The men’s basketball team tips off their season on Friday, Nov. 15, as they host the annual Herb Kenny Tournament in Silloway Gymnasium. They start the season with a 6 p.m. start time against Sage College of Albany.
The Cardinals are looking to get back to the NCAA Division III tournament this year after missing out last year for the first time in three years. Success should come with this team’s lineup; the strong roster looks to buoy the team in the ultra-competitive NESCAC, where one team can beat any other on any given night.
Captain Kevin McDonald ’20 emphasized the postseason expectations for the team.
“I’m really excited about the group we have this year,” McDonald said. “We have a bit of a younger team but the underclassmen are doing a great job getting accustomed to our offensive and defensive concepts. Winning the NESCAC championship and making a deep run in the NCAA tournament are our main goals and we’re working each day to try and achieve that.”
As a senior who has played on the team for all four years, McDonald knows there is leadership required of him. He’s taking that role seriously.
“For me, I think I’ve tried to focus on helping the underclassmen get comfortable with our style of play through being extremely vocal on the court and acting as a source of information when guys have questions about certain spots or plays,” McDonald said. “Our senior leadership stuck to the plan of effectively introducing team concepts this fall and I can see it paying off during these first few weeks of the season.”
McDonald, along with fellow seniors Jack Alberding and David Dixon, will look to instill the goals and expectations of a team accustomed to postseason success into the younger players. The senior class has experienced two NCAA tournament runs over the course of their career.
McDonald believes the continuity within the program and among the leadership has contributed to team growth over the past four years. Having an excited and dedicated coach in Joe Reilly helps as well.
“Throughout my four years, I think each leadership group has built off of one another, regarding teaching certain things in pre-season, emphasizing defensive concepts, and keeping the group engaged through hard practices,” McDonald said. “This has contributed to us not only being a great defensive-minded team over my four years, but also now we’re becoming a high IQ offensive team and playing more read-based basketball.”
Some other key players for the team this year will be Jordan James ’21, Antone Walker ’21, Sam Peek ’22, and Gabe Ravetz ’22. Walker and Ravetz will control the guard positions while James looks to continue dominating the paint with his lengthy wingspan.
Any talk of the Wesleyan men’s basketball team this year has to at least acknowledge the departure of two of the team’s most important players. Austin Hutcherson transferred this past offseason to enroll as a junior and play Division I basketball at the University of Illinois. Hutcherson was the leading scorer for the entire NESCAC, a first team all-NESCAC selection last year, and the NESCAC Rookie of the Year in 2017-2018. Hutcherson averaged 20.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game last year. The other significant loss for the Cardinals was Jordan Bonner ’19, their second-leading scorer at 14.6 points per game.
No one player will be able to replicate or replace Hutcherson’s or Bonner’s impacts alone, but the team will look to grow together to make up for such a loss. One they can begin to do this is through incoming players for the team.
The newcomers include three players from the class of 2023—Steven Johnson, Gabe Millstein, and Preston Maccoux—and one from the class of 2022, Teddy Lowen.
McDonald is confident in the young players on the team.
“Both of our underclassmen classes are extremely talented, so I’d be on the lookout for honestly any one of them,” McDonald said. “They’ve been more vocal in our scrimmages and each one of them works super hard so I’m definitely excited about all of them.”
The Cardinals will look to use their size as an advantage this year. Twelve of the 14 members of the roster stand at least 6’4” inches tall, boasting extreme height and length up and down the roster. McDonald emphasized this dominant aspect as well.
“Our size, length, and athleticism is definitely one of the strongest parts of our team this year,” McDonald said. “We’re bigger than most Division III teams and we plan on using that to our advantage. Our defensive potential because of this is high and we’re excited to play through our bigs and emphasize the rebound battle each game.”
Emilio Weber can be reached at email@example.com.