Holy Cross Ready To Begin A New Season
By Charles Bare
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Heading into the 2017-2018 campaign, the Holy Cross men’s basketball team looks to build a squad which can be a contender in the Patriot League. Even with a young group and the return of only one starter, the Crusaders bring back a number of players who were key parts of the 2016 Patriot League Tournament championship team. With the addition of six talented freshmen, the Crusaders have the ingredients necessary to be a major factor in the conference race.
In 2017-2018, Holy Cross will look to build upon the success it had last year as the top defensive team in the Patriot League. The Crusaders led the conference in scoring defense (62.1 points per game), steals (9.4 steals per game) and turnover margin (+4.9 turnovers per game) last season. Holy Cross was also very efficient on the offensive end of the court in 2016-2017, with a Patriot League-best 1.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“The key for us this season will be to get better and better with each game,” said head coach Bill Carmody. “We have a young team, so we will need to see significant incremental growth at both ends of the court.”
Here is a breakdown of how Holy Cross should look in 2017-2018.
EXPERIENCED JUNIOR CLASS LEADS THE WAY
Without any seniors on the roster, the five-man junior class will be vital to the team’s success this winter. Junior forward Karl Charles should lead the way, after averaging 9.4 points, 3.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest last season. Charles is also one of the top shooters on the team, hitting 80.5 percent of his free throws and 37.5 percent of his three-pointers a year ago. In 2016-2017, he ranked fifth in the Patriot League in free throw percentage, fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio, ninth in assists, ninth in steals and 27th in scoring.
Junior guard Patrick Benzan should be one of the team’s top players in the backcourt, after being the first man off the bench in 2016-2017. Benzan averaged 7.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season, and hit 51.4 percent of his field goal attempts. In the front court, junior forward Jehyve Floyd looks to be the Crusaders’ top player this year. In 2016-2017, Floyd averaged 2.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocked shots per game, while making 54.5 percent of his shots from the floor.
Junior guard Matt Zignorski and junior guard Marcellis Perkins will also look to play increased roles this winter. Zignorski totaled 24 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and four steals in 27 games off the bench last year, while Perkins missed the entire season due to injury.
“We are looking for the junior class to be leaders both on and off the court,” said Carmody. “With a young team this season, it will be up to them to show the underclassmen what it takes to be successful.”
SOPHOMORES READY TO STEP UP
Sophomore guard Clayton Le Sann and sophomore center Jack Stevens both gained valuable experience during their first season with the Crusaders last winter, and will look to earn increased playing time in 2017-2018.
Le Sann totaled 24 points and 12 rebounds in 24 games played last year, including a career-high 13 points during the come-from-behind victory at Army West Point. Stevens appeared in nine games last season, grabbing four rebounds.
“We are hoping that our sophomores can become consistent contributors for us this year,” said Carmody. “They did not see much action last year since we had a senior-heavy roster, but now we are looking for them to step up into bigger roles.”
Sophomore walk-on guard Will Powers will provide additional depth for the Crusaders.
FRESHMEN PREPARED TO MAKE AN IMPACT
A group of six newcomers is expected to make an immediate impact on the program this winter, with a number of players who could contend for starting spots or play key roles off the bench right away.
In the backcourt, freshman guard Austin Butler, freshman guard Kyle Copeland and freshman guard Caleb Green will look to break into the rotation. Butler averaged 29.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season at Greater Latrobe (Pa.) Senior High School. Copeland spent a post-graduate year at Phillips Exeter (N.H.) Academy in 2016-2017, helping the team to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class A championship. Green was a two-time second team Class AA All-New England selection at Proctor (N.H.) Academy, where he scored over 1,000 career points.
Freshman forward Matt Faw, freshman forward Jacob Grandison and freshman forward Connor Niego all have the chance to provide instant help for the Crusaders in the frontcourt. Faw was a two-time first team All-Suburban One League American Conference selection at Upper Merion (Pa.) Area High School. Grandison played a post-graduate year at Phillips Exeter (N.H.) Academy alongside Copeland in 2016-2017, and was named third team Class A All-New England. Niego scored over 1,000 career points at Lyons Township (Ill.) High School, while finishing second all-time in school history in rebounding and sixth in scoring.
“We have a large freshman class this year with a good amount of talent,” said Carmody. “We will be counting on them to contribute right away, while looking for them to grow and develop over the course of the season.”
ANOTHER CHALLENGING SLATE
Once again this season, the Crusaders will face one of the toughest schedules in the Patriot League. Holy Cross will play seven games against teams which advanced to postseason play last year, and as many as 12 contests against schools which posted winning records in 2016-2017.
The Crusaders’ non-conference slate is highlighted by a trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic, which will also include La Salle, Manhattan and Towson. Holy Cross will also travel to defending Atlantic 10 Conference champion Rhode Island and in-state rival UMass, while playing host to perennial Ivy League power Harvard and reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona. In addition, the non-league schedule includes home games with Albany and New Hampshire, and road dates at Fairleigh Dickinson, Sacred Heart and Siena.
The Patriot League looks to be solid this season, with Holy Cross playing home-and-home series against each of the nine other teams in the league. The conference schedule will be highlighted by contests against defending Patriot League champion Bucknell, 2017 Patriot League tournament runner-up Lehigh and Turnpike Trophy rival Boston University.
“We always try to play a tough non-conference schedule because we really like to compete against other good teams,” said Carmody. “The Patriot League will be challenging, since most of the top teams have several key guys coming back.”
Season and single-game tickets to see the Crusaders are on sale now. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to see the best collegiate basketball in Central Massachusetts! Tickets for Holy Cross basketball can be purchased online at GoHolyCross.com/tickets or over the phone by calling 1-844-GOCROSS.