The Men’s Basketball team will have their first two games of the season Saturday and Sunday in the Lee Fulmer Tip-Off Classic against Whittier College and the University of Redlands.
Last season the Hawks had an 11-15 overall record, while going 9-9 in SUNYAC play. Their season ended in a 98-80 loss to SUNY Geneseo in the SUNYAC Championship Tournament quarterfinals.
Head Coach Mike Rejniak believes this year’s team is the most prepared team he’s had going into the start of a season, he said.
“I think we’re ahead of where we were last year and last year we were ahead of the year before, so we’re in the right direction,” Rejniak said. “They’re picking up quickly and the returners are teaching the younger group.”
The Hawks have four upperclassmen on the team this season, so Rejniak said he is looking for his Co-captains, graduate student guard Nick Taldi and third-year guard/forward Taylow Sowah to lead the team, both on and off the court.
As one of the veteran players on the team, Taldi said he needs to make sure the team stays together as one unit in order to be successful.
“I’ve been playing college basketball for a long time and I know what it takes to win,” Taldi said. “We need to make sure we stay together and nobody gets too selfish, that’s the main thing. We need to distribute the basketball.”
The Hawks lost forward Matt Devine to graduation last spring, the team’s leader in points per game (21), rebounds per game (6.9), free throws made (122) and three-pointers made (58). He was named to the ECAC Div. III Upstate All-Star last season and as well as being a member of the First-Team All-SUNYAC.
Rejniak said the team is going to have to work together in order to replace Devine’s production on the court last season.
“I think what Matty brought to the table for all teams that have a player of that caliber is if he’s on then you’re good. If he’s not, then other people need to step into the role,” he said. “I think this year everybody knows they have a role to fulfill on a night in and night out basis.”
Taldi said the team will be more balanced scoring-wise this year, which will help them replace Devine and the team’s second leading scorer from last season, Shereef Taylor, who averaged 17 points per game.
“We lost our two main scorers, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem because we’re switching to a more team-oriented offense this year,” Taldi said. “We’re going to move the ball and try to get four or five guys in double digits every night.”
Forward Andre Seniuk, guard Eric Regenbogen, guard/forward Derrick Ansah, guard/forward Joe Tino and guard Kewan Beebe make up the team’s five first-year players that Rejniak brought in this season.
Rejniak said the first-year players are “coming along nicely” with their adjustment to college basketball and that he’s doing a lot of teaching with a young team.
“They’re getting used to my coaching style, the way I teach things and overall college athletics, which is tough,” he said. “The game is starting to slow down. I think they’re starting to realize quick is not always better.”
Taldi said it’s good that the first-year players will be getting significant time for the team this season.
Rejniak said he expects his team to be better than last year’s team and is hoping they win more close games this year.
“We want to continue the streak of making the SUNYAC Tournament and now we have to start a run deep into the SUNYAC Tournament, wherever that may be,” he said.
Taldi said he has two goals for this season.
“I want to score my 1000 point and I just want to lead this team to a SUNYAC Championship,” he said.