Section: Sports

Lords look for returning players to fill big shoes this season

Lords look for returning players to fill big shoes this season

The Lords basketball team finished last year’s season right in the middle of the pack, posting an 11-15 record and concluding their season ranked sixth among the 10 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) teams. Kenyon’s gameplay was marked by the performances of Tim Connolly ’16 and Brien Comey ’16. There is not a single category — from scoring to minutes played — in which either Comey or Connolly did not lead the team, according to Kenyon Athletics’ 2015-16 Cumulative Statistics. That said, the Lords feel they have a strong enough returning group, along with eight talented first years, to leave their mark on the NCAC this year.

Alex Powell ’18 predicts that, regardless of losing Connolly and Comey, the team is slated to be even better this season. “[Connolly and Comey] provided a lot of scoring,” he said, but this year is all about “having a much more balanced attack.”

Tim Connolly ’16 shoots a runner against Denison on Feb. 10. Connolly led Lords basketball in scoring with 19.8 points per game last season. | Courtesy of Kenyon Athletics
Tim Connolly ’16 shoots a runner against Denison on Feb. 10. Connolly led Lords basketball in scoring with 19.8 points per game last season. | Courtesy of Kenyon Athletics

Head Coach Dan Priest believes that the team’s spacing will also be stronger. “We shoot better as a team,” he said. “And the five juniors have all changed physically,” he added, referring to the returning players’ commitment to spend ample time in the offseason in the gym and the weight room.

Shooting is a big priority for this team — Priest wants the Lords to shoot more threes this season. The team has made a concerted effort to become a consistent shooting team, and the players are taking not just any shots, but the right shots. “We have a lot of unselfish guys willing to give up an extra shot,” Powell said.

This Lords team seems to be in the middle of a multi-year development too; two years ago, Powell was the only player to shoot over 40 percent from behind the arc. Last year, Matt Shifrin ’19 was the only one who shot over 40 percent. This year, Powell says that, from guards to forwards, the team has improved its ability to shoot, and the addition of some talented first years has been a boon as well.

“It helps that we do have such a core group of returning guys who are good-character guys,” Powell said. “I think that helps the younger guys fit in.”

The Lords will need all the chemistry they can find to avoid falling behind early in a conference of basketball powerhouses. The NCAC is one of the most competitive conferences in the country: Ohio Wesleyan University (0-0; NCAC 0-0) is the 10th-best Division-III team in the country, according to D3Hoops.com, and The College of Wooster (1-0; NCAC 0-0) and Hiram College  (1-0; NCAC 0-0) are both regionally ranked.

This year, Kenyon wants to situate itself among these teams. The top four teams in the conference will host a home conference tournament game, and Priest considers hosting one of those games a paramount goal.

To reach the tournament, the Lords will need to work out a few hitches in their offense early this season. In the first game of the season, Kenyon (0-1; NCAC 0-0) lost to Muskingum University (1-0; New Concord, Ohio) on Tuesday. The Lords could not find the shooting stroke they wanted, going 1-6 on three-point shots, and lost the game 85-60. Phillip Crampton ’18 led the team with 13 points and nine rebounds.

The Lords stay on the road this weekend, playing against Trine University (1-0; Angola, Ind.) tomorrow and Albion College (0-0; Albion, Mich.) on Saturday. Kenyon opens at home on Nov. 22 against Earlham College (0-0; Richmond, Ind.). After that, the Lords begin their quest for a top spot in the NCAC at Denison University (1-0; NCAC 0-0) on Dec. 3.

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