Second-year head coach Tommy Dempsey greets the fans at the BU Basketball Showcase last month in the Events Center.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Men’s basketball preview: Bearcats, Dempsey eye rise in ranksTweet
Binghamton men’s basketball coach Tommy Dempsey would prefer not to attach a win total to his projection for the 2013-14 season. But in year two of his tenure with the Bearcats, Dempsey knows his team will be better.
“We will be a fun team to watch and I know the people who come out to watch will feel like it’s going in a positive direction,” he said. “But we don’t talk as a group about win totals. It’s about daily improvement and putting ourselves in a position to win as many games as we can. We want to be a much better team as the season goes on and be a good team come America East league play.”
By all accounts, Dempsey’s 2012-13 squad was undermanned and with as many as three former walk-ons in the starting rotation, Binghamton struggled to a 3-27 mark. With more talent needed to compliment dynamic all-conference guard Jordan Reed, Dempsey and his staff notched some key victories on the recruiting trail. That hard work translated into four scholarship freshmen who, combined with the return of 2011-12 leading scorer Robert Mansell, give Dempsey much more depth and collective talent, particularly at guard.
The influx of newcomers and return of Mansell, who missed the 2012-13 season with an injury, should ease the burden on Reed, who shouldered a heavy load as a freshman but embraced the challenge with an outstanding season.
The 2013-14 Bearcats will be more capable of pushing the ball and playing Dempsey’s trademark up-tempo style. On the defensive end, the squad is more athletic than a year ago, allowing Dempsey to play man-to-man instead of zone.
America East coaches and trade magazines alike have also taken notice of Dempsey’s rebuilding work. Binghamton was picked to finish as high as fifth in the nine-team league – despite registering just two conference wins in the last two years combined.
Two starters, eight letterwinners return
In addition to Reed, Dempsey welcomes back seven other letterwinners, including hard-working senior frontmen Roland Brown and Alex Ogundadegbe, along with senior guard Rayner Moquete, who sat out the spring semester but averaged 8.6 points in 16 games. The program graduated four seniors, including point guard Jimmy Gray, who logged a team-best 37.5 minutes a game during conference play.
Despite earning just three wins, the 2012-13 Bearcats were competitive in a handful other games, losing five contests by four or fewer points plus two more by single digits. Lack of other dependable scoring options limited Binghamton to a conference-low 55.9 points per game – a figure Dempsey knows has to rise.
“We have the makings of a more complete team this year,” he said. “We asked Jordan to do so much last year and the other teams knew we were calling his number down the stretch … so we were easy to scout against. We’ll have more options this year and will be able to call a lot of different guys’ numbers.”
Newcomers Beck, Yacob take over in backcourt
Freshmen Marlon Beck II and Yosef Yacob have asserted themselves early and Dempsey expects the pair to play key roles this winter. Beck is a fast, high-octane guard who can push the ball in transition and play pressure defense. He and the versatile, composed Yacob give Dempsey two point guards on the floor and provide several lineup options throughout the game.
Beck was an All-Met selection by the Washington Post last winter after leading Maret School to a 24-4 record and the program’s first-ever conference title. Beck averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 assists and his speed and tenacity at both ends of the floor has impressed Dempsey.
Yacob is a former 1,000-point scorer and two-time all-state selection from the Philadelphia area. Last season he led Archbishop John Carroll to a 23-7 record and state runner-up showing.
Moquete is an experienced player whose junior season ended prematurely last December. He reached double-digits six times, averaged 8.6 points in 16 games, and poured in a season-high 19 against Cornell.
Sophomore Karon Waller, junior Chris Rice and walk-on freshmen John Rinaldi and Matt Smith round out the guard unit. Waller played in 24 games as a freshman, scored a season-high eight points against Hartford and grabbed six boards in the America East tournament loss to Stony Brook. Rinaldi is a three-sport standout from Dunmore, Dempsey’s hometown across the Pennsylvania border.
Reed, Mansell give Bearcats strong presence on wing
Reed, who put together one of the finest freshman seasons in school history, will gain from an improved supporting cast. He logged 35 minutes a game in 2012-13 and produced 16.6 points and a league-high 9.5 rebounds. Much of the scoring was out of necessity, however, as Reed quickly became the team’s primary offensive option. His nose for the rim and athleticism were celebrated by home fans with each alley-oop dunk and offensive rebound. Reed maximized his 6-foot-4 frame with statistics that were among the best in the nation for guards. He was the only first-year player to rank in the top-two in his conference in both scoring and rebounding. After a modest third-team all-conference selection by America East coaches, Reed picked up numerous media accolades, including Mid-Major Freshman All-America honors (CollegeInsider.com). He was then selected as one of the five America East Preseason All-Conference choices heading into 2013-14.
“Although he had great numbers, Jordan knows the only thing that really matters as we move forward is becoming a winning program,” Dempsey said. “He’s focused on helping lead this team to more wins in year two. We don’t spend much time talking about numbers. He’s a great talent and his numbers will take care of themselves.”
One of the guys eager to take some of the scoring load off Reed is Mansell. It was Mansell’s drives to the basket and scoring punch (14.0 ppg.) that headlined the 2011-12 team one year before Reed arrived. A devastating late-season knee injury, however, put Mansell on the shelf all of last season. But after an intensive and grueling rehabilitation, he is fit and ready to return as a scorer and capable rebounder.
“We’re excited to have Rob back,” Dempsey said. “He’s a proven player in this league and we need him to help our younger players through this transition from high school to college. His experience is crucial to development of this team.”
Junior Jabrille Williams, a hard-working 6-foot-6 who has played 48 games over his first two seasons, can give Dempsey energy off the bench. Williams toured this summer with the East Coast All-Stars, representing the U.S. at the Four Nations Cup in Estonia. He is a career 49 percent shooter and is active on the boards.
Madray, Richards present matchup problems in frontcourt
The other half of Dempsey’s strong recruiting class are first-year forwards Nick Madray and Magnus Richards, both of whom have made a strong push for starting spots in Dempsey’s up-tempo, athletic lineup. The pair offers great mobility and shooting range, with Madray more of jump shooter and Richards more of a slasher. Each can guard multiple positions defensively.
Madray was ranked the No. 7 Canadian prospect and possesses an outstanding shooting touch for a big man. While Dempsey and his staff work to develop Madray’s back-to-the-basket game, his three-point accuracy is arguably the best on the team. Richards can run the floor and drive from the perimeter and his athleticism is evident on both ends of the floor.
Back to offer a low-post presence are senior centers Roland Brown and Alex Ogundadegbe. Brown contributed 5.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in just over 18 minutes per game during his first season with the Bearcats. The 6-foot-8 center went for a season-high 15 points with eight rebounds in Binghamton’s win over St. Peter’s last year and offers a solid mid-range jumper and bulk in the lane. Ogundadegbe is a four-year letterwinner who played in 26 games last winter (2.4 ppg.).
Schedule includes 13 non-conference, 16 conference games
The Bearcats begin the regular season Nov. 8 when they host Loyola (Md.)—part of a doubleheader with the women’s team.
Before Binghamton hits its conference slate in January, it will embark on a 13-game non-conference slate which features NCAA Final Four team Syracuse, NIT participant St. Joseph’s and five teams that won 18 or more games last season. The team’s fifth game against now-ACC member Syracuse highlights the schedule. The teams haven’t played since 2004 when they completed a four-year run of games at the Carrier Dome.
On New Year’s Eve, Binghamton will head to Philly to face Atlantic-10 member St. Joseph’s for the first time. The Hawks won 18 games last year before losing to St. John’s at the buzzer in the NIT first round.
Once league play begins, Binghamton will look to erase memories of back-to-back 1-15 conference seasons and return the program to solid footing in the America East. During the program’s first decade of membership, Binghamton won at least eight conference games seven different seasons, and the Bearcats entered the 2012-13 campaign with the third-highest win percentage among current members.
Tempo, attitude will define 2013-14 squad
Binghamton now has the bodies to implement Dempsey’s style of choice – up-tempo. The Bearcats will be fast, versatile on both ends of the floor and will be able to put pressure on opposing teams.
“We will be a lot different defensively,” Dempsey said, noting that last year’s team was forced to primarily play zone. “Our defense can cause some problems and we’re trying to focus on playing very hard and playing with confidence.”
That confidence will come with experience and the Bearcats may very well be a much different team by the time the calendar hits March. Even in November, Dempsey has the makings of a solid team on the rise – and his precise, build-it reputation has Binghamton basketball fans eager to climb aboard for the ride.
“It’s going to be challenging with the amount of youth we have,” Dempsey said. “We have a group that’s trying to mesh together and define roles and we’ll make mistakes because we’re young and aggressive. But our group has fun playing together and they will be a lot of fun to watch. As we gain more experience we will be a better team. I like what we can become.”