Men's Basketball | Jumbos looking to meet big expectations this year
NESCAC bid last season provides hope for the future
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 18:11
When talking about their goals for the upcoming season, most teams say they would like to “pick up where they left off.” In the case of the men’s basketball team, they would like to pick up from the middle of last season, before they lost their last 4 games, including an upset loss to Bates in the first round of the NESCAC tournament.
The team wants to get back to the point where they were 16−5 last season, making a run for the third spot in the NESCAC and performing better than anybody expected of a team that finished last in the division only 2 years ago.
It is safe to say last season was filled with peaks and the inevitable valleys that come along with being in an extremely competitive conference.
“Last year was kind of bittersweet,” coach Bob Sheldon said. “We did get to 16 wins, but we ended it on a sour note.”
Sheldon likes to compare his basketball seasons to semesters in college.
“Last year we got a B+ in the class, which was the whole season, but we failed the final, which was the playoffs,” Sheldon said.
Now the Jumbos are setting new goals for themselves.
“For me, having won six games my first year, then 13 games and then 16 games last year, I want to win 20 games at least,” senior co−captain forward Scott Anderson said. “I know the team also wants a berth in the NCAA tournament, and we want to win the NESCAC.”
While those may seem like lofty goals for an upstart team, it does not faze a group of players that have bought into a new culture for Tufts’ basketball.
“The group of seniors this year has gone from six wins to 16 wins in three years, and I think it’s because with their class, we started recruiting winners,” Sheldon said. “We changed the culture and got kids that wanted to commit. It’s now a year round commitment, and everybody is buying into it. I have to give credit to the three seniors, Matt Lanchantin, Scott Anderson and Alex Goldfarb, because they started that whole thing. They don’t want to go back to the way it was.”
With this year’s seniors leading the way, the incoming recruits have continued the process of changing the way the team operates. Thanks to the intensity and stellar guard play of sophomores C.J. Moss and Ben Ferris, the team continues to head in the right direction.
However, the team will need Moss and Ferris, along with Anderson and juniors Kwame Firempong and Tom Folliard, to step up as the team moves to a four guard attack to replace the size lost with the graduation of starting forward Alex Orchowski, who contributed almost 12 points and eight rebounds a game last season.
Combined with the graduation of fellow forward James Long and his 4.6 rebounds per game, the Jumbos will have a noticeably smaller team on the court this year.
“We’ve changed to four out and one in, with a little more drive and kick,” Sheldon said. “We’re going to shoot more threes and drive more. Maybe we won’t have as many dunks, but we won’t miss them because we’ve changed things.”
Sheldon also pointed out that Lanchantin will play a pivotal role in replacing Orchowski in the middle. Lanchantin played sparingly last season, but after an impressive preseason and as one of only two players on the roster above 6’7”, he will be asked to do a lot more for the Jumbos in his senior year.
A switch in offense can often be overwhelming, especially moving from a half court offense to a more up−tempo game. But the remaining players are unconcerned by the transition the team will be making.
“Last year, we didn’t really rely on the guards as much, who I think are a talented part of this team,” Ferris said. “This year though, we’ve been really focusing on the guards, and guys like Scott Anderson, who played more inside last year, are stepping out more, which I think will help. Our new offense is definitely geared more toward our style of play.”
The big area in which seniors Orchowski and Long will be missed is leadership, something that will not come as easily as a new offense to a team that will need players to step up if they hope to continue improving.
“Alex [Orchowski] and James [Long] were the leaders,” Sheldon said. “We need somebody to step up to be leaders. We’ll get their points and rebounds, but it’s really a matter of leadership.”
Anderson is confident, however, that the team can fill the leadership void left by the two big men.
“In terms of leadership, me and Kwame [Firempong] are becoming a lot more vocal this year, and I think everybody [else is] becoming a lot more vocal too,” Anderson said. “Everybody knows they’ll have to step up, and I think we’re all on the same page.”