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New identity for Quinnipiac men’s basketball in 2016-17


Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Tom Cunningham

After just a nine win 2015-16 campaign, the program’s worst win total since the 2003-04 season when it was still a member of the Northeast Conference, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team looks to change things up this upcoming season in an effort to improve after a disappointing season a year ago. Head coach Tom Moore and his staff bring in six new faces including two freshmen, and four transfers from Junior College. Moore looks to replace the players lost to either graduation or transfer, most notably Giovanni McLean who lead the team in scoring last season, and James Ford Jr., the team’s best lock-down defender.

Over the past few seasons, the Bobcats have relied heavily on one player to dominate the ball and do a majority of the scoring. From Ike Azotam, to Zaid Hearst, to McLean last season, the Bobcats’ offense has run through these guys, with not many consistent secondary-scoring options. This year, Moore hopes that things will be more balanced than they have been in the past.

“I do expect it to be much more evenly distributed in terms of shot-making, shot-creating, and offensive opportunities. I think we just have more answers on the perimeter,” Moore said. “I don’t know if anyone’s going to be an All-MAAC First Team guy or anything like that, but I do know we have a lot more IQ and a lot more shot making ability this year than we’ve had in the last couple of years.”

With five of the six new faces joining the Quinnipiac team this season being guards, the Bobcats look to get more athletic to help compete in the predominantly guard-heavy Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Moore and his staff hope the increase in athleticism on the roster, help create new defensive schemes and a more potent defense. In recent years the Bobcats have relied heavily on the half-court defense, without creating many turnovers. Although it may come with growing pains, Moore will look to change things on the defensive end.

“We will probably experiment a little bit early to see what sticks and what’s effective for us, but I am more open-minded to try things than I have in the past,” Moore said. “We are definitely more athletic.”

While the Bobcats’ roster is definitely more guard heavy than previous years, senior guard Daniel Harris believes the core of the team still remains the same.

“It’s different, but at the same time our backbone is still Chaise [Daniels] and Donovan [Smith],” Harris said. “We lean on Chaise to score the basketball, to rebound and do all the dirty work. Same thing with Donovan.”

Even with more athleticism and a group of new guards joining the mix for the upcoming season, the anchors of the defense still remain the big men for Moore’s team.

“I’m always the guy talking and trying to get everyone hyped,” junior forward Chaise Daniels said. “We are very athletic so that helps. Our guards can press out a little bit more, and our bigs can jump. We can protect the rim as well as protect the perimeter.”

After losing one of the best lock-down defenders in the conference last season with James Ford Jr. the defense will need to step up to fill the void left behind. Moore does not believe that will be one player, but rather a combination of a few players, depending on the situation.

“If it’s a point guard or a combo, somebody who has the ball in their hands a lot, I think Phil [Winston] might be the first guy to try and take that on,” Moore said. “But if it is more of a wing, probably Alain [Chigha] or the twins [Andrew & Aaron Robinson] could be the guys that have a shot at it.”

On the offensive end, the Bobcats return just one double-digit scorer from last season, in Harris. Quinnipiac has long been a team that has been at its best when being able to dominate the half-court game. Quinnipiac, in past years, would like to set up its offense and take what the defense gave them rather than getting out in transition and creating baskets. With the athleticism the team presents this year, things could be different for Moore and Co.

“Where [the athleticism] has manifested itself so far is that we’ve just tried to play really fast on offense,” Moore said. “I think you’ll see us be a better transition team than we’ve been in the last couple of years because I think we get the ball up the court quicker and we have a little bit more of an idea on what we want to do than we have in the last few years.”

“We have bigger guards, and faster guards and we are able to get out and run a little bit better,” Harris said. “We have more guards in competition and more guards to put the ball in the basket.”

One of the new players, junior college transfer Phil Winston, thinks his skillset will translate nicely to the Bobcats’ new look on the offensive end.

“I like to get my players involved. I’m just a stat-booster so I’m just trying to get people assists and be aggressive myself,” Winston said.

With changes on both the offensive and defensive ends of the ball, the Bobcats will still rely heavily on one part of the game that has kept this team going for years: rebounding.

“While we are trying to get out and run a little bit more, we still emphasize things like offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds and winning on the glass,” Harris said. “When you run a little more you might give up some of those rebounds. For the most part I think we will still be dominant on the glass throughout the year because I think that wears on teams. Being able to dominate the backboard can win you a ballgame.”

“Coach is still preaching crash the boards,” Daniels said. “It could be a guard vs. a big in a rebound drill and you have to get the box-out or you won’t be able to move on.”

Even the new players know how important rebounding is to this program, and look to help right off the bat.

“I’m very athletic. I can jump just as high as anybody in this league,” Winston said. “I feel like using my athleticism to go grab a rebound shouldn’t be a problem.”

The new-look Bobcats open up the season at home Saturday, when the Catamounts make the trip down from Vermont to Hamden. This meeting between the two will mark the 11th straight year they have faced off against each other with Vermont taking down Quinnipiac last season.

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