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2016-2017 men's basketball preview; home opener Nov. 22
Monday, November 14, 2016

2016-2017 men's basketball preview; home opener Nov. 22

The Fredonia Blue Devils men's basketball team looks to leave its mark on the State University of New York Athletic Conference this year after finishing just out of the post season last year. The Blue Devils' roster is filled with experience which had been lacking the previous few seasons as they return a number of players with a significant number of starts under their belt.

Head Coach Philip Seymore is entering his fourth season with the program and will look to his veteran group of players to keep things together on the court.

The captains are seniors Kasean Jackson (Ridgewood/Grover Cleveland) and Dante Williams (Buffalo/Hutch Tech), and junior Ian Helps (Bronx/Greater New York Academy).

With their leadership and 10 total upperclassmen on the roster, Seymore feels there has been a more competitive atmosphere in the practice gym compared to previous seasons. "Iron sharpens iron," said Seymore when asked about the intensity of practice.

Let's take a look at the squad…

Jackson will be the floor general for the Blue Devils. He started 15 of the 23 games he appeared in and averaged 6.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, as well as a team-high 24 steals.

Williams started all 21 games last season and averaged 7.7 points per game. He also averaged 5.0 rebounds, good for second on the team, and shot 31 percent from three-point land.

The 6'6'' Helps averaged a team-high 18.3 points and 8.9 rebounds and currently sits at 776 career points after two seasons in the Blue and White.

In addition to his the numbers Helps puts up, Seymore sees his captain as the leader on the floor. "Ian has a very high basketball IQ, higher than I have seen during my years of coaching," said Seymore. "The players want to be coached and push each other." That starts at the top with his captains.

Two other seniors Richard De La Cruz (Washington Heights/Norman Thomas) and Kareem Brown (Brooklyn/Brooklyn H.S. for Law & Tech) return to the lineup.

De La Cruz was the team's top long-ball threat last year with 30 three-pointers. He also shot a nifty 89.7 percent from the free-throw line while averaging 7.6 points. De La Cruz was a two-year starter at Finger Lakes C.C. before transferring to Fredonia where he started 23 games in 2016-17.

Brown was second on the team in scoring (8.4 ppg) and three pointers (27).

Fellow senior Jovohn Owens (Buffalo/Hutch Tech) looks to give quality minutes off the bench when needed.

Other juniors are Justin Tapper (White Plains/White Plains),Tommie Banks (Rochester, N.Y./East), Nicc Johnson (Buffalo/St. Mary's of Lancaster), and Keith Ruiz (Rockville Centre/South Side).

The 6'5'' Tapper came off the bench in all 24 games last year and will be critical to the team's depth. "He's a guy who has some experience and has gained a lot of confidence in his game," said Seymore.

Banks adds a 6'7'' frame and bulk to the lineup. He returns after a one-year absence. According to Seymore, he showed tremendous improvement towards the end of his freshman season and has worked hard to get himself into shape for the college game. His inside game and attitude will be welcome additions.

Johnson is a junior transfer who last played at Thompkins Cortland Community College and brings exceptional energy to the game. One of the Devils' goals is to improve defensively, and Johnson can be a big part of that. Seymore describes him as a tremendous defender with a high motor.

Sophomores Brandon Hodge (Brentwood/Central Islip) and Brian Baril (Cambria Heights/Monsignor Scanlan) look to see increased playing time after their freshman campaigns.

Hodge appeared in all 24 games last season including nine starts averaging 4.7 points per game. He showed the ability to handle the offense and hit the three. His game really picked up towards the end of the season, including a 20-point effort in a win over Buffalo State. Brian Baril appeared in 13 games off the bench.

Four freshmen have been added to the mix. De'Quan Smith (Rochester, N.Y./Penfield), Christian Marinez (Jamaica, N.Y./Hillcrest), Doug NiBlock (Bayport/Bayport), and Colden George (North Java/Attica).

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The depth of the Blue Devils at all positions is one of the team's strengths. "Depth is better than I thought it would be," said Seymore. "We will get some really good minutes off the bench."

Mental toughness is one thing that Seymore hopes his team continues to improve upon.

"I think that being mentally tough is the base of what we need to have as a team to be at a high level." Seymore hopes to accomplish that with a tough early-season, non-conference schedule.

They open up with Lycoming, who appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season. They will see Lycoming a second time at Lycoming in a tournament in late December. They follow that up with a game vs. Mount Union (18-9 last season) in the Hilbert College Tournament. Hilbert won the AMCC Title last season with a 22-5 record.

Mental toughness should help on the defensive end -- another area of focus. The team finished near the bottom of the conference in defense. Seymore hope the focus on defense also yields results on the boards and the transition game.

The Blue Devils have their sights set on the post season, but the focus is day to day. "We are taking it one day at a time and constantly asking ourselves, What does it take to get better?" said Seymore.

The team will find out some of the answers on Tuesday with the season opener at Lycoming. The home opener will be vs. D'Youville on Nov. 22.

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