Nov. 6, 2008
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - With the graduation of four players who combined to start 256 games and score 2,929 points in their careers, some might think that 2008-09 would be a rebuilding year for the Yale men's basketball team. Not James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Yale. Jones is confident his team can have a successful season.
There is plenty of reason for Jones's optimism. The Bulldogs return a pair of second team All-Ivy selections in seniors Ross Morin and Travis Pinick and have a number of other talented and experienced players on the roster.
"I like this team and our chances to be successful this season," said Jones, who has guided Yale to a 69-57 record in Ivy League games in his nine years at the helm. "We have a good mix of young and veteran players, and they are working hard to build a positive and productive team atmosphere."
Jones has once again put together a difficult non-conference schedule that begins on Nov. 14 when Stanford becomes the first Pac-10 school to visit the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Other highlights include games with Oregon State, Alabama and New England rivals Holy Cross and Hartford.
"Our scheduling philosophy never changes," Jones said. "We are committed to playing a very challenging non-conference campaign to help prepare our team for the obstacles that we will face in Ivy play."
Here is a closer look at the 2008-09 Bulldogs:
Morin, the team captain, and Pinick will anchor the Bulldogs' frontcourt. Morin shot a league-best 64.2 percent from the field in 12 Ivy games last year and was second on the team in scoring (10.2 ppg.) and rebounding (5.4 rpg.). Pinick, perhaps the most versatile and athletic player on the roster, led Yale in rebounding (6.7 rpg.), was second in steals (48) and assists (60) and fourth in scoring (7.7 rpg.). In Ivy play, he averaged 8.8 rebounds and had 29 steals, which were both the best in the league. He also is the team's top defender.
Junior Paul Nelson, who earned all-league honors in the Star Ledger College Summer League, is a strong candidate to start at center. He appeared in a career-high 25 games last year, including making his first two starts. Junior Josh Davis saw the most significant action of his career last year as well and could take on a greater role this winter.
Two freshmen will try to step in and contribute. Greg Mangano (Orange, CT) was a two-time all-state selection at nearby Notre Dame-West Haven High School. He averaged 26 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots as a senior. Rhett Anderson (La Canada, CA) is a 2006 graduate of La Canada High School. He finished a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in August. As a senior at La Canada, he averaged 17.8 points and 9.6 rebounds.
"We are talented and have great depth in the frontcourt," Jones said. "I expect Travis and Ross to lead by example. Our size should be our strength and rebounding should be to our advantage."
The biggest obstacle Yale faces is replacing guard Eric Flato '08, who graduated second in school history in three-pointers made (213) and 13th in scoring (1,193 points). Fortunately there are a number of candidates to fill the void. Junior Alex Zampier was one of only two players to appear in all 28 games last year. He tied for second in the Ivy League in steals with 49 and was third on the team in assists (58), fourth in three-pointers (29) and tied for fourth in scoring (7.7 ppg.). Sophomore Porter Braswell, more of a true point guard than Flato, was the recipient of the John C. Cobb Award as Yale's top freshman. He appeared in all 27 games and averaged 2.9 points. In a home sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth, he averaged 10.5 points and made 9 of 14 shots from the field.
Senior Ari Greenberg would be a contender for increased playing time but he is battling an injury. The return of senior Chris Andrews, though, should help bolster the backcourt. Andrews has missed virtually all of the last two seasons with two injuries. One of the highlights of last year came at home against Dartmouth when Andrews made his first appearance since his freshman year and scored his only points when Greenberg passed up a breakaway layup to feed him.
Junior Jordan Gibson was one of most improved players on the team last year. After appearing in only nine games as a rookie, he saw action in 25 contests. Against Oberlin, he scored 14 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field and added four rebounds and two steals. He could also see time at small forward. Sophomore Raffi Mantilla, who was hampered by a thumb injury last year, is an excellent shooter and adds depth to the backcourt.
A pair of freshmen hope to make an immediate impact. Brian Katz (Woodbury, NY) was the Long Island Catholic League Player of the Year as a senior at St. Dominic High School after setting the school record for three-point field goals made. Reggie Willhite (Elk Grove, CA) spent a postgraduate year at Phillips Exeter. As a senior at Woodside Priory School in California, he was selected as the Private School Athletic League Most Valuable Player. Brandon Rose, a senior, also joins the roster this winter after serving as a manager for the last two years.
"We will be young and somewhat inexperienced in the backcourt," Jones said. "It is important for our perimeter players to step up to the challenge of leading the team and giving us an opportunity to be successful."