Westminster (Pa.) Men's Basketball Season Outlook
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - The wave of juniors making its way through
the Westminster College men's basketball team for the 2011-12
season represents progress and excitement. There are also some
unknowns because the group has not tasted success.
Ninth-year head coach Larry Ondako understands how difficult it can be prepare for a season with mostly freshmen and sophomores.
"We ended the season last year with no seniors and one junior," Ondako said. "Two years ago we basically started from scratch. Now you see the progress. It's a lot easier to have a good preseason when you have juniors and seniors."
Westminster's record was 7-19 for a second straight year in 2010-11 including a 3-11 mark for sixth place in the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC). The Titans return three starters, not including forward Rob Briggs who finished his career at Westminster in three years to pursue an engineering degree at Pitt. However, the team's lone senior in 2011-12 will be guard Max Spinner (Baton Raton, Fla./Boca Raton), a graduate student who first came to Westminster in 2006, started during the 2009-10 season, but sat out last season with an injury.
Spinner, who earned an honorable mention for the all-PAC team in 2010 with an 11.0 scoring average, can attest to the lull in the program but he returned to the team an extra year to see the progress come to fruition.
"We have guys with a lot of experience but not winning experience and you wonder how that will affect them," Ondako said. "We have a lot of juniors and we are expecting more from them but you wonder if they are ready to go. That'll be the big thing."
Of the three returning starters two are juniors in guard Doug Smith (South Park, Pa./South Park) and forward Adam Carswell (Painesville, Ohio/Notre Dame Cathedral Latin). Smith earned an honorable mention for the all-PAC team last year after he led the team with 14.0 points per game including five 20-point games. Carswell, at 6-feet-5, will be relied on to bolster the front court after averaging 4.0 rebounds and 5.4 points per game the last two years as a starter.
There are three other juniors on the roster who combined for 99 games and 37 starts including guard Ron Martino (Youngstown, Ohio/Cardinal Mooney), a starter from 2010, with 31 career games and 16 starts; guard Reuben King (Tarentum, Pa./Highlands), 46 games and 17 starts; and guard Matt Shiner (Clearfield, Pa./Clearfield), 22 games, 4 starts.
Despite the influx of juniors, the most important player on the floor will be sophomore Anthony Thomas (New Castle, Pa./Union), the team's returning starting point guard. Thomas earned an honorable mention for the all-PAC team last year after starting every game and averaging 11.0 points and ranking fourth in the PAC with 4.6 assists per game. He scored in double figures 12 times including three with 20 or more points.
"It all starts with the point guard," Ondako said. "Anytime we've been good here we've had a good point guard. For Anthony to get an honorable mention for the all-PAC team as a freshman speaks of how good he can be."
Ondako credits having one of the best point guards in the PAC in Thomas and one of the best shooters in the PAC in Smith as defining characteristics for his team in 2011-12.
"We'll need to play fast," Ondako said. "We don't have a lot of height and presence to win games, 60-58."