The tradition of excellence that embodies the UMass Dartmouth men’s basketball program during Head Coach Brian Baptiste’s tenure is defined not only by championship play at the conference, regional and national levels, it is further strengthened by the countless individuals who have shined both on and off the court. And as the veteran mentor begins his 36th campaign at the helm this winter, enthusiasm is running high around the Tripp Athletic Center with a solid group of veterans and a mix of talented newcomers looking to bring another Little East banner back to the South Coast.
Baptiste, who has recorded 626 wins during his distinguished career as the Corsairs’ mentor, will look to a pair of seniors to provide leadership for this year’s squad, as Atakan Akcam (Ankara, Turkey/Hoosac School) and Matthew Soule (Sutton, Mass./Sutton) will serve in those critical roles this winter. Baptiste describes the duo as “focused on the job at hand and committed to setting a high standard for their teammates. They both know the challenges we will face during the year, and they will be challenging themselves to meet those expectations.”
Here’s a look at how things are shaping up for the 2018-19 edition of Corsair Men’s Basketball:
FRONT COURT. Senior Arinze Obiora (Hyde Park, Mass./Brookline) leads the way up front after earning second-team all-Little East accolades that included a spot on the league’s all-defensive team, as he averaged a double-double effort of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the field overall. Obiora, who collected 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per contest, enters his final collegiate campaign looking to become the newest member of UMass Dartmouth’s 1,000 Point Club after scoring 691 over his first three seasons.
Akcam provides additional experience in the front court for Baptiste, as he averaged 10.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 24 starts a year ago, while sophomore Patrick Gavin (Beverly, Mass./Beverly) gained valuable experience as a rookie after averaging 2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in 21 outings off the bench. Senior Dennis Ross (Portland, Maine/Deering) and sophomore Harry Alexander (Washington, D.C./Redemption Charter), who both transferred from Mount Ida, lend additional experience up front for the Corsairs, while freshman Sean Leahy (Hanson, Mass./Whitman-Hanson) will be vying for a role at forward during his rookie year.
BACK COURT. Sophomore Jake Ashworth (Fairhaven, Mass./Bourne) emerged as one of the region’s top scoring threats during his collegiate debut last winter for Baptiste, as he became the fourth Corsair in five years to earn a spot on the Little East all-rookie team after averaging 15 points, four rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 42 percent (72-172) from behind the arc and 92 percent (56-61) at the charity stripe. Junior Brandon Williams Jr. (Dorchester, Mass./Saint Clement) also returns as a starter in the backcourt for UMass Dartmouth, as he averaged 8.4 points and 3.6 assists while starting in 20 contests in 2017-18.
Soule provides a veteran presence in Baptiste’s back court after appearing in 20 games (with one start) last year for the Corsairs, who also welcome back junior Marquis Jones (Randolph, Mass./Braintree) after he averaged 2.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 25 outings last winter. Sophomore Marcus Wright (Mattapan, Mass./Boston Latin School), along with the freshmen trio of Marcus Azor (Brockton, Mass./Brockton), Cameron Andrews (Stoughton, Mass./Stoughton), Adam Seablom (Lakeville, Mass./Apponequet), will be looking to contribute at the guard spots as newcomers this season for UMass Dartmouth.
SCHEDULE. Another tough 25-game regular season slate awaits the Corsairs in 2018-19, as in addition to the 16-game Little East double round robin, Baptiste’s squad will square off with Salem State, MIT, Tufts and Becker in non-league home outings while hitting the road for non-conference clashes with Brandeis, Roger Williams and Bridgewater State. UMass Dartmouth will also host the 21st Annual LaFrance Hospitality Tournament during the weekend of November 16-17, as Clark, Lehman and Mitchell will invade the Tripp Athletic Center for action.
Brian Baptiste’s 36th season at the helm tips-off on Saturday, November 10th when the Corsairs head to Waltham, Mass. to battle Brandeis in a non-league encounter that begins at 1:00 pm EDT.