Nov. 14, 2011
NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA-After an off year in 2010-11, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth men's basketball team is ready to come back to the top of the Little East Conference.
The Corsairs will be looking for a combination of returning veterans and a good recruiting class to vault them back to the top of the conference standings.
"I think we're a more talented team than we were last year," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Brian Baptiste. "We have more size and athleticism, but we also have a lot of new faces and we have to blend in a lot of new people, and that usually takes time. It could take as long as until mid-season. How we play between now and the end of the first semester will help us make decisions as we go forward."
Senior Paul Rose (Boston, MA/North Cambridge Catholic HS/Mass Bay CC) has been the Corsairs' point guard since he arrived two seasons ago, and he will be counted on once more. "Paul is going to be our point guard as we start the season, and we'll see how things develop," said Baptiste. "We also have (sophomore) Jordan Grace (Cambridge, MA/Rindge & Latin HS), who we're trying to bring along as Paul's backup. He played at Cambridge Rindge & Latin, a good program and the same program that (former point guard) Reece (Freeman) and (former starting forward) Brandon Shelton came from. We also have (sophomore) Jeff Tagger (Brockton, MA/Catholic Memorial HS/Taft/Clark), an incoming transfer. Jeff is a talented player and could see a lot of minutes at the point."
Senior Colin Burns (Chepachet, RI/Ponaganset HS/CCRI) returns at the other guard spot. "Colin had a good season for us last year," said Baptiste. "He had to play a bigger position last year, and this year, he is more in his comfort zone. He shoots the three well, plays with a lot of intensity and heart, and should be a good player. (Sophomore) John Genkos (Worcester, MA/Doherty HS) will back him up. John is a streak shooter, when he gets it going, he can get on a roll. (Sophomore) Jeff Cannon (Boston, MA/East Boston HS/New Haven) could also see some playing time."
The Corsairs' captain, senior Alex Klepadlo (Bernardston, MA/Pioneer Valley Regional HS), will also be in the starting lineup. "Alex is a solid player for us," said Baptiste. "He played a lot of minutes, is good offensively and defensively, and is a smart player."
A pair of newcomers will provide depth. "(Freshman) Alex Kershaw (Stoughton, MA/Oliver Ames HS/Tilton Prep) will back up Alex," said Baptiste. "He works hard, is a good rebounder, and plays with a lot of intensity. We also have (freshman) Jake Laga (Northampton, MA/Northampton HS), who is a good three-point shooter, plays defense well, is a good rebounder and a solid all-around player."
Sophomore Steve Handy (Oak Bluffs, MA/Martha's Vineyard Regional HS) will also contribute. "Steve is a returning veteran who can shoot the three, rebound, and knows what we're trying to accomplish," said Baptiste. "He should see some playing time."
Up front, the Corsairs have more size than they have had in the past. "At forward, we'll have (sophomore) Eleazar Clayton (Boston, MA/East Boston HS/Monroe CC)," said Baptiste. "He is an extremely talented young man who jumps extremely well. He has the skills to play guard, but he plays bigger than his height (6-4). He is a strong rebounder who can shoot from 15 feet."
Senior Lance Greene (Dorchester, MA/Charlestown HS/UMass Lowell), who starred two years ago, returns at center. "Lance is extremely athletic," said Baptiste. "He runs well, defends well, rebounds well, and is quick enough to play on the ball in our pressure defense."
Depth up front will also be a strength. "Backing up Lance and Eleazar will be (senior) Justin Pulver (Plymouth, MA/Falmouth HS/Johnson & Wales), who works hard and is a =n extremely good rebounder," said Baptiste. "We also have (freshman) Alex Rodrigues (Fall River, MA/Durfee HS), who has good moves, good hands, a good perimeter game and a ton of potential. Also seeing time will be (freshman) David Hanscom (Rockland, MA/Rockland HS), who has good hands, shoots the ball well from the perimeter, and has good potential."
The Corsairs' personnel will allow them to retain their style. "We're still going to play up-tempo," said Baptiste."We have guys who are big, but can play at a fast pace. We're going to press on defense, but we'll also mix it up. Our depth will allow us to be more versatile. We could play zone and play big, or we could play fast and play big."
UMass Dartmouth annually takes on the top teams in New England, and this year will be ni exception. "We have a very tough schedule," said Baptiste. "We will go down south and play against some NAIA teams that are very good, in addition to our typical tough schedule. Both our league schedule and our out of league schedule are very strong, and we'll be well-tested by the time the end of the season comes along."
Once they jell, the Corsairs should do well. "We have a lot of unfamiliar faces right now, and a lot of new people playing together and it's going to take time," said Baptiste. "If it all comes together like I'm hoping it does, we have the talent to be very good."