By SAM DONNELLY

STAFF WRITER

After a tough loss at NJIT, spring workouts, summer school, and preseason, the UNH men’s basketball is set to begin the 2015-16 season. Last season the Wildcats set a program record with 19 wins and made an appearance in the CollegeInsiders.com postseason tournament.

“We are all just excited that basketball season is here,” junior Jacoby Armstrong said. “It’s been a long process from summer to preseason and now we are ready to go prove everyone wrong.”

Who exactly are the Wildcats out to prove? For years now the America East conference has been ruled by teams like Vermont and Albany, but this season the Wildcats have a chance to dethrone those teams. Last season the ‘Cats were close with them each time they played, including a win at home against Vermont by a score of 73-68. The Wildcats also have to prove that last season wasn’t just a one-time thing, and, with that success, they now must play with the target of their back.

“We had a great year, maybe we snuck up on some people and won some games,” head coach Bill Herrion said. “What that does is it raises the bar, it raises the expectation level, now we have a bulls-eye on our back every time we step on the court. The terrain has changed for us.”

The goal of this team this season remains the same as it always has: win an America East Championship and grab the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“We want to make it to the NCAA tournament,” junior Jaleen Smith said. “That’s really our main goal this year.”

This year, that seems like a legitimate possibility. There are a few question marks though. Former UNH three-point specialist Matt Miller didn’t receive a sixth year from the NCAA after his appeal was denied. That leaves an opening in the starting lineup. The obvious person to fill the role would be senior guard Ronnel Jordan, who uses great athleticism to get the rim and lock guys down on defense, but there are other guys who can play that spot too.

“Ronnel now is going to get a lot of minutes and he is going to get a great opportunity,” Herrion said. “Pat McNamara, who is a true freshman for us, has played very well in our two closed scrimmages, as far as shooting the ball. Daniel Dion is a proven three-point shooter in his first two years at UNH. I think it will be a combination of those three guys.”

From that, it might appear that the three-guard spot is the most important to the team’s success this season. But the X-factor, in Herrion’s eyes, is sophomore big man Iba Camara.

“He gives you a [6-foot-9-inch], long athlete, skilled athlete in the frontcourt,” Herrion said. “His points-to-rebounds-per-minutes-played last season was through the roof. Any time you can get an inside player with size, it’s a really added plus.”

The Wildcats won’t be heading into the season completely healthy. Junior guard Keon Burns, who Herrion said played good minutes in those two closed scrimmages, is currently battling a toe injury, and that will hurt the Wildcats’ depth early. 

UNH will take the floor Friday night against Lyndon State College at 7 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium. The game is part of a doubleheader with the women’s team, which takes on Colby-Sawyer College at 5 p.m. Lyndon State, a Division III school, isn’t exactly a game to circle on a schedule that includes UConn, Southern Methodist, Boston College and other highly competitive teams. When asked if they were prepared for Lyndon State, the team’s answer was simple.

“We are preparing for them like any other team,” Smith said. “Coach always tells us to prepare for them like they’re Kentucky or Duke. We are preparing the regular way.”

UNH will take the floor Friday night against Lyndon State College at 7 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium. The game is part of a doubleheader with the women’s team, which takes on Colby-Sawyer College at 5 p.m. Lyndon State, a Division III school, isn’t exactly a game to circle on a schedule that includes UConn, Southern Methodist, Boston College and other highly competitive teams. When asked if they were prepared for Lyndon State, the team’s answer was simple.

“We are preparing for them like any other team,” Smith said. “Coach always tells us to prepare for them like they’re Kentucky or Duke. We are preparing the regular way.”

Executive Editor