PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new era of men's basketball at Plymouth State College gets underway this weekend at Foley Gymnasium when PSC hosts the 1999 Panther Tip-Off Classic.
The tournament marks the debut of new Panther head coach John Scheinman, who was the head coach at New England College the past three seasons. Scheinman joined the PSC staff last summer in place of former coach Jim Ferry, who left after one season to become the head men's basketball coach at Adelphi University.
The Panthers will host Curry College, Ithaca College and the University of Southern Maine in this year's tournament. The pairings are pre-set with PSC and Southern Maine each facing the other two, because PSC and USM meet twice in Little East Conference games later this season.
The action tips off Friday at 6 p.m. with the USM-Ithaca contest, followed at 8 p.m. by the PSC-Curry encounter. Southern Maine and Curry tangle Saturday at 6 p.m., and Plymouth State and Ithaca wrap things up at 8 p.m.
Plymouth State lost five seniors from last year's team that won a school-record 22 games and advanced to the championship games of the Little East and ECAC New England Tournaments, but Scheinman is confident the Panthers will be competitive and have a strong season.
1999-2000 P.S.C. Men's Basketball Outlook
The return of eight veterans from last year's 22-8 squad will be key as Plymouth State works with its third head coach in three years. The Panthers will also look to the newcomers to help replace the five graduated seniors. Scheinman is pleased with the leadership, which has helped for a smooth transition.
"The guys have been great," said Scheinman. "It's been a little slow in the beginning with the new system. The freshmen have picked it up quicker than the upper classmen because they were anticipating the change from high school to college."
Scheinman has his work cut out for him as the Panthers will have to replace First Team All-America guard Adam DeChristopher and fellow starters Jamal Pettiford-Jones, Eric McQueen and Todd Steffanides.
PSC has two seniors and a junior as captains this season - senior guards JaModi Robinson (Framingham, MA) and Keith Fiore (Somers, NY) and junior forward Tony Martinez (Barnstead, NH).
Robinson should lead a contingent of swing players that include a sophomore and three freshmen who could get significant playing time. Robinson averaged a career-high 7.4 points a game last season, shooting 41.2 percent from three-point range. Another veteran outside shooter returning for PSC is senior Todd Martin (East Bridgewater, Mass.), who hopes to stay away from the injuries that limited him to 11 games last season
Scheinman expects two freshmen to start at the guard spots, Dan Craig (Chelmsford, Mass.) at the point and Kenny Stewart (Londonderry, NH) as an off-guard. Classmate Mark Dunham (Derry, NH) will also see plenty of minutes, as will sophomore Larry Francoeur (Somersworth, NH), who played for Scheinman at NEC last season.
"I'm not concerned about our youth at the guard spot," said Scheinman. "They work as hard as any group of kids I've been around in all my years of coaching. I'm not worried about them at all."
The Panthers have four upperclassmen returning to the inside positions in the frontcourt. Martinez is PSC's top returnee in scoring (12.0 ppg) and field goal percentage (.546), along with his solid 5.9 rebounds a game. Senior Shannon Gallagher (Plymouth, NH) is expected to start after coming off the bench last season to contribute 10.0 points and 6.0 rebounds a contest. Junior Ryan Bishop (Cohasset, Mass.) and sophomore Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.) saw only limited action in the past, but are likely to log increased playing time this season.
"We've got strength in our depth in the post area," said Scheinman. "I've got confidence in any one of those four guys. They can rebound and defend, and they've got the ability to knock down the open shot."
Rounding out the roster are junior forward Warren Ostler (Morrisville, VT), freshman guard Jeff Mullin (Derry, NH) and freshman forward Michael Kalbfell (Somers, NY).
"Our goal is to compete for the Little East Conference championship," said Scheinman, " and be the best team we can be in March. We have a whole new team with a new coach, new players and a new system, but we've got a chance to come together. I think this can be a very good season."
-- 30 --