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INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY

Men’s basketball counting on backcourt

By : John Hartrick


The Bearcats are counting on senior Troy Hailey, seen here in last Decemberís game vs. Brown University.
By orchestrating the most successful season in five years of Division I play, the 2005-06 Bearcats lifted the program near the top of the America East Conference and raised expectations for the men’s basketball program.

The only catch is that the two players who were instrumental in the team’s 16-win season — Andre Heard and Sebastian Hermenier — have graduated, leaving seventh-year head coach Al Walker with some retooling to do.

As the team’s top two scorers and rebounders, Heard and Hermenier sparked Binghamton to a 12-4 conference record and second place in the nine-team league. Equally important, however, was the leadership the pair provided to a team that began the year 2-8 before winning 14 of its last 18 games.

“Our biggest question mark is obvious,” Walker said. “Can we successfully replace two terrific America East players? Andre was a top-shelf scorer and Sebastian was the Defensive Player of the Year. Both players were also tremendous clutch free-throw shooters in close late games.”

Despite losing more than half the team’s points and nearly 40 percent of its rebounding numbers, Binghamton does return three starters and eight letter winners.

“Our opponents may feel that the absence of Andre and Sebastian pushes us back a big step,” Walker said. “But I’ve got enormous confidence in the returning players and the newcomers.”

Backcourt

Junior Mike Gordon emerged as one of the best point guards in the America East last season and Walker knows his team’s success begins with the 6-foot playmaker.

“Mike continues to develop into a premier lead college guard,” Walker said. “His assist-to-turnover ratio is a true reflection of his intelligence and toughness playing the most challenging position on the floor.”

Last season, Gordon earned third team All-America East honors and was Binghamton’s third member on the five-man All-Defensive Team, joining Hermenier and Heard. He ranked second in the conference in both assists (4.5) and steals (1.7) and added 8.5 points per game.

Senior Troy Hailey is the team’s three-year starter at shooting guard, though his 2005-06 contributions were limited by nagging injuries. He showed off his touch with a career-high 29 points in the conference opener at Albany, but was held without a field goal in four of Binghamton’s final six games.

“Troy battled courageously last year and matured into a better all-around player,” Walker said. “We all look forward to him returning to full strength and speed.”

Another player eager to play a full season injury-free is senior guard Steve Proctor, who missed 14 games because of a broken wrist. He is a big guard who shot 43 percent from three-point range and is equally strong on the defensive end.

Also pressing for more minutes will be sophomore Dwayne Jackson, another strong, athletic guard.

Junior college transfers Richard Forbes and Marvin Lee should have an immediate impact in the backcourt.

Forbes, who can play point or off-guard, averaged nearly 11 points a game for a Howard Junior College (Texas) team that went 35-2 and finished fifth in the country last year. He averaged 18 points per game in the national tournament and was an all-conference selection. In high school, Forbes was the top scorer in New York City (32 points a game) for Far Rockaway High.

Lee is the prototypical Walker recruit — a physical, hard-nosed athlete who honed his skills in a competitive Midwestern conference. The Chicago native averaged 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds for Pratt CC (Kansas), and was a first team all-region selection.

The six guards give Binghamton a strong nucleus. “I like the potential, depth, talent and skill level of our backcourt,” Walker said. “Mike and Troy have played a lot of games in our program. Steve is ready to shine and Dwayne is starting to understand the commitment to defense that is required for him to excel. If our two new junior college recruits can make the transition to the demanding work ethic that’s required at Division I, we will have a deep and talented America East backcourt.”

Frontcourt

Binghamton’s frontcourt will be in the spotlight, with several returning players needing to increase their production to account for Hermenier’s departure.

Sophomore forward Ian Milne, who’s 6 feet 9 inches tall, showed great promise in a solid freshman season that was highlighted by a 21-point effort at New Hampshire.

Junior center Giovanni Olomo also showed glimpses of strong play in 11 starts on the block. Olomo, 6 feet 8 inches tall and very athletic, didn’t put up glossy statistics and was prone to foul trouble, but was a disciplined defender and rebounder.

Senior Duane James was a spark off the bench in his first season as a Bearcat, and Walker hopes an improved defensive mindset will turn the 6-foot-6 James into a major contributor.

Second-year center Jaan Montgomery is the team’s tallest member at 6 feet 11 inches, and is making great strides to learn the collegiate game after appearing in 18 games as a freshman.

The biggest question marks on the roster are the potential roles filled by freshmen Lazar Trifunovic and Miladin Kovacevic. The 6-foot-9 Serbians are talented players whose ability to transition into Division I basketball may very well dictate how effective Binghamton’s frontcourt is in 2006-07.

Hoop Fest planned Saturday

The Bearcats will hold Hoop Fest on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Events Center.

The day begins with a free Junior Bearcat basketball clinic with members of the men’s and women’s teams from 9-10:30 a.m. followed by an autograph session with the players. Registration (for Junior Bearcat Club members and non-members 12 and younger) begins at 8:30 a.m.

From 11 a.m.-1 p.m., the men’s and women’s teams will compete in intra-squad scrimmages.

A luncheon will follow from 1-2:30 p.m. The light lunch is free for Bearcat Club members; $5 for nonmembers and $3 for children ages 5-12. Children under 5 get in free.

Reservations are required only for the lunch; call 777-5459 to reserve a place.

Games start next week

The team’s first exhibition game is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31, at the Events Center vs. Mansfield.

The team’s 12-game non-conference slate features high-profile games at New Mexico and the University of Miami. The 16-game America East schedule begins Jan. 3 and will feature home-and-home series with each of the eight other conference members.

“There’s no question that the America East will be significantly stronger this season,” Walker said. “Stony Brook, New Hampshire and Vermont enter the year with head coaches starting their respective second seasons with their clubs, and the programs at Maine, Albany, Boston and UMBC return very good upperclassmen. Albany may be the favorite on paper, as the conference player of the year Jamar Wilson returns with a very good group of seasoned teammates.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08