The Leopard’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are close to opening their non-conference schedules, as the women will travel to Teaneck, N.J., for a matchup against Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m., while the men also start on the road at Saint Peter’s in Jersey City, N.J., on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. After respectable campaigns in 2017-18, let’s take a look at what we can expect from the teams for this upcoming season.
2017-18 Record: 11-19 (6-12 Patriot League)
The women look to improve on their 11-19 record from last season, their best season since 2014-15. Making shots shouldn’t be an issue, as the team returns four of their five leading scorers from last season, led by sophomore forward Natalie Kucowski with 10.9 points per game. Although the majority of the team’s production is returning and players are growing within head coach Kia Damon-Olson’s system, they will look to integrate five freshman into the fold as well.
Players to watch:
Keep an eye on sophomores Kucowski and walk-on guard Drew Freeland, who averaged 10.9 and 7.2 points per game last season, respectively. Their strong play earned them Patriot League All-Rookie team honors, and the two will look to expand their games this season after a year of experience. The combination of veteran leadership and young talent is a point of excitement for the team.
“It’s been really helpful just to have a year under our belts, knowing what coach expects, knowing the offense better,” said junior forward Tasha Vipond. “My role as an upperclassman has been really trying to get the [freshmen] adjusted as well so they know what’s going on and can adapt to the offense quickly.”
The Leopards return three players who finished in the top-10 on the Lafayette single-season three-point percentage list. Freeland at 39.7 percent led the team, while sophomore guard Olivia Martino shot 38.6 percent from deep and junior guard Sarah Agnello connected at a 36.8% clip. Lafayette as a team hit 34.7 percent from three, good for tops in the Patriot League. Junior guard Sydney Sabino should be a force shooting the ball, as well, after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
“[Sabino] is an unbelievable shooter,” Damon-Olson said. “If you leave her open everyone’s just waiting for how many she’ll make versus if she’ll make the shot.”
The team still lacks a true point guard as they head into non-conference play, and it seems they will use a committee approach to try and fill the void. The team is currently holding tryouts for the position, according to Damon-Olson, and will look to find someone who can create opportunities in the passing game as well as handle the ball.
“Adjusting to college basketball and the requirements of a point guard is a lot, it’s one of the most difficult transitions of all the positions on the floor,” Damon-Olson said. “While we may not have a quote on quote point guard, we do have a lot of quality ball handlers and decision makers.”
Lehigh (Jan. 3)
Navy (Jan. 23)
Boston University (Jan. 30)
Colgate (Mar. 6)
2017-18 Record: 10-21 (7-11 Patriot League)
The men look to increase their win total for the fourth straight year under head coach Fran O’Hanlon. The team is hoping their strong finish from last season, winning their final five home games, will translate to similar success this fall as they play four of their first five games on the road. The Leopards return four of their top five scorers, led by sophomore guard Alex Petrie who paced the team with 15 points per game. The group will sorely miss the presence of Matt Klinewski, who led the team in both scoring and rebounding during his senior season with averages of 16.8 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Players to watch:
Sophomore guard Justin Jaworski returns after averaging a team-high 28.7 minutes per game as a force off the bench for the Leopards. It remains to be seen whether the Schwenksville, Pa., native will be inserted into the starting lineup after he averaged 10.8 points per game as a freshman, good for third on the team. After starting in his last three seasons of high school hoops, he admitted it was initially difficult for him to be coming off of the bench.
“It was definitely an adjustment for me coming out of high school, and then just staying ready, keeping yourself ready [to play],” Jaworski said. “I know I’m going to get significant time so I just try to bring a lot of energy coming off the bench.”
Young talent for the Leopards shouldn’t be hard to come by, as the team welcomes five freshman who look to make an immediate impact. Look for Tyrone Perry to influence the offense, as he comes in as one of the few natural point guards on the team according to O’Hanlon. In addition to their new guys, the group welcomes back Petrie, Jaworski, guard E.J. Stephens, and forward Dylan Hastings as sophomores who should continue their success from the past season.
“We’re 10 or 11 deep, so as we get into the season I think we’re going to be able to throw a lot of people at [other teams],” said O’Hanlon. “They’ll be different combinations out there, we’re got to play well together.”
Replacing Klinewski will be a tall task for the Leopards, as his scoring prowess was utilized down the stretch of close games last year. Look for Petrie, Jaworski, and senior captain Paulius Zalys to fill out the offense and get the ball in big moments. Despite losing one of their most productive players in recent history, the team is confident they will be able to compensate on both ends of the floor.
“Losing [Klinewski] is obviously a big deal, he was an unbelievable player and teammate,” said junior forward Lukas Jarrett. “But I think one of our strengths is how deep we are, and I think we’ll be just fine this year.”
Princeton (Dec. 21)
Army (Jan. 26)
Lehigh (Jan. 30)
Colgate (Mar. 2)
AJ Traub ’20 is the manager of the men’s basketball team and the sports editor of The Lafayette. He did not edit the content of this article.