|Cory Soanes and Ramapo rose above Salisbury at the D3hoops.com Classic and rose into the national rankings this week.
Photo by Larry Radloff, D3photography.com
Chuck McBreen preaches "machine-like consistency" to his team. The Ramapo men's basketball head coach is so committed to this philosophy that this season he gave each player a t-shirt espousing it. On the back of the black shirt, in large, white, capital letters, is the word "WIN," followed by an exclamation point. Below are three lines, in slightly smaller white capital letters: "EVERY REP," "EVERY DRILL," and "EVERY DAY."
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These phrases—“machine-like consistency” and the ones on the shirt—come from Lee Rubin, a former Penn State football player and current motivational speaker who spoke to Ramapo in a previous year, McBreen said. For McBreen, these ideas are keys to Ramapo’s success.
“Until we become machine-like consistent in practice, there’s going to be times in the game where the game’s like a roller coaster,” he said. “There’s times where we crash and all, because we’re not machine-like consistency yet.”
Like the time against then-No. 5 Salisbury on Dec. 28 when Ramapo went 0-for-7 from the foul line in the final four minutes. Or the time at Rutgers-Camden on January 4 when the Roadrunners trailed by 20 points at halftime.
Ramapo is not yet winning every rep, every drill, every day. But the Roadrunners are winning every game. They are undefeated through their first 12 contests, including a 6-0 start to NJAC play, and have won nine of their games by double digits.
Ramapo is a balanced and deep team with an up-tempo style of play. Only one player—junior forward Thomas Bonacum, a three-year starter—averages more than 30 minutes per contest. Even that, according to McBreen, is one player too many.
“We want to play 12, 13 guys, wear opponents down, and play the game at our pace,” McBreen said. “In a perfect world, I would try to keep everybody probably below 26 minutes if I could.”
Ramapo returned four starters from last year’s 16-10 (12-6 NJAC) team: Bonacum, junior forward Christopher Moseley, junior guard James Long, and junior guard Josh Ford. Senior center Sultan Aminu, a transfer from Division II East Stroudsburg, joined the starting lineup this season. Bonacum is Ramapo’s leading scorer with 17.5 points per game, followed by Moseley (14.5) and Aminu (11.7).
Though no one else averages double figures in scoring, several players have had big games. Junior forward Nick Stanek scored 12 points on five-for-seven shooting against Farmingdale State on Dec. 15. Freshman guard Patrick Peterson, who has played in four games since returning from left wrist surgery, made five of six field goals and finished with 11 points and five rebounds against Gustavus Adolphus on Dec. 29. Senior guard Cory Soanes had a double-double in that game, with 19 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Bonacum had a big game of his own in Ramapo’s 86-69 win over Stockton on Dec. 3. He finished with game highs of 33 points and 16 rebounds.
“Sometimes I can see that we need a spark, so I try to be more aggressive,” he said.
Ramapo’s balance was on display against Salisbury. It was Ford (8.9 points per game) who scored the Roadrunners’ last nine points. He and Bonacum finished with a team-high 12 points apiece, while Moseley and Aminu each scored 11.
“That game was a perfect illustration of our team,” Aminu said.
Soanes, who has come off the bench in all 12 games and averages 7.3 points per contest, had an emphatic one-handed dunk against Salisbury that had Bonacum, among others, celebrating on the Ramapo bench.
Ramapo’s 66-65 win propelled the Roadrunners into the national rankings for the first time this year (No. 19) and contributed to Salisbury falling to No. 15.
“We knew we were pretty good,” McBreen said. “But we were using Salisbury as the barometer.”
But Ramapo was also plagued by the inconsistency that McBreen is hoping to eradicate. The Roadrunners led by as many as 12 points in the second half before winning by only one. They made just 15 of 31 free throws.
Ramapo will be tested again soon, with a home game against the College of New Jersey (8-4, 5-1 NJAC) on Jan. 7 and a road contest at No. 23 New Jersey City (11-2, 5-1) on January. 14. Ramapo fell to TCNJ in the NJAC quarterfinals last season.
“Those teams are going to dig in late and get stops,” McBreen said. “We’re going to have to get stops as well.”