Stevens 2011-12 men's basketball preview
HOBOKEN, N.J. (November 14, 2011) – The Stevens Institute of Technology men's basketball team is set to open its 2011-12 season on Tuesday night at Baruch College after capturing the second Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Metro title program history and winning 22 games a year ago. The Ducks will be returning four starters and 10 letter winners to the squad as excitement grows for a big season in Hoboken.
Leading Stevens will be senior co-captains Michael Cutri (West Caldwell, N.J.) and Simon Smith (Cranford, N.J.), a duo that has contributed greatly to the team's 18-9 and 22-7 marks the last two years.
Cutri, a guard, played in and started 29-of-29 games for the Ducks in 10-11. He averaged 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while leading the team in minutes (32.5). Cutri hit 52 three-pointers and shot 76.1 percent from the line while also handing out 61 assists and accumulating a team-high 34 steals. An honorable mention All-Empire 8 pick as a sophomore, Cutri will be key to the Ducks' offense as a scorer and facilitator. He also will need to step into a leadership role on the defensive end of the floor being vocal and decisive.
Smith was a first-team all-conference selection in 2010-11 after leading the league in rebounding by almost four boards per game. He set Stevens' single-season rebounding mark with a total of 361 and averaged 13.7 points per game. The Cranford, N.J. native handed out 69 assists and had 30 steals and is already the Ducks' all-time leader in rebounds and has a chance to be the first-ever 1,000 point scorer and rebounder in Stevens history. Smith will have to step into a leadership role on the defensive end due to the graduation of forward/center Bryan Franklin (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), and hopes to see an increase in his numbers across the board. The Cranford, N.J. native was seventh nationally in double-doubles with 19 and was named second-team All-East Region by www.D3Hoops.com.
"We have high expectations for both senior captains," Head Coach Bobby Hurley (Hoboken, N.J.) said. "They both have done a lot of good things since first coming into the program, but we hope this year their best yet. Both realize there is a lot of work to be done and a long season's ahead, so I am confident these two guys will help lead us to our goals."
Junior guard Russ Thompson (West Orange, N.J.) is a returner with a wealth of experience that will be a big part of what the Ducks are trying to do this year. Thompson led the team with 125 assists and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 1.5 and hopes to see that number grow even more. Thompson hopes to display improved decision making and will look to consistently knock down open shots in addition to being a Stevens' floor general. He was one of four Ducks to average double figures last year and led the team in three-pointers with 59.
Junior guard Sheldon Jones (Queens, N.Y.) was the team's leading scorer and should be one of the top players in the conference. Jones was a second-team All-Empire 8 pick as a sophomore and made major improvements to his game from his freshman campaign. In 10-11, Jones averaged 16.2 points, shooting 47.4 percent from the floor and 84.3 percent from the free-throw line. He handed out 50 assists and grabbed 103 rebounds and was the ECAC Metro Championship MVP. Jones is looking to display increased range and a better all-around game after working extremely hard throughout the offseason.
Junior guard Mike Nattis (Woodbury, N.Y.) is a player that brings veteran leadership to a young Ducks squad. Nattis is one of the team's top students and will look to work himself into the rotation after seeing action in six games last season.
Sophomore Max Schwartz (Bridgewater, N.J.) is coming off an injury and hopes to give the Ducks valuable minutes as an inside presence all season long. Schwartz is another player that needs to knock down open shots on a consistent basis and must help fill the void left by Franklin's departure with improved versatility inside.
Sophomore Kevin McManamy (Raleigh, N.C.) is a player with a great basketball IQ. He is eyeing big minutes this season, contributing as a shooter, strong team defender, rebounder, and decision-maker on both ends. McManamy played in all 29 games last year, averaging 11.4 minutes and canning 13 three-pointers. He also handed out 20 helpers in addition to pulling down 55 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Andrew Meszaros (Phoenixville, Pa.) has shown a lot of improvement in the preseason and will see an increased role after playing 23 games as a rookie. Meszaros has shown great energy and confidence early on and will be valuable as a scorer, rebounder, and defender. The Pennsylvania native worked hard over the summer on his skills, strength, and overall game.
Sophomore guard Matt Skrelja (Clark, N.J.) has a solid basketball IQ as well and noticeably improved throughout his freshman season. Skrelja should see more times as a sophomore and will look to display his versatility guarding and playing a number of different spots on the court. Skrelja averaged 6.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in 15.6 minutes as a freshman, while also handing out 39 assists.
Sophomore guard Phillip DeSeignora (Boston, Mass.) saw action in 10 games in his rookie season and is hoping to see that number increase as a second-year player. DeSeignora is a tireless worker who has improved all aspects of his game since his arrival on Castle Point in 2010.
Coach Hurley brought in a number of freshman that will all be competing for minutes: guard Nick Santalucia (Readington, N.J.). guard Chris Bellofatto (Clinton, N.J.), guard Chris Cutri (West Caldwell, N.J.), guard David Palty (Phoenix, Ariz.), forward Kenny Gan (Hillsborough, N.J.), forward Daniel Curry (Greenlawn, N.J.), and forward Nick Makris (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.).
After Tuesday night's game at Baruch, the Ducks will open up their home slate with the annual Stevens Tip-Off Tournament at the Canavan Arena where Stevens went 13-4 in 2010-11. The Ducks will take on SUNY Purchase in the opener and will then face on either William Paterson University or King's College on Saturday.
Fairleigh Dickinson University – Florham will come to Hoboken on November 22 before the Ducks take to the air for a trip to Pasadena and Los Angeles, Calif. While out West, Stevens will battle California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) and Occidental College on November 26 and 27. It will mark the team's first long-distance trip since 2005 when the Ducks headed to Phoenix, Ariz. for game's against Rockford College and Albright College.
When the Ducks return to home, they will host the College of Staten Island on December 3 before visiting the United States Merchant Marine Academy on December 6. The Mariners came in and knocked off the Ducks in a key in-region match-up last year. In its final contest of the before Winter Recess, Stevens will host Kean University on December 10.
Coach Hurley's alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will open up play in 2012 before the Ducks get into their conference ledger. After visiting Empire 8 rivals Alfred University and Elmira College on January 13 and 14, the Ducks will return to Castle Point for a five-game home stand, hosting Utica College, Ithaca College, Nazareth College, St. John Fisher College and defending Empire 8 Champion Hartwick College. The Hawks, Ithaca and Fisher, along with Stevens, were the four teams to reach the conference tournament in 2010-11.
The Ducks will hit the road for a pair of conference contests (at Ithaca and Utica) before closing out their non-conference schedule at Rutgers University – Newark on January 31. Stevens' final two home games of the season come against Elmira and Alfred before closing out the season at Fisher, Naz, and Hartwick February 10, 11, and 18.
The Empire 8 Championship will be February 24 and 25 with the winner earning the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Basketball Championship.
"We are looking to build on last year's ECAC Metro title and achieve our ultimate goal of an Empire 8 Championship," said Hurley. "If we focus on improving each day and bring maximum energy on both ends of the floor all the time, we have a chance to be successful."
All of Stevens' 13 home games will be webcast live at www.Empire8.tv along with select road contests. Stay up to date on everything Stevens men's basketball by "liking" us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/StevensAthletics and following on Twitter at @stevensducks (www.Twitter.com/StevensDucks).