By Ben Payner
When Asked in October about a hypothetical fantasy basketball league made up of players from NCAC teams, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dan Priest said Tim Connolly ’16 would be the sleeper pick in the league’s draft. Connolly, Kenyon’s starting point guard, carried the Lords in their opening weekend at the Westminster College Tournament (New Wilmington, Pa.), where they lost two close games by scores of 93-81 and 73-59. Connolly showed that he will be a leader on a team that must work to replace the nucleus of last year’s squad.
After Julian Pavlin ’14, Brian Lebowitz ’14 and Ikenna Nwadibia ’14, all of whom were three-year starters, graduated last May, the upcoming season will certainly be a test for the Lords. The preseason coaches’ poll agrees, with Kenyon projected to drop two spots to seventh overall in the conference.
What outsiders may fail to realize, however, is that this Lords team is well-stocked with seniors and juniors; though they may have lost great players, they are by no means a young team. Co-captain John Bray ’15, a staff writer for the Collegian, emphasized this fact.
“We graduated a lot of important players,” he said. “But we have guys with a great deal of experience, and now it’s our turn to step up.”
Co-captains Cooper Handelsman ’15, Jonathan Amador ’15 and Bray — all of whom have starting experience — will fill the holes left by Pavlin, Lebowitz and Nwadibia. The fourth co-captain, Connor Garrity ’15, provides toughness and rebounding off the bench. The other two starters will be Brien Comey ’16, who stepped into a starting role in the middle of last year, and Connolly.
Despite the team’s struggles, Connolly did not disappoint this weekend. In the opening 93-81 loss to host Westminster College, Connolly poured in a career-high 24 points on 8-16 shooting (6-8 from the free-throw line) to go along with four rebounds and three assists. In the following game, he led the Lords once again with 15 points, despite playing only 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Over the weekend, he averaged 19.5 points on 50-percent shooting from the field, which includes a 50-percent rate from behind the arc.
Other strong performers from the weekend were Handelsman, who is averaging 12 points per game to go along with five rebounds per game, and Dan Voigt ’16, who had a double-double in a 73-59 consolation-match loss to Thiel College (Greenville, Pa.). Voigt is a player to keep an eye on; he is a 6-foot-7 power forward who can stretch the floor and make threes. Voigt made four 3-pointers over the weekend, and when he is in the game, he spaces the floor for Connolly and Handelsman to create scoring opportunities for their teammates.
It is too early to jump to any definitive conclusions about the Lords’ prospects this year. While they do have lots of experience individually at this level, they do not have lots of experience playing as a unit.
“The weekend was a tough start, but we are looking to bounce back with the two games we have before Thanksgiving break,” Handelsman said after the tournament. “For the season ahead, we just need to keep working together as a team.”
On Tuesday night, the Lords hosted Ohio Wesleyan University at Tomsich Arena for their home opener, and fell 95-86. Both halves were close (44-39 in the first half, 51-47 in the second), and Connolly continued his torrid pace with 23 points and three assists. However, Kenyon was unable to mount a strong enough comeback at the end, and was again left in search of its first win of the year.