by Chris Kilmer
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - For the first time since 1989, there will be a new coach patrolling the sideline for the Plymouth State College men's basketball team.
The new-look Panthers will make their debut under head coach Jim Ferry this weekend in the New Hampshire Tap-Off Tournament in Concord, N.H. The tournament is at the Crocker Center, hosted by the New Hampshire Techincal Institute, who will also play two regular season games Friday and Saturday.
The tourney format has Plymouth State opening up Friday at 6 p.m. against Mt. Ida College of Newton, Mass. Notre Dame College of Manchester and St. Joseph's College of Rutland, Vt., will play in the first game at 4 p.m., with NHTI meeting Central Maine Technical College at 8 p.m.
Saturday's schedule has the tournament championship game slated for 5 p.m., following the 1 p.m. consolation game and NHTI's 3 p.m. contest against powerful Bunker Hill Community College.
The Panthers will then be idle until a Dec. 3rd encounter at always-strong Salem State and the Little East Conference opener Dec. 5th at Western Connecticut. The home opener is Monday, Dec. 7th, against Rivier. A highlight on this year's schedule is the Panther Holiday Classic at Foley Gymnasium on Dec. 29-30.
Ferry, a 1990 Keene State graduate and an assistant coach at Bentley the past seven seasons, takes over from Paul Hogan, who coached the team the past eight years. Hogan is now athletic director at Spaulding High School in Rochester, N.H.
Ferry will have the luxury of 12 returning veterans as well as a solid transfer. He's guiding a team that went 19-8 overall and shared the Little East Conference regular season title with a 12-2 mark. The Panthers were a post-season team last year, accepting an invitation to the ECAC New England Tourament.
1998-99 PSC MEN'S BASKETBALL OUTLOOK
Ferry is excited about the challenge of leading the Panthers through a tough Little East Conference.
"We want to win the LEC outright," said Ferry. "We want to win the conference championship and then move on to the NCAA Tournament. We definitely have the ability to do so, we just have to put it together. We need to work hard and put the pieces together as a group in order to attain our goal."
Ferry has plenty of outstanding returnees, led by LEC Player of the Year and Sporting News pre-season All-American Adam DeChristopher (Brockton, MA). The senior point guard was in the top six in the LEC in five different categories, finishing second in scoring (19.3), fourth in three-point percentage (.374) and sixth in assists (3.3), steals (2.4) and field goal percentage (.445).
DeChristopher also needs just 41 points to move into second on PSC's all-time scoring list, passing Dave Levesque (1,475 points from 1988-91). With 1,434 career points, he could become the second Panther to eclipse the 2,000-point mark, although it's unlikely he'll catch all-time leader Moses Jean-Pierre (2,483 from 1990-94).
"We're going to run a motion offense, and use the strengths we have, and Adam is obviously a big key to the success of the program," said Ferry. "A lot of people will be coming after him and challenging him, so other people will need to step up and play their roles, too."
Joining DeChristopher in leadership roles are the other two senior captains, Eric McQueen (Lawrence, MA) and Todd Steffanides (Fitchburg, MA). McQueen earned Honorable Mention on the All-LEC Team last season, averaging 11.1 points a game, and his outstanding athletic ability is key to the Panthers and can ignite the crowd. Steffanides made great strides last year, and provides valuable minutes off the bench at both guard spots.
"We have great team leadership," said Ferry. "That's helped me out immensely in my transition."
Adding to that leadership are seniors Jamal Pettiford-Jones (Portsmouth, NH) and Josh Farnsworth (Windsor, VT). Farnsworth is a sharp-shooting guard who has been in and out of the line-up the past two seasons, and Pettiford-Jones will be looked at to help replace Doug Stokes and Ace Elefteriadis in the rebounding department. Pettiford-Jones averaged 4.1 boards and 4.0 points, and provides the team an emotional spark.
Sophomore Tony Martinez (Barnstead, NH) may have worked his way into the starting line-up. The power forward 4.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in eight minutes a game last season, and with increased playing time, he could put up some strong numbers. He is playing for a new head coach for the sixth straight season.
"Tony has been playing very well for us," said Ferry. "He's very physical and has stepped up his game."
Ferry has plenty of depth on the bench, led by Steffanides and juniors JaModi Robinson (Framingham, MA) and Todd Martin (East Bridgewater, MA). Robinson averaged 5.7 points for PSC last season and added 38 steals, and his explosive speed will help keep the Panthers running. Martin returns after sitting out last season; he provides Ferry with another solid scorer off the bench.
Rounding out the squad are sophomore transfer Shannon Gallagher (Plymouth, NH), sophomore center Ryan Bishop (Cohasset, MA), junior guards Keith Fiore (Somers, NY) and Eban Delano (North Conway, NH), sophomore forward Warren Ostler (Morrisville, VT) and freshman Jason Blackburn (Hudson, MA).
Gallagher transferred from Norwich University, and will be eligible for PSC at the end of the first semester. He and Bishop will give a boost to a relatively inexperienced frontcourt as the Panthers recover from the loss of Stokes and Elefteriadis. Ace was a First Team All-LEC selection who averaged 15.8 points and 6.1 rebounds while hitting 60 three-pointers. Stokes was a pure inside player who thrived on emotion, and his hard work down low will be hard to replace.
"This is one of the toughest leagues in the country," Ferry said. "If you don't come ready to play night in and night out, the last place team is going to beat the first place team, and it happens all the time."
"We've been working hard in the pre-season," added Ferry, who has new assistants in Colby-Sawyer graduates Jim McGilvery and Pat Quinn. "I'm anxiously looking forward to competing for the first time in the LEC because I think we have a team that if we put it together, can be right there competing for the championship spot and an NCAA berth. "
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