2017-18 Wesleyan Men's Basketball Season Preview

Photo by Jonas Powell '18
Photo by Jonas Powell '18

2017-18 SEASON OUTLOOK

The past three seasons have been arguably the best years in Wesleyan University men's basketball history as the Cardinals reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history during the 2014-15 campaign, and returned to the national postseason in 2016-17 as they look to continue their winning ways this winter.

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Fresh off a 19-7 season, in which Wesleyan won the Little Three title outright for the first time since 1990-91 and earned an at-large bid to the national postseason tournament, the Cardinals look poised for another successful year under Head Coach Joe Reilly. In his 10th season at the helm of the program, Reilly has brought Wesleyan into national prominence as he enters his 21st season as a NESCAC head coach (previous 11 years with Bates).

The Cardinals return nine players from a team that posted a 6-4 regular season record in conference play a year ago to earn the No. 4 seed in the ultra-competitive NESCAC Tournament. Headlining the unit will be senior captains JR Bascom, Nathan Krill and Jordan Sears. The rest of the lineup features two juniors, five sophomores, and three freshmen.

Wesleyan opens its season this weekend with the annual two-day Herb Kenny Tip-Off Tournament beginning Friday, Nov. 17. The 2017-18 schedule features 11 home games, 11 away games and two neutral site contests at the Springfield/Naismith Classic hosted by Springfield College. NESCAC play begins Jan. 5, 2018 with a home game against Little Three archrival Williams.  

MEET THE TEAM

  • The Cardinals will have a difficult task of replacing Harry Rafferty '17—the team's leading scorer a year ago and one of just 23 players in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone—but they do return three of their top-six scorers from the 2016-17 team.
  • Leading the way is junior guard Jordan Bonner who ranked second on the team in scoring a year ago, averaging 12.8 points per game while shooting 38% from three-point range and averaging 5.2 rebounds. As a sophomore, Bonner missed 11 games due to injury but came back stronger than ever. He scored a career-high 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting against Conn. College and scored in double-figures in the final seven games of the season.
  • He'll be joined in the backcourt by Kevin O'Brien '19, who also had a standout sophomore season for the Cardinals. At 6-5, O'Brien can do a little bit of everything as evident by his stat line from a year ago in which he averaged 8.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. His 4.3 assists per contest were a team-high and ranked sixth-best in the NESCAC while his 36 steals ranked eighth in the conference.
  • Sears also figures to be a force on defense once again. The extremely athletic 6-5 guard/forward totaled 27 blocks in 26 games to rank tied for eighth in the league. Sears also pulled in 53 offensive rebounds a year ago to rank 10th overall while averaging 4.7 total boards per game.
  • The frontcourt features veteran leadership in Bascom and Krill. Bascom had a standout junior campaign and continues to improve throughout his career. His role figures to increase significantly once again as he enters his senior season. Krill, a versatile 6-7 forward that shot 44.4% (12-27) from three-point range a year ago, is a matchup nightmare for opponents as he can play both inside and outside the perimeter.

HEAD COACH JOE REILLY

"There is a lot of talent on the roster and the guys have really been working hard since November 1st.  Our three seniors are providing superior leadership and really promoting a strong team culture.  There is a big opportunity for some younger players to make an immediate impact—it's going to be exciting to see how our game rotation evolves. We will be tested early and often with one of the strongest strength of schedules in New England."