AMHERST, Mass. – It would be fair to say that the Amherst College men's basketball flew under the radar for a good portion of last season, but when the dust settled the Mammoths had defeated two nationally ranked teams on the final weekend and were the #1 seed in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament.
Head Coach David Hixon, entering his 42nd season, is hoping that a young and talented Mammoths team can follow a similar blueprint in the 2018-19 season, which tips off Friday night with the Ken Wright '52 Invitational tournament.
While Amherst (17-9 in 2017-18) graduated their two leading scorers, the rest of the returners have ample playing experience, which has allowed them to move quickly through their preseason practice plans.
"We're a bit young, and a little bit of an unknown if you asked people in the NESCAC who features for Amherst," said Hixon, who surpassed the 800-career win plateau at the end of last season. "It's a great group of kids, though, with a great work ethic and they have all worked on what we have asked them to and have come back better."
Schneider, who had a team-leading 40 blocks as well as 135 rebounds last year, was a big reason why the Mammoths were the top team in the country in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 37.1% from the field.
Bachmann will be joined by Josh Chery '20 as a co-captain for the coming season. Chery emerged late last year, making the game-winning shot in the NESCAC quarterfinals against Bowdoin, and has continued to work on his shot this offseason.
Returning sophomores Grant Robinson and Garrett Day anchor the guard position. Robinson had a breakout rookie year, averaging 9.4 points, 3.4 assists and nearly a steal per game. Fans of the Mammoths will get to see Robinson and Day share the court more often this year.
Returning from an ACL injury, Timmy McCarthy '21 will get the chance to play to his full potential this year. In just eight games, Timmy was 17-37 (45.9%) from behind the three-point line. Fellow sharpshooter Tommy Mobley '20 shot 34.8% from long range, averaging nearly 4.5 points per contest.
Eric Sellew '20 and Fru Che '21 each averaged more than eight points a game last year and provide talent and versatility in the lineup. Sellew averaged nearly six rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, while Che provides an athletic presence who can defend, run the floor and has improved his shot.
The group of returners travelled to Italy and Greece a few months ago to play exhibition games against semi-professional European teams, and Hixon was impressed by the play and the composition of the unit.
"It's a really interesting group. They are fun, young and they get the fact that they need to play harder than other teams to win," said Hixon. "I like that we are very deep – we could have three guys slot in at every position, so I see us surviving foul trouble."
Adding to the group will be four incoming first year student-athletes. Will Phelan (Quincy, Mass.) has already proven to be a threat at the top three positions in the lineup. Devonn Allen (Danvers, Mass.) is a strong defender and shooter at the guard spot while Michael Schretter (Ridgewood, N.J.) adds good height and depth down low.
Luka Duranovic is a swing player from Serbia, one of the first true International students that Hixon has brought in. A strong player who can get to the basket, Duranovic was offered a spot on the U-16 team for Serbia, but opted to pursue an education in the United States and has proven to be an organized and diligent student and a serious basketball player who works hard on his game.
Amherst opens their season with seven games at home before the end of the year. Non-conference games include Babson, Emerson, Lasell and Westfield State in addition to the opening tip off against Framingham State and either Kean or MCLA.
Conference play starts on Friday, January 4th at home against Trinity. The Mammoths will host Williams on January 16th in a Little Three matchup and will begin February with home games against Tufts, Bates and Wesleyan before closing out the regular season at Williams and Middlebury on February 8th-9th.