With four freshman and six sophomores, the Lycoming College men's basketball team is playing this season with a younger group than it had in its 2012-2013 campaign.
Lyco's new freshman crew includes: center John Wilburn; forward Alex Irvin; forward Andy Abreu; and guard Baba Waples. The team has also added junior transfer Jourdan Wilson, who plays guard, and joins the Warriors after two years at Wilkes.
While they may be young, this Warriors group has plenty of upside.
With their new additions, Lycoming now has six players that are 6-foot-5 or taller, giving them one of the tallest teams the school has seen in recent years. What's more, the big guys on Lycoming's squad aren't the heavy-footed types that get stuck to the gym floor. They are extremely fast and athletic, and could probably jump out of the gym if given the chance.
But with such a fresh group, Lycoming head coach Guy Rancourt will have his hands full maintaining good team chemistry, especially throughout the early part of the season that continues tonight with a home game vs. Susquehanna.
Lycoming is 2-0 for the first time since 2009, with wins over Penn College and John Jay last weekend in its tip-off tournament.
"We are still a working progress with so many new faces this year," Rancourt said. "There is a learning curve with new faces and pulling individuals together as a team. I think they are doing a good job, but it's not a complete project just yet."
Rancourt will have to rely on his seniors this season if Lycoming is going to have the season its hoping for. Luckily for him, he has a great group of seniors to rely on.
Michael Rudy, who starts at forward, is one of the senior leaders that Rancourt will be depending on. Rudy started his senior season off in a big way, scoring a career-high 23 points, while setting a school record with 7 blocks in Lycoming's season-opener against Penn College. He has been a big factor in the success Lycoming has seen in recent years, which is a trend that is likely to continue this season.
Holding down the post for Lycoming is their senior center Justin Miller. Standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing 245 pounds, Miller is the Warriors' biggest player. Miller has snagged 13 rebounds and scored 34 points through Lycoming's first two games this season. Last season he spent 323 minutes on the court, and should see his floor-time increase this year, as the team will need his big-bodied presence around the rim.
Senior forward Kevin Anthony might be the Warriors' most dynamic player. As the most athletic player on a team full of great athletes, Anthony stands out as an elite player on the court. Jumpers, lay-ups, dunks, rebounds -you name it, he does it. One of his greatest abilities is getting to the free-throw line. Last year he went 63-92 from the line, and this season he has already made it there 24 times through just two games. His ability to attack teams is unique, and his presence on the court gives Lycoming a chance in any game.
"Having seniors with experience helps," Rancourt said. "Having returners, like Patrick Douger, and guys with a lot of savvy and understanding of game situations, helps too."
Dougher and Malcolm Covington, both juniors, make up the remainder of Lycoming's starting unit. Rancourt said that they bring a scrappy toughness to the Warriors' game.
Players like William Wingate and Eric Ishman also provide a spark for Lyco off of the bench.
Even with the team being a little bigger physically this season, they have maintained their fast-paced transitional style on the floor.
"Transition is typically what we do," said Rancourt. "We have been able to lead the conference in scoring for three straight years, and that will always be our identity."
"We want to be able to push the ball and play with an up-tempo pace," he said. "Doing that with big men now adds a whole new dimension to it."
If Lycoming has shown any weakness this season it has been in the rotation of its bench players to the floor. They had trouble with that in the first game of the season against Penn College, and allowed the Wildcats to wiggle their way back into the game after developing a commanding lead. However, midway through their second game, against John Jay, the Warriors seemed to mend those woes and might have taken the step they needed moving forward.
Rancourt said that his goal for this team is the same as it has always been - making it to a conference championship. The Warriors were picked sixth in the Commonwealth Conference's preseason poll.
"If we fall short of making it to the championship it will be frustrating," he said. "If we get there, well now lets play and see if we get the opportunity to dance."
If they are going to win a MAC Commonwealth championship this year, the Warriors will have to make it through the reigning champion, Alvernia. Last season, Lycoming fell to Alvernia in the second round of the conference playoff tournament, despite beating them twice in the regular season.