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Men's Hoops Preview: New-look Bobcats tip off Friday

LEWISTON, Maine -- A lot of points and rebounds left town with the graduation of Brian Ellis, Alex Gallant, Nick Schmiemann and Thomas Deegan -- 2,892 points and 1,196 boards over four years, to be exact.

The Bates men's basketball team will certainly look a bit different this season, and head coach Jon Furbush '05, now in his fourth year at the team's helm, may not have the same degree of familiarity with what his players are capable of as he did with the likes of Ellis, who finished as one of Bates' all-time leading scorers. But no one is more curious or excited to see what transpires than the coach.

"I'm not sure how good we're going to be, but I think we have the chance to be really good," said Furbush. "We have a good balance of experience and youth. It's definitely exciting. The energy is really good."

John Squires '12 is Bates' most experienced frontcourt player entering this season, and a key to the team's fortunes. (File photo)

For starters, the Bobcats have an unusual scenario in the frontcourt, where junior Ed Bogdanovich (Portland, Maine) will step into a major role as the team's starting center. Bogdanovich played in six games as a freshman, but the season was otherwise derailed by an injury and a bout of illness, and he missed last season with another injury. Finally possessing a clean bill of health, the 6-foot-5 Portland High School product has been impressive in preseason practices.

"Eddie looks tremendous," said Furbush. "He'll be a good post presence for us this year down low. He has an excellent mid-range shot and runs the floor very well. [John] Squires at the 4 and Eddie at the 5 is going to be a good combination."

Squires (Swampscott, Mass.), who was just named to the NESCAC Football All-Conference First Team as a wide receiver, figures to be another major key to the Bobcats' fortunes. The 6-8 forward is athletic and rangy, a defensive disruptor who may be the team's best finisher on the break. An excellent passer who once recorded nine assists in a game, Squires may be asked to handle and distribute the ball more than in the past, and is sure to be a factor as the Bobcats seek to increase their offensive tempo and score more baskets in transition than in the past couple of seasons.

Furbush says he is likely to go with more smaller and quicker lineups than last season, with three or even four guards on the floor at one time. Six-foot-four senior sharpshooter Reid Christian (Pownal, Maine) and 6-4 Sean Cunningham (Amherst, Mass.), both swingmen, may be called upon to guard bigger players in the post at times -- a defensive disadvantage in certain situations, but a matchup Bates would hope to exploit at the offensive end. Bates' frontcourt depth will be provided by burly 6-foot-6 senior center Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine), one of four team captains along with Christian, Squires and senior guard Kyle Philbrook (Auburn, Maine). Six-foot-five freshman Caleb Buck (Litchfield, Conn.), 6-4 junior Kevin Lentini (North Reading, Mass.) and 6-5 junior Taylor Gartley (Rockport, Maine) will also compete for frontcourt minutes.

Luke Matarazzo '14 looks to take his game to the next level as Bates' starting point guard. (File photo)

In contrast to the past couple of years, Bates appears a little richer in guards than in forwards this season. The backcourt features 6-foot-1 combo guard Mark Brust (Duxbury, Mass.), Bates' leading returning scorer who averaged 9.3 points per game last year as a sophomore. Five-foot-nine sophomore point guard Luke Matarazzo (Shelton, Conn.), an explosive athlete who showed promising flashes of his potential as a freshman, had a productive offseason and "looks great at the point," said Furbush. Six-foot-one first-year guard Graham Safford (Hampden, Maine) may be the top rookie on the team, and is expected to be a major contributor right away. Furbush raves about Safford's all-around game and his rebounding prowess in particular. The speedy 6-0 Philbrook provides valuable experience and is a defensive nuisance for opposing guards.

First-year Billy Selmon (Atlanta, Ga.) is another promising backcourt player who will contend for minutes with the likes of senior Will Furbush (South Portland, Maine), first-year Cameron Kaubris (Rumford, Maine), sophomore Derek Murphy (Lowell, Mass.) and junior John Murphy (Yarmouth, Maine). Murphy, who was recently named All-NESCAC in men's soccer, is playing varsity basketball for the first time at Bates. The 6-1 shooting guard was a scoring machine at Yarmouth High School.

"I think we have some really talented players that are going to gain some good experience this year," said Furbush.

Raring to get started, the Bobcats open at home on Friday at 7pm against UMaine-Fort Kent, the opening game of the Bates Tipoff Classic. Bates will face Wentworth on Sunday at 1pm to cap off the tournament, which will also feature a UMFK-Wentworth game at Alumni Gym on Saturday at 1pm. All of Bates home games can be followed live via Video Webcast and Live Stats.