Season Preview: Deep, Talented Bulldogs Ready To Tip Off New Year

Sam Martin (Ron Waite photo)
Sam Martin (Ron Waite photo)

Yale Opens Saturday Against Sacred Heart

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Whether it was Edwin Draughan '05 following the 2005 season or Eric Flato '08 a few years later, Yale head coach James Jones has always managed to successfully replace his star players when they graduate.

That will certainly need to be the case again in 2012-13. Two-time first team All-Ivy selection Greg Mangano '12 and Reggie Willhite '12, last year's Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, both have moved on from Yale. Fortunately for Jones, like in the past, there are a number of talented players waiting in the wings. As a result, optimism is high as the Bulldogs get ready to embark on the 2012-13 campaign.

"No one knew who Greg Mangano was before his junior year. No one knew who Reggie Willhite was before his junior year," Jones said. "Right now, we have a lot of names that people don't know, but I expect them to step up."

The Bulldogs kick off the 2012-13 season on Saturday against Sacred Heart at 5:30 p.m. in the Connecticut 6 Classic at the University of Hartford.

Yale, which finished 19-10 last year and was invited to the CollegeInsider Tournament, has a very experienced backcourt. Seniors Austin Morgan and Michael Grace are both returning starters. Morgan, a two-year starter, is seventh all-time at Yale with 139 career three-pointers. Last year, he finished fifth in the nation and set a school record with a .900 free throw percentage. In addition, he finished ninth in the Ivy League in scoring (11.8 ppg.), fifth in three-point field goal percentage (.386) and sixth in three-point field goals made (2.1 per game). His 61 three-pointers tied for the fourth most in a season in school history. Grace emerged as Yale's starting point guard early last season and had a very successful campaign, setting career highs in points (140), rebounds (42) and three-pointers (16). He also shot 82.1 percent from the free throw line.

There is plenty of depth in the backcourt as well. Senior Sam Martin, the team captain, has played in 70 games in his career and is always a threat from three-point range. Junior Jesse Pritchard may have been the most improved player on the team a year ago. Pritchard saw his minutes increase from 7.4 per game as a freshman to 14.7 last year, and he also started the last seven games of the season. At the post season banquet, he was presented with Josh Hill Award for hard work and dedication to the Yale Basketball program.

A pair of sophomores could also play a significant role in the backcourt. Javier Duren appeared in 17 games off the bench, including playing a season-high 19 minutes in the CIT Tournament game at Fairfield in the season finale. Armani Cotton came off the bench in 13 games as a rookie and showed exciting potential. Against Lyndon State, he scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in 12 minutes.

Three freshmen will try and work their way into the rotation. Jack Montague was the district, region and county most valuable player as a senior at Brentwood High School. He averaged 17.0 points and seven assists and scored more than 1,200 career points. Nick Victor spent one year at the Winchendon School and earned NEPSAC honorable mention recognition. At Lovejoy High School in Dallas, Texas, he was the 2010 District most valuable player. Khaliq Bedart-Ghani led Loyola High School in California in rebounding and blocks as a senior last winter.

Yale's frontcourt isn't as experienced but there is still plenty of talent and depth. Jeremiah Kreisberg has started 47 games in his first two seasons. Last year, he started all 29 games and finished third on the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg.) and fourth in scoring (7.7 ppg.). A pair of sophomores provide plenty of bulk in the low post. Brandon Sherrod was the team's rookie of the year after appearing in all 29 games and averaging 4.0 points and 2.8 rebounds. Matt Townsend was hampered by an early-season injury but became a consistent contributor as the season progressed.

Yale fans didn't see much of Will Childs-Klein last year, in large part because of Mangano's outstanding play at center. In limited action, though, Childs-Klein made an impression. Against Lyndon State, he scored five points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots in 12 minutes.  After missing all of his freshman season with an injury, Greg Kelley showed flashes of his potential last year as well.  Kelley appeared in 16 games off the bench and shot 55.6 percent from the field. Junior Will Bartlett appeared in a career-high nine games last year and also will have an opportunity to work his way into the rotation in the front court.

Freshman Justin Sears could make an immediate impact. Sears earned first team all-state, all-area and all-county honors as a senior at Plainfield High School in New Jersey. He scored 1,048 points and grabbed 1,063 rebounds in his career to become only the second player in school history to score over 1,000 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds. He helped lead Plainfield to two New Jersey Tournament of Champion title games where it lost to national power St. Anthony's both times.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity