MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts men's basketball team will start their 2018-19 season on Friday night, and they are hoping the secret to their success this year will be a combination of a very young team with an experienced junior class. The Jumbos travel to Roger Williams for the Courtyard by Marriott Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
|Junior Eric Savage is the top returning point scorer for the Jumbos|
Coming off another winning campaign, the Jumbos were 17-8 overall last season, but fell in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Tournament. There are hopes for a strong NESCAC finish and a possible NCAA berth this season, but the Jumbos will keep their focus in the present moment right now.
"Our goals are to simply play the best basketball we can and to do it the Tufts way," said head coach Bob Sheldon. "We want to have great team chemistry, play hard, intelligently and together."
Back to lead that charge is junior captain Eric Savage. The guard averaged 13.6 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game and a team-high 30 minutes per game last season. He will look to fill the shoes of graduated senior and All-Conference selection Vincent Pace, who averaged a team-high 18.3 points per game for the Jumbos as a senior.
"We are expecting Eric to be our leader," Sheldon said. "We named him a captain and expect him to lead us both on and off the court. We want him to be our leading scorer and anchor our defense. He needs to be big for us to be successful."
Helping Savage will be classmate Pat Racy, a center who helped with 7.7 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore last year. In the sophomore class there are five Jumbos that appeared in at least 15 games last season. Center Luke Rogers averaged 5.2 points per game, playing in 21 games as a freshman, and will look to join Racy in the efforts to increase the points in the in paint this season. Also adding to those efforts will be sophomore Max Oppenheim and freshman Kieran Kindig.
At the guard position, sophomores Justin Kouyoumdjian, Brennan Morris and Will Brady are back and all got experience on the court and shooting the basketball last season. Kouyoumdjian played in all 25 games and averaged 15.3 minutes per game, Morris shot a team-high 53.8% from behind the arc and Brady turned in 4.2 points per game. Joining the guards will be rookies Tyler Aronson, Eric DeBrine, Emmett Stein, Carson Cohen and senior Brian Creonte.
"We only have one senior and look at this year to be a real learning year for our team," said Sheldon. "A young roster will make every night an experience. We will have to learn to be consistent and play hard every night. We have some great talent and will have to learn how to play together."
With just about two weeks of practice under their belts when they take the court on Friday, the Jumbos will get to put that talent to the test. They open play against St. Joseph's of Maine on Friday night and will then play either Roger Williams or Anna Maria on Saturday.
Tufts home opener will be on Tuesday November 27 as they take on WPI. The Jumbos have a tough non-conference schedule including games against No. 5 MIT and Nichols who both made the NCAA Tournament last season. They will also take on Babson, and either Brandeis or Salem State in the annual New England Big Four Challenge and have weekday games scheduled against Emerson, Framingham State, UMass-Dartmouth, UMass-Boston and Lasell. The Jumbos will take a trip to play in the 18th Annual Tournament of Heroes right after Christmas.
"Our out of league schedule is always one of the toughest in New England," said Sheldon. "We challenge our players and if we get an NCAA bid in the end, we deserve it and will be ready for it."
But, what will also challenge the Jumbos will be a tough conference slate. There are three NESCAC teams in the D3Hoops.com National Preseason Top 25 poll including No. 8 Williams, No. 9 Hamilton and No. 17 Middlebury. And Amherst and Wesleyan are both receiving votes in the poll. The brown and blue averaged the third most points in the conference last season (78.7) and will hope a potent offense and can be the recipe for success this season.
"Our ability to score the basketball is our biggest strength," said Sheldon. "We have a lot of weapons and need to play together as well as figure out how to use our weapons."