Brown Opens Season Amidst Cautious Optimism
Sunday, November 10, 2013
As the Brown Bears get set to tip off their 108th season of intercollegiate basketball Sunday (3:30pm vs. Binghamton) at the Pizzitola Center, there is cautious optimism surrounding the program.
Coming off of his first season as head coach at his alma mater, Mike Martin is hoping to build on the (13-15) campaign from a year ago which saw them go (7-7) in the Ivy League. This was a quantum leap forward from where the program was the season before when they finished (8-23) and (2-12) in league play.
A change in culture led to last year’s turnaround and that culture of hard work and determination to win is still in place. The two challenges that the Bears will fact this season are the overall youth of the team (6 freshman on the roster) and the fact that they lost some tremendous senior leaders in Matt Sullivan, Stephen Albrecht and Tyler Ponticelli.
The good news for Brown, which was selected to finish fifth in the league’s preseason poll, is that they have 3 veteran players whom they should be able to lean on heavily this season in senior guard Sean McGonagill, junior center Rafael Maia and sophomore big man Cedric Kuakumensah who was the Ivy League’s Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman.
In fact, Brown’s strength will be that frontcourt tandem of Maia and Kuakumensah meaning that the Bears may try to play an inside-out game to take pressure off of their young perimeter players.
For McGonagill, he will experience quite a change this season. Having acted as the floor general for his first three years at Brown, McGonagill will now be moved off the ball as freshman Tavon Blackmon runs the point.
The reason for the move is two-fold. First, Blackmon may be the freshman most ready to step into the line-up to start. He is a solid ball-handler and on-the ball defender who can break down a defense off the dribble and get the ball to teammates in good spots.
Secondly, McGonagill is clearly the team’s best perimeter player so getting him off the ball and running him off of screens may help to get him more open looks than he otherwise might get on the ball.
The other freshman who is slated to start on the team is Steven Spieth (6’-6” 210lbs. - Dallas, TX) who will occupy the small forward position. Spieth is the brother of PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth.
And while Spieth and Blackmon will be the two freshmen who start, the other four will likely see significant action along with returning veterans Dockery Walker and Llongi Yiljep.
Walker returns to the fold after missing an entire season due to a knee injury while Yiljep has also dealt with knee issues. The junior will try to manage the situation this season delaying any type of surgery that might be necessary to fix the problem.
While Joe Sharkey and Jon Schmidt are both listed on the roster, neither is expected to see action this season due to injury. Sharkey, as most remember, was the victim of an assault last spring and nearly lost his life as a result of the head trauma suffered from that incident. Just his presence back on campus has been an uplifting thing for many people in the Brown community.
Here’s a look at the Bears’ 2013-2014 roster:
1 Longji Yiljep G Junior 6-5 185
2 Leland King F Freshman 6-7 215
3 Steven Spieth G Freshman 6-6 210
10 Tavon Blackmon G Freshman 6-0 180
11 Joe Sharkey G Junior 6-2 190
12 Norman Hobbie G Freshman 6-4 185
13 Aram Martin F Freshman 6-10 190
14 Matty Madigan G Freshman 6-4 190
21 Cedric Kuakumensah F Sophomore 6-8 235
22 Sean McGonagill G Senior 6-1 180
32 Zeve Sanderson G Junior 6-1 180
33 Josh Biber G/F Senior 6-5 220
42 Dockery Walker F Junior 6-7 215
45 Rafael Maia C Junior 6-9 235
50 Jon Schmidt F Junior 6-7 210
After Brown’s season-opener on Sunday, the Bears will visit the Providence Friars at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Wednesday night. Ed Cooley’s Friars have likely been waiting for this game after getting upset at Brown last season.
Brown’s schedule features 13 games at home and 15 on the road. They will visit Bryant University on Thanksgiving Eve and host the URI Rams on January 2nd.
The Bears also head to Chicago where they meet the Northwestern Wildcats out of the Big Ten just before the Christmas holiday.
Brown’s Ivy League opener will be January 18th at Yale followed by a home game against the Bulldogs one week later.
Their first meeting with Ivy League favorite Harvard will be February 7th in Boston. They will wrap up the regular season at home against the Crimson March 8th.
Yes, the Bears are a young team and, because of this, may struggle through some ups and downs at times during the course of the season. However, if Mike Martin’s first year at the helm was any indication, you can expect maximum effort and a team that is well-prepared night in and night out.