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Men's Basketball Looks To Build On Their 2015 NESCAC Championship In Upcoming Season

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

For the first time in the program's 113-year history, the Wesleyan University Men's Basketball team  appeared in the NCAA Tournament after capturing the NESCAC Championship.

They took home the crown with a thrilling overtime victory over Little Three rival Amherst College, 74-70.  The Cardinals accomplished a number of firsts and achievements they will look to build on in 2015-16. The program's 19-9 record marked the second most wins in program history (trailing only the 20 wins by the 2011-12 team).

The season started out in strong fashion as the team won the Herb Kenny Tip-Off Tournament and followed that up with two impressive wins over Birmingham Southern University and Maryville College at the Daytona Beach Shootout. A second trophy stayed in Silloway Gymnasium, as the Cardinals clinched the Red and Black Holiday Tournament Championship with a win over Wheaton.

Conference play was highlighted by the exhilarating run through the NESCAC Tournament, downing Bates, Trinity and Amherst, all on the road, to claim the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Cardinals' win over Bates was the only loss the Bobcats suffered at home all season.

An added emphasis on playing fast and allowing playmakers to create in transition helped the program set a number of records in 2014-15. Last year's edition of the Cardinals set a program record by making 228 three-pointers throughout the season. Guard Jack Mackey '16 (Warwick, NY) made a school-record 77 three-pointers on the season and wing Joe Edmonds '16 (Oklahoma City, OK) set a Cardinals record with nine made three-pointers in a game (vs Hamilton, 2/13/15). That same game, the Cardinals made a total of 18 three-pointers, also a program record for a single game.

Following up on 2014-15 will be a tall task, but, the Cardinals have the pieces in place to accomplish something special in their own right. The top seven scorers from last season return, including four who averaged over 10 points per game. Last season's top six rebounders will all be back for the Red and Black. An experienced squad of proven winners should be ready to forge a path through an ultra-competitive NESCAC conference schedule.

The frontcourt will be missing a combined 20-plus minutes per game following the graduation of Chris Tugman and Tim Gallivan, but junior center Joseph Kuo '17 (New York, NY) highlights the returning cast. Kuo established himself as one of the best big men in the league last season and led the Cardinals in both points (11.9) and rebounds (7.4) per game. He also accumulated 38 blocked shots, using his 6'8" frame and 7'4" wingspan to protect the paint, including six in one game last season against Baruch. Also returning is senior forward Rashid Epps '16 (New York, NY), a bruising four-man who posted the Cardinals three best rebounding performances last season, including tearing down 17 boards against Worcester St. Epps, finished third in the NESCAC with a 59.3 FG%. Sophomores Chad Elliot '18 (Flower Mound, TX), Nathan Krill '18 (St. Helena, CA) and JR Bascom '18 (Edina, MN) will all be looked at to fill a big role this season, providing depth in the frontcourt and pushing Kuo and Epps for minutes. Freshman Kelly Hogan '19 (Westfield, NJ) is the lone frontcourt player in the incoming class. The inside-outside forward from Seton Hall Prep should challenge for playing time early.

The backcourt will continue to be a strength for the Cardinals this season as three double-digit scorers return. Senior Jack Mackey '16 (Warwick, NY), the most prolific three-point shooter in a single season in Wesleyan history, returns to follow up on an 11.6 PPG season. Fellow senior BJ Davis '16 (Hamden, CT) will once again provide a steady presence, as he was third on the team with 11.5 PPG and led the Cardinals in assists (3.4 per game), steals (1.1 per game) and assist to turnover ratio (2.49:1). Davis had the lone double-digit assist game for the Cardinals last season, dropping 11 helpers against Bates. Harry Rafferty '17, who led the team in scoring two seasons ago, looks to improve upon a year in which he averaged 10.5 PPG and scored a season high 26 points against Emmanuel College. Prolific three-point shooter Joe Edmonds '16 (Oklahoma City, OK) will look to follow up on impressive individual performance including a team-high 29 points on nine three-pointers against Hamilton.  Edmonds averaged 9.0 PPG last season. Pushing the four veterans for playing time will be sophomore wing Jordan Sears '18, a 6'5" athletic specimen, who gained valuable experience, playing in 27 games last season. Athletic Junior PJ Reed '17 (Fort Lee, NJ) is looking to expand his role as a defensive anchor and sharpshooter from behind the arc. 

Four talented freshmen will have the chance to compete for minutes. Guard Kevin O'Brien '19 (Tucson, AZ) brings great size for his position and a knack for finding teammates for easy shots. Combo guard Salim Green '19 (Yonkers, NY) can fill up a box score in a hurry, using a deft shooting touch and impressive athleticism. Dynamic playmakers Andrew Gardiner '19 (Pacific Palisades, CA) and Jordan Bonner '19 (Houston, TX) each offer different skill sets, but can push for early minutes through three-point shooting and dangerous athleticism.

Wesleyan inaugurates the 2015-16 season on Friday November 20th at 6PM when they host Lyndon State College at the Herb Kenny Tip Off Tournament sponsored by the Crowne Plaza Cromwell