With a new coach, solid roster and brand new attitude, the New Paltz men’s basketball team is prepared to rebuild their program atop a foundation of relentless defense, competitiveness and having fun.
With Hawks head coach Keith Kenney at the helm for his first season, the men’s basketball team enters the 2017-2018 season 17 strong bolstering a roster of 13 experienced returners and four eager freshmen. Jim Wherry also begins his fourth season as the assistant coach and SUNY New Paltz also welcomes assistant coach Tom Bell aboard for the first time this season.
Fourth-year guard Dylan Balducci returns for the 2017-18 season after leading the team in 3-pointers his junior year and second in total points with 277. He said that Kenney has made a positive impact on the team’s practice environment.
“It’s a great feeling going to practice knowing that you’ll be able to work on various aspects of the game,” he said. “Whether that be individual skill work, defensive drills, or reviewing our offensive sets, it gives us the opportunity to improve day in and day out.”
Among the returning Hawks are third-year guard Cory Garcia, Balducci, third-year guard Matt Misser, fourth-year forward and center James Saunders, third-year guard Paddy Parr, second-year center Konrad Dalland, fourth-year guard Kevin Coyle, fourth-year forward Brandon Guest, second-year guard Tristan Wisseman, third-year guard Nick Paquette, second-year forward Bryce Layne, second-year forward Matt English and second-year forward Nick Arthur.
Last year, Garcia was named Most Valuable Player for the 2016-17 season and started all 24 games with a total of 746 minutes, grabbed 94 rebounds and led the team in assists and steals with 133 and 50, respectively. He said the team’s depth will be a great asset to the team this season.
“We have a solid amount of upperclassmen that are seasoned to go, along with a couple sophomores who can make an impact,” he said. “The more people that get in, the better the team morale will be.”
New to the Hawks’ nest are first-year guards Kyle Locastro, Jake Passaretti, Jackson Vertucci and Keith Seaman. Paquette posted the third most points during the 2016-17 season with 178. He said that he was excited about the group of freshman coming in.
“We have a lot of talent with the young guys, I think they can bring a lot of fire power off the bench and they keep us moving every day at practice,” he said. “These guys, you can just tell they’re ready to just bring it. I love it, I love the way they’ve been playing so far; they’re talented and I think it’s going to help the team in the long run.”
Guest will be returning to the roster this year after recovering from an injury and redshirting for the 2016-17 season. He said one of the team’s greatest motivators for the upcoming season is to win back respect.
“I know a lot of people are sleeping on us because of the things that happened in the past, rightfully so,” he said. “We like to channel all that and try to turn it inwards and make something different.”
Kenney said that he does not care about win and losses or statistics, rather he wants the team to return to a place where they enjoy the game of basketball and stay connected to each other on and off the court. He believes that if the Hawks do the right things, the numbers will take care of themselves.
“I think sometimes when you struggle, there’s divides on and off the court. I’m hoping that we have a team that defends hard, shares the ball on offense and plays with joy and plays for the love of the game,” he said. “When you start to lose, you lose sight of that a little bit. I hope this is a team that competes and is enjoyable to watch and plays basketball the right way.”
The consensus from the Hawks is to expect a complete turnaround from last season and they are eager to get on the court.
“The best is yet to come,” Guest said. “I know a lot of people have a lot of preconceived notions about how things went before, but we’re definitely looking to turn it around and I like the guys that we have coming back and I think our leadership is strong.”
The Hawks will kick off their 2017-18 campaign at Muhlenberg College on Friday, Nov. 17 in Allentown, PA. Their home opener will be Tuesday, Nov. 21 against Vassar College at 7 p.m. in the Hawk Center.