Basketball looks to improve this season

Gators hope to rebound back from last year’s 7-19 record

Staff Writer
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The men’s basketball team heads into its second year after finishing with a 7-19 record last season and falling to eventual North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament champion Wooster College in the quarterfinals.

Allegheny will return much of last year’s roster, with the greatest losses coming with the departure of Seth Eisner, ’11, and Donte Briscoe who averaged 5.9 and 8.6 points per game last season respectively.

Meadville’s own James Ness, ’12, will be back in the frontcourt once again for the Gators after a successful junior campaign. Last season, he held the NCAC by hitting 62 percent of his shots from the field.

After averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game last year, Ness will be a player to watch. If the Gators wish to compete in a stacked NCAC, which features two of the top 15 teams in the nation, Ness’ contributions will be crucial. Ness knows his importance to the Gators’ success, and spent much of the offseason preparing for the coming year.

“I played in a league this summer in Michigan against some good D-2 competition to try and get ready for this year,” said Ness. “Just your basic running, five day lifting regimen, and pick up basketball for my preparation in the offseason.”

Coach Driggs values just as much what Ness brings on the court as he does off of it.

“Ness will have a great year on the court, but more importantly, he’s our leader in the locker room,” said Driggs. “He’s our backbone. I think we will be a more cohesive unit entering this year.”

On a squad teeming with young talent and newcomers, youth is a pressing issue entering the season. Ness is the only senior on the team, accompanied by juniors Devone McLeod and Kyle Murphy.

McLeod, like Ness, will prove to be a key element in the Gators’ success. He has been the starter at point guard since his freshman year and continues to improve his shooting ability as well as feed Ness in the post.

“In the offseason I worked on my strength and being able to really penetrate the lane as much as possible,” said McLeod. “I felt that being able to attack a defense and set up a teammate or myself for a score will be very important this year.”

A handful of other players will see the floor this season, including an excellent shooter in Ryan Stanko ’14, who filled the sixth man role last season. The Gators also have another solid guard in D’Andre Corbin, ‘14. Also, look for freshmen contributors like Brandon Smith, who will add another looming presence for the Gators under the net.

Ness, who has had the luxury of playing with the same point guard for the past two years, hopes that the chemistry shared between him and McLeod will prove effective.

“We are really meshing together well this year,” said Ness. “We have our pick and roll down to a science. We’re really coming together. The whole team is coming together.”

Coach Driggs hopes that better practices will lead to improvement on the court.

“We have had much better practices this year,” Driggs said. “We are competing at a much higher level so far in the preseason.’

The Gators will begin their season at home November 15 versus Bethany College at 8pm.

Allegheny is picked to finish 8th in the conference in the preseason polls, but Driggs and his Gators enter the season with high hopes.

“We want to win the NCAC, get into the NCAA tournament and compete for a championship,” Driggs said. “That’s what we expect coming into every season.”