PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new men's basketball season at Plymouth State University begins this weekend when the Panthers participate in the Babson/Irving Invitational in Wellesley, Mass.
The Panthers will meet Mount Ida College on Friday at 5:30 p.m., with Babson facing Colby-Sawyer at 7:30 p.m. The consolation game is Saturday at 1:00 p.m., followed by the championship contest at 3:00 p.m.
PSU will play its home opener at Foley Gymnasium next Tuesday, Nov. 25, against Castleton State (Vt.) College (7:30 p.m.), leading into the Thanksgiving break. After two more non-conference match-ups, the Little East Conference portion of the schedule begins for PSU on Saturday, Dec. 6, at Rhode Island College.
Plymouth State will take part in two key events in December that promote college basketball in the Granite State. The Panthers will meet New England College on Tuesday, Dec. 2nd, in the Jacob's Bridge Through Autism Classic, hosted by N.H. Technical Institute in Concord, with Keene State facing Colby-Sawyer in the event's nightcap. PSU will also battle Keene State at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Sunday, Dec. 14, in the opening game of the New Hampshire Hoops Classic, a tripleheader featuring the marquis Division I, II and III schools from the state playing on one day under one roof.
The Panthers' schedule includes 25 regular season games, including 14 conference encounters. The Little East Tournament begins the last week of February, with a champion being crowned on Feb. 28 and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2003-04 PSU Men's Basketball Outlook
Plymouth State is coming off a successful 21-8 campaign, its 10th straight winning season and its first 20-win season since 1998-99. The Panthers finished second in the Little East during the regular season (10-4) and only a last-second basket by Western Connecticut in the LEC Championship game prevented PSU from capturing the conference title. The team advanced to the post-season, nonetheless, making its second consecutive ECAC Tourney appearance.
Fifth-year head coach John Scheinman welcomes back four of last year's five starters, along with plenty of depth, for what he think should be another strong season for the Panthers.
"Our goal, as usual, is to win the Little East Conference, and we think we can do it," says Scheinman. "We were within seconds of doing it last year, and we return four starters. Six of our top eight players are juniors or seniors with a wealth of college basketball experience. This is the most depth we've ever had. We've been deep before, but not like this."
Leading the cast of returnees is junior guard Nick Pelotte (Bingham, Maine), the LEC Co-Player of the Year last season. The speedy Pelotte averaged 18.6 points a game and earned First Team All-New England honors. He knocked down 67 three-pointers last year, and can also handle the point, where he'll play this season.
Joining Pelotte in the starting backcourt is senior co-captain Mike Loughlin (Manchester, N.H./West), who averaged 10 points a game as a starter two years ago. He missed the first month of last season with an injury, but came on strong down the stretch, averaging 13 points a game off the bench over his last eight outings.
"We'll miss Kenny Stewart, who was our senior leader at point guard last season," says Scheinman, "but we have two excellent returnees at guard with Nick and Mike. They should be as good as any tandem in the league."
Scheinman adds that junior Jay Boyle (Woburn, Mass.) and sophomore Pete Hutchins (New London, N.H.) will also see plenty of playing time at guard. Boyle, a transfer from Merrimack, is a strong outside shooter and Hutchins is just a steady, all-around player.
Junior Anthony Oglesby (Brooklyn, N.Y.), a First Team All-LEC pick a year ago, returns to lead the frontcourt. He averaged 15.6 points and 8.8 rebounds and is as athletic as anyone in the league, providing difficulties for opponents. He'll be joined at forward by senior co-captain J.J. Truman (Enfield, N.H.), who offers leadership, outside shooting and strong defense.
"Anthony is lightning quick," says Scheinman, "and is one of the top players in New England. J.J. just knows how to play basketball; he does the stuff you can't teach."
The fifth starter will be senior co-captain Ryan Chicoine (Gorham, Maine), who provides strong rebounding and defense. The 6'7" center has also hit on more than 50 percent of his shots every season. Sophomore center Kevin Boutilier (North Andover, Mass.) returns after starting 25 games last season.
Freshman Andreas Pope (Brooklyn, N.Y.), a transfer from South Carolina State, is likely to make the biggest impact among the newcomers, according to Scheinman. He's strong, powerful and talented, and will be in the frontcourt rotation. Freshman Devin Ruocco (Dover, N.H.) should also see action as a back-up at small forward, as well as freshmen Andy Carey (Cumberland, Maine) and Mike Walcek (Dover, N.H.).
The rest of the returnees looking to contribute are junior forward Joey Mattson (Center Harbor, N.H.), sophomore forward Charles Gaddy (Hartford, Conn.) and sophomore guards Brandon Boggs (Center Strafford, N.H.) and Mike Sullivan (Brookline, N.H.). The other newcomers are freshman forward Mike Lambert (Rochester, N.H.) and freshman guard Jesse Bopp (Henniker, N.H.).
"We should be the kind of team that defends and rebounds, and plays up-tempo offensively," says Scheinman. "Our returnees have gotten better, and hopefully we'll be playing our best basketball at the end of the season when it counts the most."