Featuring a versatile roster, the Owls have their eyes set on winning the A-10 title.
The men’s basketball lineup is set with depth at guard in the backcourt and versatility at forward in the frontcourt.
Despite losing all-time leading rebounder Lavoy Allen, the Owls return with multiple players with significant game experience this year in their quest to recapture the Atlantic Ten Conference title.
In addition to the returning senior starters Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, the Owls have two proven options in the backcourt to come off the bench in junior guard Khalif Wyatt and sophomore guard Aaron Brown. Coach Fran Dunphy said the Owls could occasionally run a four-guard set due to the lack of a dominant presence in the paint.
Fernandez returns to his role as ball handler for the Owls after starting 29 games at point last year. The Argentina native and team captain averaged 11.2 points per game while leading the team in assists during his junior season.
“[Fernandez] needs to lead us,” Dunphy said. “He’s not the most verbal guy I’ve ever coached, but he has a very big basketball IQ.”
Moore broke out last year as one of the team’s most dynamic players. Moore led the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game and averaged 3.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game while starting every contest.
“[Moore] is going to have to score,” Dunphy said. “During the course of this year, I think we’d be in good shape if he could average 15 or more from the offensive end.”
Wyatt saw significant action last season as the Owls’ first player off the bench. Wyatt played in every game while solidifying himself as a long-range specialist, executing a team-best .421 three-point percentage. Wyatt was named the A-10 Sixth Man of the Year and will most likely start the year in place of injured senior forward Scootie Randall, Dunphy said.
“[Wyatt] is a scorer, you don’t want to take that away,” Dunphy said. “He’s working on his defensive game and his offensive decision-making.”
Brown established himself as a versatile threat in the lineup. Brown averaged nearly 10 minutes in 29 games last year while playing both guard and forward as a reserve.
“[Brown] will get a lot of minutes,” Dunphy said. “I like Brown off the bench because he can play multiple positions.”
The Owls feature a combination of size and dynamic forwards in the frontcourt. Randall and junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson can each play on-the-ball defense in addition to their contributions on offense. Graduate center Micheal Eric and redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee are dealt with the difficult task of replacing Allen’s production in the paint.
When healthy, Randall is arguably one of the Owls’ best two-way players. Randall averaged 10.7 points per game while posting the second-best field goal percentage on the team in an injury-plagued season last year. Randall will begin this season on the bench as he recovers from offseason surgery on his right knee, but Dunphy said his starting job will be waiting for him once he is fully healthy.
“[Randall] is still not ready to run yet,” Dunphy said. “So we’ll have to fill that other spot.”
Hollis-Jefferson will take over the starting position at forward vacated by Allen, Dunphy said. Hollis-Jefferson led the team in shooting percentage last year while averaging more than 26 minutes per game. As the team’s second-leading rebounder, Hollis-Jefferson will be asked to step up in the paint in his new starting role.
“[Hollis-Jefferson] is a pretty solid guy,” Dunphy said. “You know what you’re going to get out of him.”
Eric will have one of the most important roles on the team this year as he is the team’s primary returning force in paint. The 6-foot-11-inch center averaged 5.9 boards and 1.6 blocks per game through 24 games last year before fracturing his right patella and missing the rest of the season. Dunphy said Eric will be called upon to play a more active role with the team this year and contribute about 30 minutes.
“This is a big year for [Eric],” Dunphy said. “[He] has not had a consistent level of minutes played over his career. We’ve talked to [him] about being on the floor for more minutes.”
Lee will have a chance to assert himself in the lineup this year after redshirting last season with a back injury. Dunphy said the 6-foot-9-inch forward has a chance to play a significant role for the team right away from what he has observed in the team’s workouts.
“[Lee] showed the ability to rebound the ball, block shots and score the ball,” Dunphy said. “I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets very comfortable with his body, he’s not the strongest guy yet.”
During the course of the year, the Owls will rely on their depth at guard and versatility at forward as they try to achieve their goal of winning the A-10.
“I’m not overly concerned with who’s starting, I’m very concerned with who finishes,” Dunphy said.
Joey Cranney and Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.