Hoops on the horizon – Basketball teams bring first-year heat to season openers

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Ed Mailliard

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bob Simmons will be making his 8th seasonal appearance for the Allegheny Gators. This will be his first season participating in the PAC, as the college makes its return for the first time in 37 years.

When Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bob Simmons interviewed for his position at Allegheny College, he said met every single member of the faculty and staff on his nine hour visit, except for one maintenance worker.
Simmons fell in love with the tight community, and eight years later his wife works at the college, his daughter is a senior working through the pre-health program and a member of the field hockey team, and Simmons is returning once again for another season of Gator hoops.
“Having a chance to help these young men grow and develop into our future leaders and husbands and fathers in our society, that‘s the reason; that’s my ‘why?’” Simmons said.
The men are chomping at the bit to leave their mark after returning to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference for the first time since 1984. The men ended last season with a first round loss to Wooster on Feb. 22 in the NCAC Conference Playoffs. During the contest the Gator’s center Caden Hinckley, ’23, dropped his 14th double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and will make a return to the building this season as one of the team captains.
“He’s really taken some time in the off season and worked on his body,” Simmons said. “He has a great way to go about leadership, and it’s just been exciting for me to watch him grow.”
Hinckley finished sixth in the rebounds for the conference last season, while also playing the least amount of games out of the top 30 members of that list. His game in the post and ability to reach over opponents paid off for the Gators last year, as the team finished first in the conference for rebounds per game.
One recent graduate who will not return to the court this season is the 2022 All-NCAC Second Team Point Guard, Brian Roberts, ’22. The type of player who could be mistaken for a magician, Roberts razzled his opponents and dazzled to the rim on a nightly basis for the Gators throughout his tenure, in addition to being a walking highlight reel.
Simmons stated it is nearly impossible to replace a guy of Roberts’ talents, however throughout training camp and the preseason, the team has come together to play unselfish basketball, which will be a key to their success this year.
“The biggest things that were taking away is how coachable these guys are, how hard they play, and how accountable they are not just to us, but to each other,” Simmons said. “A lot of ‘player coaching player’ going on right now, and players (are) accepting it. No egos getting in the way and that’s really fun to watch and be a part of.”
The men will continue to implement fast paced play as seen a season ago. The Gators are full of young talent on the court this year, with only two seniors on the roster, which means they should have plenty of energy to expend running up and down the floor while being able to stay fresh.
The biggest point of emphasis this season for the team is not getting away from their game, and being focused on staying in the moment. While a PAC Championship is the clear goal for the team, getting “an inch” better every day is what will allow them to get there.
“We’ve actually talked about the process,” Simmons said. “At times as athletes, as coaches, we get away from that because we know what we want. Let’s put that up there and that’s what we’re trying to get to, now how do we get there? It’s not gonna be a straight line … and they’ve bought into that, and we’ve seen growth from that.”
For the women’s team, it will be an exciting year as well with their top two scorers from a season ago both returning to the court. Emily Lauer, ’25, led the Gators in points per game with 14 last year as a first-year, shooting the ball 45% from the floor. She has shown her ability to be a threat as a scorer, but she returns to the court this year ready to share the ball and give her teammates good looks.
“I’ve been working a lot on getting my passes down in the post,” Lauer said. “The big goal we have is not just about one person but if we can all get open for each other and play for each other.”
Alexis Caldwell, ’23, is also back in the building for her senior campaign, coming off a career high 10.5 points per game while also leading the team in rebounds.
The women will also display a variety of young talent this year, particularly in what they’ve picked up through the freshman class. Players including Sarah Santicola, ’26, and Kate Leech, ’26, are expected to earn regular minutes on the court, and provide an advantage to the Gators they had not had in the past — height.
This in theory should allow the post game to open up for Allegheny. While they do have good shooters, the talent coming in will open up the offense in new ways and hopefully allow them to be a multidimensional team.
One of the strong suits of the Gators offense last season was their transition basketball. They hustled when getting turnovers and rebounds and were able to move the ball upcourt quickly to find easy baskets. With the newly added height, it will provide the taller Gators an ability to muscle their way down the lane, while the guards kick out for a potential catch and shoot scenario on the perimeter.
“We’re definitely going to be able to get it in to (the post players), and they have great post moves,” Women’s Head Coach Kelly Muffley said. “The inside out game might be really good for us too, because we also have some really good shooters.”
With the increase in talent on the roster, Muffley was excited to state that the team now has around 12 players who can evenly earn minutes on a nightly basis. This will also provide an extra benefit to Lauer and Caldwell in the form of rest, as both players averaged more than 31 minutes per contest last season.
“At the end of the season we were competing with everyone up through the third quarter, then we would just run out of gas,’’ Muffley said. “If we just had a little more left in the tank, maybe some of those games could’ve been different so hopefully they aren’t dog tired (this year).”
The 2022-23 season opener is Nov. 4 for both the men’s and women’s teams. The ten-month wait is almost over as both teams will look to give the home crowd a “welcome back.” The women’s team tips off first at 6 p.m. against Carnegie Mellon, followed by the men at 8 p.m. against Fredonia State.