and made 63 three-pointers while averaging almost 10 points a game. With him out, the question is, who will fill his role?
“Its up in the air right now,” head coach Bill Herrion said. “I think the logical move is Ronnel getting more playing time. Offensively Ronnel played very well tonight, but it has to be consistent. I think Pat McNamara can really shoot the ball for a freshman, so I think we have a few guys that can fill that void.”
The Wildcats will play multiple teams early in the season with plenty of size to overmatch UNH’s starting lineup, which uses three guards. That doesn’t mean Herrion doesn’t have options. Against teams like Boston College, UConn, and Southern Methodist University, look for 6-foot-7-inch Jacoby Armstrong, 6-foot-9-inch Iba Camara, and 6-foot-6-inch Tanner Leissner to be on the floor at one time.
“We have been talking about that as a staff all summer and fall,” Herrion said. “We are off tomorrow, we will come back to practice Friday and start looking at times Jacoby, Iba, and Tanner together and probably play some zone with that team… pretty big team.”
The Wildcats added three freshmen to the team this season—forward David Watkins from Dorchester, Massachusetts, guard Andrew Dotson from Arlington, Texas and McNamara from Arlington Heights, Illinois. Almost all of last year’s returning players saw significant minutes throughout the season last season. As a freshman, the prospect of breaking onto the court can be intimidating, but Herrion believes that the freshman can contribute to this team.
“I think right now our program is in a good position where we have older players with experience,” Herrion said. “In years past we have had to rely on true freshman; that’s hard. I thought Andrew played well at the point guard position, Pat made some shots and David is going to have to get some time as a front court player.”
Although this is the first time that public has been able to see this year’s squad, the real season started about three weeks ago when practice started. Herrion addressed the crowd before the game and he made one message very clear: the Wildcats have a lot of work to do.
“We have a lot of work to do at both ends of the floor,” Herrion said. “It’s still early but we have to tighten up a lot of things. We have three weeks till the opener and the guys know we have a lot of work to do.”
The captains this season, as voted by the players, are Armstrong, Jaleen Smith and Joe Bramanti. All three were starters last season and played significant roles on the team. Bramanti made America East First Team All-Defense, Smith was voted to the All-Conference tournament team and Armstrong was selected to third team All-Conference.
Due to NCAA rules, the Wildcats weren’t allowed to have organized team practice until three weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean that was the first time the players worked out. Coaches had players doing individual workouts throughout the summer. As for the players who impressed Herrion with their progress, the list isn’t short.
“I thought Jaleen had a great summer and fall,” Herrion said. “Iba has improved immensely from last year and I loved the way Jacoby played tonight and how aggressive he was. As for Tanner, he just brings so much to the table on both sides of the floor.”
The improvement for Leissner has been physical and the sophomore has clearly been in the weight room. Herrion says that all the players have done well in the weight room and gotten stronger. They will need to be too. Unlike in years past, UNH is now the team to beat in America East, and they won’t sneak up on anyone.
“That’s the biggest challenge we are going to have this year,” Herrion said. “Whether we snuck up on people or they didn’t respect us, we had a good year, but that’s over now and we have to learn to play with a target on our back and we have to be ready to play every night.”
The Wildcats will begin their new season Nov. 13 when they host Lyndon State College. This game will be part of a double-header with the women’s team, which takes on Colby-Sawyer that same night. The game is a white out and students will receive white t-shirts.
Season kicks off with Blue-White game
By SAM DONNELLY