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PSU Men’s Basketball to open 2006-07 season this weekend

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University men's basketball team opens the 2006-07 campaign this weekend, hosting the Cobblestone Inn Tip-Off Tournament Friday and Saturday at Foley Gymnasium.

The Panthers will meet Centenary (N.J.) in the tourney opener Friday at 5:30 p.m., with Husson College and Wheaton College battling in the second game at 7:30 p.m. The consolation game is Saturday at 1:00 p.m., with the championship contest set for 3:00 p.m.

PSU will have four more home games in December as part of the first-semester schedule, including the first three Saturdays of the month.

Another highlight of the schedule is PSU's annual participation in the annual Jacob's Bridge Through Autism Classic, hosted by N.H. Technical Institute in Concord on Nov. 28. PSU will meet Colby-Sawyer in the second game at 7:30 p.m., following the 5:30 p.m. contest between New England College and Keene State. The annual event helps raise money and awareness for families who have children with autism.

The Panthers' schedule includes 25 regular season contests, including 14 Little East Conference games. The LEC Tournament takes place the last week of February, with a champion being crowned on Feb. 24 and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.

2006-07 PSU Men's Basketball Outlook

Plymouth State will have a different look this year following the loss of five seniors from last year's team, including four starters. Eighth-year head coach John Scheinman has seven returning veterans and six newcomers who will make up this year's squad.

"We lost a lot of guys who played a lot of minutes," says Scheinman (right), "but we have several guys who've been in the program a year or two who are back and they are going to have to step up, and I believe they will. We also have some newcomers who will contribute, probably the most newcomers that have played for us in a good number of years. There are a lot of questions right now as to who will fill what roles."

The Panthers have been to the post-season five straight years and have recorded 13 straight winning seasons, and Scheinman says this squad could keep both streaks alive. PSU finished 16-11 overall last season after finishing fourth in the Little East Conference during the regular season and falling in the first round of the ECAC New England Tournament.

"There's a great deal of potential with this team, which is exciting," says Scheinman. "The sky is the limit. We have a couple of kids who could be a rookie of the year. They're picking things up fast."

Senior forward Mike Walcek (Dover, N.H.), an All-LEC Second Team pick, is the only returning starter for PSU and will be looked to as one of the leaders. He averaged 13.1 points and 5.7 rebounds last season and has an excellent shooting touch, hitting 51.0 percent of his field goal attempts and 40.6 of his three-point tries.

Other returnees who are likely to see increased playing time this season are senior forward Devin Ruocco (Dover, N.H.), junior guard Phil Bourassa (Old Orchard Beach, Maine/Biddeford), senior guard Jesse Bopp (Henniker, N.H./Bishop Brady), and three sophomores -- center Sean Hanlon (Hampstead, N.H.)/Central Catholic), forward Chris Wilkinson (Newmarket, N.H.), and guard Ben Huntington (Hampstead, N.H./Pinkerton).

"They're all working hard," says Scheinman. "We'll need contributions from everyone. If we can come together as a team, we'll be fine."

Scheinman says that he's pleased with the group of newcomers. Freshman guard Jason O'Keefe (Everett, Mass.) can contribute as a shooter, freshman center Mike Chergey (Bow, N.H.) can help out in the front court, and freshmen Bryan Tracy (Manchester, N.H./Central) can handle the job on the wing.

Rounding out the roster is three other freshmen, point guard Eric Hondal (Miami, Fla./Piper) and wing players Adrian Gross (New Durham, N.H./Kingswood) and Sean Kryander (Pittsfield, N.H.)

"Our goal every year is to win the Little East, and that hasn't changed," says Scheinman. "This is a much different team so we need to develop our identity and come together so we're playing our best basketball in February, so we can continue playing in March."

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