WESTMINSTER, Md. – McDaniel entered last year’s men’s basketball season with some unknowns but certainly had reasons for optimism. The Green Terror had increased its win total in each of the previous two campaigns, including reaching double-figure wins for the first time in nearly a decade. However, the questions came from a new coach and a handful of rookies.
Off best season in two decades, McDaniel ready for next step
By the middle of December, most of those questions were answered. First-year mentor Kevin Curley had guided his squad to a 6-0 start, capping the best open in program history with its first win at Franklin & Marshall since 1984. That would become a recurring theme in Curley’s debut on the bench.
First winning season since 1984-85. Most wins since 1982-83 (15). Fewest points allowed in a game since 1990 (41). First playoff berth since 1995. First home playoff game ever.
With all of those firsts under his belt, Curley will hope to continue the upward trend in 2008-09 but will keep to the basics to once again achieve his goal of a Centennial Conference (CC) playoff berth.
“Our philosophy is to take things one day at a time,” Curley said. “We keep telling the guys that we need to play hard and play together. If we can do that and play smart, everything else will fall into place.”
Curley enters the year cautiously optimistic, returning a veteran group that boasts 12 of last year’s 14 members back. He knows that his Green Terror can build on last year’s success. The road to that success opens the same way it opened a year ago and the squad will look for the same results.
McDaniel opened Curley’s tenure with a championship in the Provident Pride of Maryland scholarship basketball tournament, earning the state title with a thrilling 85-84 triple-overtime victory over Hood.
The Green Terror rode that momentum throughout the season and now enters the annual state tournament with the mark on its back.
“It definitely provides a good challenge for us early,” Curley said. “Starting with the tournament right through conference play, we have a difficult schedule but, as we proved last year, I think we can compete with anyone on our schedule.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the season progresses into conference play with two CC teams ranked in the d3hoops.com preseason top 15 in Gettysburg (11) and Ursinus (12) but McDaniel proved it could play with two of last year’s Sweet 16 teams, playing Ursinus to a two-point game in Collegeville and taking Gettysburg to overtime in Westminster.
Those two teams were chosen 1-2 in the CC’s annual preseason poll of coaches and sports information directors with the Bullets garnering the top spot behind 18 first-place votes and 162 points while the Bears are second with the other two first-place tallies and 137 points. McDaniel was chosen sixth (79) behind Dickinson (126), Johns Hopkins (107) and Franklin & Marshall (82).
With a seven-member senior class that includes the return of Josh McKay (Baltimore, Md./Eastern Tech), who missed all of last season with injury, the Green Terror is poised for its own championship run.
McKay will provide the inside scoring threat vacated by current assistant coach Chris Prior. Two seasons ago, McKay averaged 6.0 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Richard Barry (Floral Park, N.Y./Floral Park Memorial) and Steve Wilson (Lebanon, N.J./North Hunterdon) join McKay as captains in 2008-09.
Barry, a guard, saw action in all 26 games last year, starting five times. He scored only 50 points but did the work of a point guard, distributing the ball for 22 assists. He also swiped 20 steals and grabbed 25 rebounds.
“He gained a lot of experience last year,” Curley stated. “He brings a lot of intangibles to the table, including his intensity.”
Wilson, a center, appeared in all 26 games, making one start. He tallied 75 points and grabbed 73 rebounds while adding 10 assists, 12 steals and seven blocked shots.
“Steve will need to have a bigger role both offensively and defensively this year for us,” Curley noted. “Probably even more than that, though, his leadership will be extremely important.”
Seniors Ryan Finch (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon) and T.J. Odunlami (Columbia, Md./Athlolton) will likely reprise their roles in the starting backcourt.
Odunlami started 21 of 25 games at point guard after transferring from Howard Community College last year. He chipped in 182 points, including a 64-for-88 showing from the free-throw line. He also handed out 28 assists and snagged 24 steals.
Finch started 25 of 26 games and had the most points of any returning player. He finished the season averaging 9.3 points per game. The guard added team highs of 50 assists and 37 steals to go with his 98 rebounds and 242 points. On 11 occasions, he reached double digits in the scoring column.
Kevin Henry (Potomac, Md./Bullis School) made 23 starts and appeared in all 26 games as a freshman last season and will once again be one of McDaniel’s go-to scoring options.
Henry finished fourth on the team in scoring with 230 points and tied for fifth with 73 rebounds. He also added out 30 assists, nabbed 20 steals and swatted a team-high 16 blocked shots. As a rookie, he shot .468 from the floor, including hitting 18 treys. Henry also registered no fewer than 10 points in 11 games, including a stretch of eight straight double-figure outings in January.
Chad Arrington (Randallstown, Md./Randallstown) and Joseph Potucek (Germantown, Md./St. Johns at Prospect Hall) round out the senior class.
Arrington made 12 starts among his 18 appearances, contributing 100 points. He also pulled down 127 rebounds – a total which ranked second on the team. He swiped 28 steals to go with 17 assists and nine blocked shots.
“Chad’s really our main defensive stopper,” Curley noted. “With his athleticism and size, he’s a guy we need to be crashing the boards both offensive and defensively.”
Potucek saw the floor in 10 games last season, registering 11 points and 16 rebounds.
Miguel Jones (Baltimore, Md./North County), a junior guard, made one start last season but did see significant time in all 26 games, averaging 20.2 minutes per game. He chipped in 183 points to go with 27 assists and 20 steals. He reached double figures eight times last season, including a season-best 20 points in the CC First Round game against Dickinson on Feb. 27.
Junior Robert Koebke (Silver Spring, Md./St. Johns) made four starts among his 21 appearances, contributing 98 points, 43 rebounds, 27 assists and 11 steals.
Michael Jarboe (Monrovia, Md./Urbana) and Brett Bonneville (Ijamsville, Md./Lignanore) round out the returning players.
Sophomores, the duo combined for 26 points and 11 rebounds. Jarboe tallied 21 points in 14 games while Bonneville had five points in six contests.
Six newcomers round out a roster of 18 for Curley this winter. Tyler Tart (Glenwood, Md./Glenwood) transferred to McDaniel after a year at Daniel Webster and, as a player who has an ability to distribute the ball, will see time at point guard.
Freshmen Mitch Belella (Smithsburg, Md./St. Maria Goretti) and Devin Lesniak (Westminster, Md./Winters Mill) join Tart as newcomers to the backcourt while Marcus Dyson (Scotch Plains, N.J./Union Catholic), J.J. Houston (Frederick, Md./St. Johns Catholic Prep) and Louis Sarris-Grau (Huntingdon Valley, Pa./Lower Moreland) will add depth and power inside.
Both rookie guards, according to Curley, come in with high basketball IQs while the forwards are strong, big bodies that will add power inside.
McDaniel opens the 2007-08 schedule at home against Penn State York on Nov. 21 before taking part in the fourth annual Provident Pride of Maryland Tournament, opening at St. Mary’s (Md.) on Nov. 25. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. tipoffs.