A dancing routine and intersquad squad highlighted Cherry and White Night, the university’s first look at the 2012 basketball teams. Both the men’s and women’s teams were showcased for the first time as they prepare for their last seasons in the Atlantic-10 Conference. Both teams will compete in the Big East Conference in the season beginning in 2013.
The night featured fans arriving and receiving prizes such as shirts, gift cards and the treat of watching the diamond gems, cheerleaders and both basketball squads perform their own rendition of the “Wobble.” An intersquad game of knockout was also on display.
Both squads are attempting to rebound from years in which they lost key players to graduation. The men’s team saw both Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez graduate after the season’s conclusion, their first and third leading scorers, respectively. The women’s team also graduated Shey Peddy and Kristen McCarthy, who were first and second on the team in scoring last season, respectively.
“(Fernandez and Moore) were big parts of our team last year,” senior guard Khalif Wyatt said. “But we have been practicing without them since March. We are trying to start a new chapter and leave our mark as seniors.”
“Obviously we have to look elsewhere for our offense,” women’s coach Tonya Cardoza said. “But I’m confident that our younger guys, with some more practice will be able to take care of some things. Instead of teams being able to focus on two players, this year we will be stronger.”
After the men’s team made the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season last year, they were defeated in the first round. The women’s squad was eliminated in the Sweet 16 of the WNIT after receiving a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
“My main goal this year is to win the A-10 Championships,” senior center Victoria Macaulay said. “Winning the championship would be the best legacy we could leave (in the A-10).”
The squads may play against each other for fun now, but the season starts in less than a month. Replacing their leading scorers in the final year of conference play could be challenging, but also leaves room for a lasting impression on the conference.
“It’s not a calling card that we have to be successful because it is our last year in the A-10,” men’s coach Fran Dunphy said. “We have a lot of respect for all the teams and programs in the Atlantic 10. We want to be the best program we can be night in and night out. We happen to be playing in the Atlantic 10 this year and the Big East next year… We have a responsibility to play as well as we can.
“We definitely want to leave on a high note,” Cardoza said. “It’s our last opportunity and we want it to be sweet.”
The men’s team begins their season at Kent State on Nov. 13, the women will host Montana on Nov. 9 in their season opener.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.