Senior William "Jay" O'Connell said the squad hopes to accomplish what it did last year in qualifying for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship, and then some.,Despite losing six seniors, the Emerson College men's basketball team has great expectations for the coming season.
Senior William "Jay" O'Connell said the squad hopes to accomplish what it did last year in qualifying for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship, and then some.
"Our goal is to win the GNAC tournament and win the NCAA tournament," O'Connell said.
Junior Alfredo Tovar agrees with his teammate's high expectations this season.
"I think he's right," Tovar said. "He expects a lot out of us ... We shouldn't expect anything less than winning the championship. Anything less would be disappointing."
Sophomore Will Dawkins said he is anticipating that the Lions will have a good year because of a different offensive scheme.
"Last year, being my first year here, we made it to the conference finals but came [up] short," Dawkins said. "This year we have a different offense that features our better players. We are expecting success just like last year."
As far as losing six seniors, Tovar said that should not be a concern because three of the five leading scorers from last year are still playing.
"We have the core three players back," Tovar said. "We have a good team so we should be able to go back to the championship."
Winning the title may be difficult, however, since the team has lost so many players. Head Coach Hank Smith said that there was "a lot of change and turnover" this year.
When asked if this season would be a rebuilding year, Smith said, "I don't know anything about rebuilding. We're going to play with the guys we have and we'll do fine."
Smith said he expects breakout years from Dawkins and Tovar.
"I think Will Dawkins and Alfredo Tovar will step it up a notch," he said. He went on to say he anticipates another great season from Steve Georgoulis, who was selected to the GNAC All-Conference first team last year. Georgoulis was the fourth-leading scorer in the conference, averaging 17 points per game.
Trying to build on last season's success, the Lions' strategy this season is based on defense.
Smith said the team will play "pressure defense and [an] up-tempo" style of basketball.
"[The] whole strategy is to make it a 94-foot game [which is the entire length of the basketball court]," Smith said. He also said in order for the team to play to this style, the players need to "get in shape."
O'Connell said the players are more than up to Smith's challenge of fast-paced basketball.
"Not only can we handle up-tempo but that's our forte," O'Connell said. "We have the finest backcourt in the [GNAC], maybe the best backcourt in the northeast region for Division III."
With the team knowing the style of play for the season, the Lions have been preparing for action since the beginning of the school year to get into game-ready form.
"We had captain's practices before the season," Tovar said. "We ran a whole lot. They were all outdoor practices at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. These practices were before the real practices. We've been working hard since school started."
After the captains had their chance to run training, the coaches had theirs. Dawkins said the coach's drills were to focus on the areas the squad needs to improve on.
"We're a very young team," Dawkins said. "This year's practices have been more teaching and fine-tuning. We've been working a lot on our defense because offense seems to come a lot easier than defense. Basically, we've been working on conditioning and defense."
Dawkins also said the team has a lot to accomplish this year.
He said, "for this season we have high expectations."