The Amherst men's basketball team returns to the court for the 2016-17 campaign ranked first in the nation in the D3hoops.com Preseason Coaches Poll for the first time since 2013-14 following the program's second NCAA Division III championship.
Under the guidance of legendary head coach David Hixon '75 (767-271 overall) – now in his 40th season at the helm – Amherst returns all but one of its key contributors from last year's Final Four squad that finished the 2015-16 season 26-6 overall. The Purple & White made their 18th overall appearance in the NCAA tournament last year, and sixth straight, advancing to the national semifinals for a seventh time in program history before falling to national runner-up Benedictine. Entering the 2016-17 season, Amherst will showcase a talented roster that includes eight seniors, three juniors, four sophomores, and four first-years.
"It was a good year for us, but we also had some good fortune," Hixon noted of the 2015-16 season. "I hope we continue to be good, we look pretty good in practice right now, so we hope that continues. We have a lot of depth which should serve us well."
The Purple & White will play eight of their first 10 games in the friendly confines of LeFrak Gymnasium where Amherst finished with an unblemished, 13-0 record in 2015-16. Amherst hosts the 16th annual Ken Wright '52 Invitational Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19, and will take on Green Mountain in the opener at 6 p.m. on Friday. Following tournament action, the Purple & White will host five games in a row including Westfield State (Nov. 29), Emerson (Dec. 3), Brandeis (Dec. 6), Babson (Dec. 8), Lasell (Dec. 10) and Keystone (Dec. 31). The team's two away games during the 2016 portion of the slate are at Anna Maria (Nov. 21) and at Springfield on Dec. 14.
Enter the new year, Amherst travels to Eastern Connecticut State (Jan. 3), before heading to NESCAC rival Williams to open up its league slate on Jan. 6. The stage is then set for a Little III battle with Wesleyan on Jan. 13 in Middletown, Conn. before the Purple & White's four-game road trip wraps up at Conn. College the following day. Amherst returns home seven of the next eight contests against Bowdoin (Jan. 20), Colby (Jan. 21), Williams (Jan. 25 in Little III play), Trinity (Jan. 28), Bates (Feb. 3), Tufts (Feb. 4) and Wesleyan (Feb. 7 in Little III action). A non-league midweek tilt at Rhode Island College will take place on Jan. 31, before the Purple & White conclude their regular season at Middlebury and at Hamilton on Feb. 10 and 11 respectively.
The Amherst backcourt returns all but one player from last year's squad in Connor Green '16 – a Second Team All-NESCAC and D3hoops.com All-Region selection a year ago. After a stellar first season, Johnny McCarthy '18 enjoyed a terrific sophomore campaign, and was the team's second leading scorer with 415 points (13.0 points per game). McCarthy hit on 45.5% of his shots from the floor and 36.2% from three-point range. He was also the team's third-leading rebounder (191) and assist man (62), while leading the team in steals with 41. McCarthy scored a single-game, career-high 25 points at Bates last February, and also pulled in a single-game collegiate career-high 13 boards against the Bobcats.
A threat from beyond-the-arc, Jeff Racy '17 canned 95 treys and logged a 48.7% mark from long distance en route to 358 points. Racy also grabbed seven rebounds at Wesleyan last season – tying his single-game high in the category. Joining him in the backcourt are seniors Reid Berman and Diego Magana, along with juniors Jayde Dawson and Michael Riopel. Berman dished out a team-high 132 assists last season, while Dawson scored 377 points, handed out 106 assists, and collected 32 steals in 2015-16. Riopel was a pivotal contributor off the bench for Amherst netting 230 points, including 62-of-75 free throws (82.7%) in addition to pulling in 119 rebounds.
The frontcourt will be anchored by the senior trio of David George, Jacob Nabatoff and Eric Conklin. George swatted 66 shots last season, and was a force on the glass, hauling in 202 rebounds in 2015-16. Conklin added 131 boards, and blocked 25 shots, while Nabatoff posted 30 rebounds and eight blocks a year ago. George averaged 6.3 rebounds per game and 8.9 points per contest, and led the team with an impressive 59.8 field goal percentage.
Amherst will also look to the veteran leadership of Brady Holding '17, Christien Wright '18, and sophomores Dylan Groff, C.J. Bachmann, and Joseph Schneider. The Purple & White will also look for an immediate impact from skilled first-years Josh Chery and Eric Sellew.
Not yet a member of the Friends of Amherst Men's Basketball for the 2016-17 year? Become a first-time member of or renew your membership in the FAA and support Coach Hixon and the men's basketball program. Make a gift ahead of the team's first home game on Friday, November 18 against Green Mountain at LeFrak Gymnasium. Go Amherst!