The Slippery Rock men’s basketball team will look to continue their success this season after going 21-11 last season, which was followed by a NCAA tournament berth.
This is head coach Kevin Reynold’s eighth season at the helm, and he has compiled a record of 138-72. To go along with this, he has six PSAC tournament appearances, three NCAA appearances and five 20-win seasons. The Rock has had 20 wins in four of their last five seasons.
Reynolds knows his team had a successful campaign last season, saying that anytime his team can win 20 games, have an NCAA tournament win and have seven seniors graduate, that it’s a successful season. Last season was the second time in school history that SRU beat a non-conference team in the NCAA tournament. Reynolds will still preach what he expects his team to win games.
“We want to play good field goal percentage defense,” Reynolds said. “We want to out-rebound the opponent significantly and play unselfish offense. We are not a star studded system. We need all players to play well every night and have a total team effort. We need it to be SRU’s night, every night.”
Slippery Rock executed those keys last season. The Rock led the nation in total rebounds for the season (1,451), and offensive rebounds per game (17.88).
The team also executed playing as a team, and not having any player light up the scoreboard. The biggest offensive threat returning this year is Malcolm Richardson. Last season he scored 7.6 points per game.
Other key players coming back from last year’s team will be Jamal Gatali, Chaquille Pratt and Cornelius Brown.
Gatali started all 32 games last season, blocking 38 shots, making 16 steals and grabbing 4.3 rebounds per game.
Brown and Pratt did not start every game last season, but they still contributed in a big way. Brown led the team in field goal percentage (.464), rebounds per game (6.5) and scored 8.1 points per game.
Pratt scored 6.1 points per game and had 5.5 rebounds per game, while starting in 13 games.
Reynolds is hoping his new players will come in, and fit into the mold with the established players on the roster.
“Our returning players need to have gotten better,” Reynolds said. “The new players must gel because team chemistry is crucial. It’s good news that we had good players graduate with degrees, but the bad news is we have to replace them.”
Some of the newcomers brought in this year have spent time playing Division I basketball. Junior guard Dalton Cesarz and senior guard Dontay Jackson are coming over from Divison I schools. Cesarz spent time at St. Francis, while Jackson comes over from Jacksonville State.
Other transfers include Naquil Jones, Jordan Marrow, Vashawn Ruffin, Cory Soanes and Juwan Stothers.
Reynolds wasn’t impressed with how these new players came in, so he doesn’t exactly know what to expect.
“This class didn’t have as much strength training coming in,” Reynolds said. “We are behind because the new players didn’t come in at a level we are used to. We are trying to make them better at basketball and get them into shape at the same time.”
Despite some of the issues, Reynolds still expects his team to come in and perform. He said as long as they come in and play 40 minutes every night, that they will win a lot more than they lose. He knows the result will take care of itself if they do that.
“We have high expectations,” Reynolds said. “The success here is unprecedented. This provides a new challenge to the new teams every year. We must show up every day.”