November 17, 2009

Pushing to the next level

Nine newcomers to help McDaniel continue upward trend of success under Curley

WESTMINSTER, Md. - Kevin Curley has seen increasing success over his first two years at the helm of the McDaniel men's basketball team.

Two years ago, he took over an 11-14 team only months removed from tragedy. He guided the Green Terror to a 6-0 start and 15-11 campaign in his rookie season that included the team's first playoff berth since 1995 and first winning season since 1984-85.

A year ago, Curley used a seven-member senior class to reel off eight straight wins in January en route to a program-best 18-8 mark that included an appearance in the Centennial Conference (CC) semifinals.

Now, the third-year mentor will have to infuse nine newcomers into the program and replace nearly 65 percent of its offense to continue the upward trend and make it three straight winning seasons for the first time since the early 1980s.

"Philosophically for us, it all hinges on our defensive intensity," Curley noted. "It's going to be a challenge to replace those points but basketball's a team game and we just need different guys to step up. I think we have a good balance offensively. If we can defend and rebound, we'll be alright."

The defense has been the key to Curley's success in his first two years. McDaniel has ranked in the top three in scoring defense in the conference each of Curley's first two seasons. Last season, the team was second, allowing a scant 60.2 points per game and held opponents under that number on 14 occasions.

Facing an always-tough schedule, the Green Terror will open the 2009-10 slate with the Pride of Maryland Tournament presented by M&T Bank, tipping off the three-game weekend with the defending champions, St. Mary's (Md.) at home before heading to Goucher for the final two days of the tournament.

The CC schedule opens for McDaniel at Dickinson on Dec. 2. The other head coaches and sports information directors apparently took note of what the Green Terror had to replace, picking the squad fifth in the annual preseason poll after the team was second last year. Franklin & Marshall, picked sixth in the d3hoops.com preseason poll, drew 17 first-place and 161 points to enter the season as the favorites. The Diplomats won the regular-season title but fell to Gettysburg in the CC title game. Franklin & Marshall rebounded in the NCAA tournament, advancing to the national semifinals.

Muhlenberg was chosen second in the preseason balloting with 125 points while Ursinus was third, taking the other three first-place votes and 118 points. The Bullets were picked fourth (107) and Johns Hopkins was chosen sixth (84).

One of the keys to the success last season was taking care of business at home, where the Green Terror put up a 10-1 record that included a 9-0 mark in conference. In 2009-10, McDaniel has just three of its first 11 games in front of the home crowd of the Gill Center and will need to improve on its .500 road record to stay in the mix through mid-January. The squad closes with eight of its final 14 at home.

The second key will be how quickly the eight freshmen make the transition from the high school to the college game, allowing them to step in and fill key roles vacated by the loss of 11 players.

"All of the new guys do things well and can definitely contribute," Curley said. "It's just a matter of that adjustment but they all have the talent and skills to help us."

Two relatively surprises for the Green Terror is the return of Steve Wilson (Lebanon, N.J./North Hunterdon) and Joseph Potucek (Germantown, Md./St. Johns at Prospect Hall). Both graduated in May but returned to graduate school to complete their eligibility.

"I'm extremely happy to have both Steve and Joe back with us this year," Curley disclosed. "Both graduated but decided to come back and be an integral part of this team. We're going to look to their leadership a lot this year."

Wilson, a captain once again this season, appeared in only six games with three starts last year before missing the remainder of the season with an injury. In his six games, he averaged 3.2 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per contest.

Potucek saw an increased role last year. He logged a career-high 67 minutes off the bench, contributing 20 points and 14 rebounds in his 12 games.

The constant that McDaniel will look to this year to continue the success of his junior campaign is Miguel Jones (Baltimore, Md./North County). Jones, a captain, started 25 of 26 games and ranked second on the team a year ago, averaging 9.0 points per game. He shot 41.2 percent from the floor and hit a team-high 28 3-pointers. He also handed out 43 assists and nabbed 29 steals.

"Miguel had an excellent junior season," Curley said. "We need him to carry that over into this year and provide offense not only for himself but also for his teammates."

A second-team All-CC performer, he reached double figures in the scoring column eight times, including matching his career high with 22 point against Johns Hopkins on Jan. 21. Three days later, he made it back-to-back 20-point performances with 21 at Franklin & Marshall.

Junior Michael Jarboe (Monrovia, Md./Urbana) will likely see his role expand and will be one of the guards Curley counts on to score from the perimeter.

A year ago, Jarboe appeared in all 26 games with 10 starts. He averaged 3.3 points per game, dishing out 29 assists and swiping 16 steals.

Louis Sarris-Grau (Huntingdon Valley, Pa./Lower Moreland) will likely join Wilson in the starting frontcourt lineup. As a freshman, he started eight of the 26 games, scoring in each contest. He ranked fourth on the team with an 8.5-point-per-game scoring average. He also grabbed 93 rebounds and blocked a team-high 41 shots - the fifth most in a single season in program history.

Sarris-Grau shot a team-best 52.4 percent from the floor and also showed the ability to knock down shots from outside, converting three 3-pointers in his rookie campaign.

Like Jarboe outside, Marcus Dyson (Scotch Plains, N.J./Union Catholic) could likely see an expanded role on the inside. As a freshman, Dyson appeared in 14 games but showed flashes of what could be to come in the CC semifinal game against Gettysburg when he scored 10 points. He had just 12 points during the regular season.

Mitch Belella (Smithsburg, Md./Maria Gorretti) saw limited action as a freshman but will likely see the floor more with only two other experienced guards on the roster. In his rookie campaign, Belella tallied four points in eight games.

Sophomore Woody Butler (Smithsburg, Md./Middletown) joins the team after spending his freshman season focused on football at McDaniel. He will now add his 6-8 frame as a shot-blocking presence inside and the toughness he has built as the Green Terror's starting tight end as a physical inside player.

Michael McClain (Takoma Park, Md./Montgomery Blair) and Chad Eckenrode (Taneytown, Md./Francis Scott Key) join Butler as rookie forwards on the team. Both McClain and Eckenrode could see significant minutes early and will lend their versatility and length to McDaniel's inside game offensive and defensively.

Christopher Cowles (West Chester, Pa./Bayard Rustin), Tyler Rudd (Glen Burnie, Md./Glen Burnie) and Max Keenan (Washington, D.C./Georgetown Day School) are the leading candidates to possibly see a starting job in the backcourt.

Cowles is a heady point guard that can handle the ball well while Rudd and Keenan are both tough, skilled guards that have the ability to knock down the open outside shot.

Dwayne Whiten (Frederick, Md./Frederick), Karl Nelson (Owings Mills, Md./Park School of Baltimore) and Grant Mummert (Hanover, Pa./Hanover) will also challenge for significant time at guard.

McDaniel opens the season against St. Mary's (Md.) in the first round of the Pride of Maryland Tournament on Friday. Game time is 8 p.m.

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