Release: November 10, 2010
The controversy and distractions that accompanied the coaching changeover and subsequent NCAA investigation are now behind the program and the university, allowing Macon and his players to focus on basketball and "unfinished business."
Last year's team battled its way through an immensely difficult 2009-10 season that saw scrutiny and emotional hardship around every corner. Yet the team rallied around each other and shook off a 3-8 start to win 13 games and place fifth in the America East. On the eve of the conference tournament, however, BU was denied a chance to participate and defend its '09 championship. That bitter taste has served as extra motivation for the five seniors and nine returning letterwinners, whose collective character is beyond reproach.
"It was real emotional for us," senior captain Chretien Lukusa said of receiving the news less than 72 hours before the team was to depart for Hartford and the tournament. "Guys were crying ... it was very hard. We didn't get a chance to defend our title. I think everyone is playing with a chip on his shoulder because of that."
The 2010-11 edition is still light in numbers (12) with three holdover walk-ons from last season necessary to fill out the roster. The experience level drops off dramatically after the penciled-in starters and the Bearcats will need to avoid any injuries to their core group to remain competitive. Also, it remains to be seen how the team can stack up throughout the grind of the 16-game conference slate. Last year's squad went 5-3 the first time through the America East lineup with the aid of emotion, team unity and the element of surprise, as AE opponents picked BU to finish dead-last. But as the season wore on in February, the distractions and fatigue seemed to take a toll and with conference foes no longer underestimating the Bearcats, the team struggled to five losses in its last seven games, including two by wide margins. How the 2010-11 team handles itself over the long haul of the season and whether it can improve its road struggles of a year ago (4-15 away from home) will determine its relevance at the America East Championship come March.
"We need to play hard and stay healthy," Macon said. "I want the players to play with a sense of urgency this year, getting to the America East tournament. We didn't get that opportunity last year."
remains top scoring threat from wing
"Greer is such a well-rounded player," Macon said. "He does everything for us - he rebounds, shoots it, passes it. He is very unselfish, which makes him good for our team. But I need him to score more points ... be more selfish."
Wright is excited about the team's improvement from a year ago and believes a run for the conference title isn't too far a leap.
"I expect a lot from myself but our offense is more balanced this year," he said. "Moussa (Camara) is attacking the basket more, Chretien (Lukusa) is shooting better and Kyrie (Sutton) is big in the post. We have better conditioning and are more stable this year. We know who we have and our team chemistry is better."
Sophomore spot-up shooter Taylor Johnston can spell Wright. Johnston played in 13 games as a freshman and has improved his accuracy and physical strength.
captain Lukusa anchors backcourt
"I worked on my ball-handling and my jump shot and just letting the game come to me ... I don't want to force things," he said. "I need to be a floor general, get the ball to the guys in places where they want it and hit the open shot."
Like the other four seniors, Lukusa recognizes the end of his collegiate career is looming in March and that has also served as extra motivation.
"There is a sense of urgency," he said. "Everything I do is the for the last time and I want to try to bring the school another championship. We are playing for something this year and that's exciting."
Fellow four-year letterwinner Moussa Camara, who like Lukusa was thrust into a leadership role last winter, turned in a solid season with 10.7 points per game and a team-best 48 three-pointers. Camara, a lean 6-foot-6 wing, scored in double figures 20 times, including 11 straight to end the season. He bumped up his scoring average to 13.6 during conference play and showed the ability to get to the basket - a skill that complemented his long-range shooting.
A quartet of players will back-up Lukusa and Camara at the guard spots, headed by much-improved sophomore Jimmy Gray. A Binghamton native who averaged just under eight minutes as a freshman, Gray is a sharpshooter and his continued transition from all-state scholastic player to Division I contributor will be important for the program.
Mansell, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, scored 1,215 career points at Cheltenham High outside Philadelphia and his size and aggressiveness figures to make for a quick adjustment to the college ranks. He averaged 19.8 points and 7.3 rebounds as a senior, earning repeat first team all-conference honors. He became just the seventh player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
Brown, a 6-foot-1 point guard, was a standout at Living Faith Christian Academy before spending last year at West Point Prep. He averaged 14 points and 5 assists as a junior and was a two-time all-state selection in New Jersey.
Gone from the group is Dylan Talley, the 2010 America East Rookie of the Year. Talley averaged 13.5 points in conference play but transferred out of school in the spring.
Macon isn't concerned, however, with replacing Talley's points and this year's backcourt is expected to maintain a stronger team-first mentality.
brings energy, determination to forward position
"We have a system in place and our guys are used to each other this year," Jabbi said. "We are using last year's situation as motivation and that taught us not to take anything for granted. It pushed me to work even harder for my final year."
Freshman forward Alex Ogundadegbe arrives from DeMatha Catholic High - one of the most storied high school programs in the nation. At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, Ogundadegbe has the body to bang down low but his transition from scholastic role player to Division I contributor will be methodical.
improving Sutton holds down post position
Sutton can run the floor and finish (60% FG last year) and possesses a polished jump hook that is difficult to defend. He scored 12 points against nationally-ranked Pitt and scored in double figures seven times, including back-to-back outings to end the season. Sutton's 18-point, 8-rebound, 3-block performance in 28 minutes against Hartford showed his enormous upside.
"Kyrie will fare well for us as long as he stays out of foul trouble," Macon said. "He came along at the end of last season and showed some good things."
pits Bearcats against in-state foes in first semester
The Bearcats will play 13 teams from seven different conferences. The five home dates include showcase games against in-state opponents St. Bonaventure (Nov. 21) and Cornell (Dec. 18).
The team plays four of its first five games on the road before playing four of its next five at home. Binghamton went 9-3 at the Events Center last year.
Four days after the opener at Colgate, BU will travel to Lewisburg, Pa. to take on a Bucknell squad that won 14 games and finished second in the Patriot League a year ago. Binghamton welcomes the Bonnies for its home opener on November 21. St. Bonaventure, which has a strong local alumni base, won 15 games and reached the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals last winter.
After an away game at Army (Nov. 23), BU plays at Colonial Athletic Association member Drexel for the first time (Nov. 28). The Dragons won 16 games a year ago and were 11-7 in the CAA. Back home, BU will face another first-time opponent in Canisius (Nov. 30). The Golden Griffs won 15 games a year ago and boast a 7-foot-3 center.
The December slate is very challenging, with the six opponents averaging more than 20 wins from a year ago. The month begins with a Dec. 8 home game against a CAA-member Hofstra team that went 19-15 and played in the College Basketball Invitational last season. Binghamton then makes a trip to NYC to face Manhattan on December 11 in front of what promises to be a large BU alumni contingent.
Back home, the Bearcats host a Cornell team that went 29-5, advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 and earned a final ranking of No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll last year. The Big Red is BU's closest Division I opponent (49 miles away), though the teams have played just five times in Binghamton's 64-year basketball history. The Bearcats beat Cornell in 2006 and lost in 2007.
Binghamton stays home for a Dec. 21 game against first-time opponent St. Peter's, which went 16-14 and placed fourth in the MAAC in 2009-10.
Then the Bearcats close out the month with a daunting trip to West Virginia (Huntington) and across the border to Kentucky (Morehead), where they will face Marshall (Dec. 28) and Morehead State (Dec. 30). Marshall went 24-10 playing out of Conference USA and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com tournament in 2009-10. The Herd beat BU at the Events Center last season and like Canisius, boast a premier seven-foot shot blocker. Morehead State went 24-11 and was the runner-up in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The Eagles, 2009 NCAA participants, went 15-3 in league play and then reached the quarterfinals of the CBI last year.
A return game at Atlantic 10 member La Salle on January 2 completes the non-conference schedule.
The team's traditional 16-game America East slate consists of home and away games against each of the other eight league members. Hartford will again host the America East Championship on March 3-6 with a very determined BU team (and fans) eager to return to the tournament after a year's hiatus.
in place to be competitive in America East
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