Bates men's basketball team meshing nicely
|Bryan Wholey '08 is Bates' leading returning scorer and rebounder, at 12.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.|
LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates men's basketball team has made impressive strides in developing the cohesiveness the Bobcats will need for the upcoming NESCAC conference schedule.
The start of the 2007-08 season was a bit rocky, with three straight losses, as the Bobcats went through some growing pains while attempting to fill the void left by the graduation of five key members, including two of the greatest player in program history, Zak Ray and Rob Stockwell.
"We're losing five great players," said head coach Joe Reilly before the season began. "Rob and Zak were both great, and we'll miss them. But one reason they were great was the legacy they left, and we want that to live on. The guys who will step in have seen other guys produce, and seen the model that we want them to emulate."
Since the season-opening losses, the Bobcats have reeled off seven straight victories. Highlights so far have included a rousing 66-65 non-league home win over Bowdoin in December, as well as capturing first place at the CUA Classic at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The trip to Washington included a special treat for the team, a rare visit to the White House, which former Bates student-athlete Bob Lanz '65 helped to arrange, along with the office of Sen. Olympia Snowe.
|Scott Place '09 (left) and Brian Ellis '11 (right) are part of the new-look Bobcat team that has reeled off seven straight wins. (Joe Gromelski photo)|
As expected, senior co-captains Bryan Wholey and Pat Halloran have taken over a big part of the team's leadership and scoring load. Wholey leads the team at 14.6 points per game, and as of Jan. 9 he had 956 career points. Halloran is averaging 10.3 points, including a career-high 25 in Bates' recent 67-59 win over Catholic. Two other players are also averaging in double figures: sophomore point guard Chris Wilson (10.6 ppg) and first-year forward Brian Ellis (12.9 ppg), who has quickly established himself as a reliable all-around contributor in the starting lineup. Sophomore Jimmy O'Keefe is contributing 8 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor.
Following what promises to be an exciting non-league matchup against Colby this Saturday, Bates opens its conference schedule on Jan. 18 and 19 with games at Trinity and Amherst, the defending national champions.
A Look at the Roster (originally published in the preseason)
The four most established Bobcats will be complemented by a raft of talented players with an opportunity to prove themselves at the college level.
There are two juniors on the team in brawny forward Ben Thayer (Gorham, Maine) and sharpshooting guard Scott Place (Bridgewater, Mass.), who rejoins the team after taking last year off to focus on his pre-med studies.
A number of last year's freshmen didn't have much of a chance to show Bobcat fans what they could do last season, and that's going to change right away. Reilly has been impressed with the work this class has put in in the offseason, calling it the best example of that he's seen. Neil Creahan (Hingham, Mass.) is an extremely versatile 6-4 player who might play any position from point guard to power forward. Marshall Hatch (Chicago, Ill.) and David Curley (Bolton, Mass.) are talented combo guards: look for Hatch to become a defensive pest in the backcourt. And B.J. Dunne (Medfield, Mass.), who Reilly says added about 25 pounds of muscle to his 6-5 frame, will be looked upon to sustain the Bobcats' well-earned reputation as an outstanding rebounding team. Dunne suffered a broken arm in the offseason but should join the rotation after the Bobcats' first few games.
Bates' freshman class is, in a word, big. The team's six newcomers -- including 6-7 sophomore Sean Wirth, who transferred to Bates from Salve Regina -- range from 6-4 to 6-10, raising the Bobcats' average height from 6 feet and 2.4 inches last season to 6 feet and 3.6 inches.
"We've brought in a lot of help in the frontcourt, and that's going to allow us to play different this year," said Reilly. "We'll be able to put out bigger lineups, and we should be very balanced. But our focus will continue to be on defense and rebounding."
Wirth (Barrington, R.I.), who just finished up a standout football season as a tight end, started 18 games for Salve Regina last season and averaged 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game for the 13-13 Seahawks.
Brian Ellis (Braintree, Mass.) is a 6-5 swingman who earned Boston Globe All-Scholastic Super Team honors, averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds for Braintree High. "Brian has so far produced the most out of the freshman class in our practices," said Reilly. Also vying for playing time will be Nick Schmiemann (Weymouth, Mass.), a 6-6 swingman who started at Boston College High on the school's first state championship team since 1917. Alex Gallant, a 6-4 forward from Bangor High School, "is going to be a great player for us," said Reilly. Rounding out the roster are 6-4 Devin De La Cruz (East Greenwich, R.I.) and 6-10 Elliot Foster (Coral Springs, Fla.), the tallest player Reilly has coached at Bates.
"We're going to be very young this year, and we're also going to have good players who aren't playing much," said Reilly. "Guys are going to have to have a team-first approach. I want depth to be an advantage for us, and it can be if guys are all on the same page and taking advantage of the opportunities they have."
As for the always-challenging NESCAC schedule, it too might be even tougher this season. While the majority of the teams in the league improved last season, Bates will be one of the younger, if not the youngest, team in the conference.