PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The 2009-10 edition of the Plymouth State University men's basketball team makes its debut this weekend when the Panthers play in the annual Jacob's Bridge Through Autism Classic at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord.
The annual event, previously held on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, has been moved to a Nov. 15th affair. Plymouth State will meet New England College at 12 noon in the early game, followed by Keene State College vs. Colby-Sawyer College at 2:00 p.m. Now in its 10th year, the popular annual event helps raise money and awareness for families who have children with autism.
The Panthers will head to Norton, Mass., next weekend, Nov. 20-21, for the Wheaton College Tip-Off Tournament. PSU will meet Salve Regina in the Friday night game at six o'clock, followed by Wheaton against Lyndon State College in the second game at 8:00 p.m., with the consolation and championship games set for Saturday at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
PSU will then return home for six consecutive home games at Foley Gymnasium to close out the semester, starting with the home opener against Castleton State College on Tuesday, Nov. 24. The home stand also includes the Little East Conference debut against defending LEC tournament champion University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on Saturday, Dec. 5.
Another highlight to this year's schedule is a New Year's trip to West Palm Beach, Fla., for the Chuck Daly Memorial Classic at Northwood University on Jan. 1-2. PSU will face Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) and Northwood (Fla.), a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school whose men's basketball coach is the legendary Rollie Massamino.
The Panthers' schedule includes 25 regular season contests, including 14 Little East games. The LEC Tournament takes place the last week of February, with a champion being crowned on Feb. 27 and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2009-10 PSU Men's Basketball Outlook
PSU returns 13 veterans and four starters under 10th-year head coach John Scheinman, including seven of the top eight scorers and the top three rebounders. Scheinman says the ingredients are there for a successful season if the recipe is accurate.
"We have four starters returning from a team that finished third in the Little East," said Scheinman (right). I lot of things went our way last year for that to happen, but we're a lot more experienced this year with nine juniors and seniors. We hope to expand on last year's success."
The Panthers have a solid trio of wing players and as many as four options in the post, according to Scheinman. The key could be the play of the point guards.
"If we can get consistent point guard play, we have a chance to be very good," said Scheinman, who added that two returnees and two freshman are competing for that spot.
Senior captain Bryan Tracy (Manchester, N.H./Central) leads the group of perimeter players, along with senior Jason O'Keefe (Everett, Mass./Everett) and junior Ryan Lambert (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton). Tracy is a three-year starter who is a strong all-around player, and O'Keefe led the team in scoring last year with 13.8 points a game. Lambert had a solid rookie year off the Panther bench.
"Bryan Tracy is a tremendous leader," said Scheinman. "He backs up what he says. His peers vote him the hardest worker in practice every year. He's all about Plymouth State University and our basketball program. This is the first time in my career that we've only had one captain, and it's because of Bryan."
Also competing for playing time on the wing are junior Ian Dempsey (Andover, Mass./Andover), sophomores Brian Chergey (Bow, N.H./Bow) and Kyle Walker (Brooklyn, N.Y./Brooklyn College Academy), and junior Pat George (Newmarket, N.H./Newmarket), who is recovering from an injury.
Senior Mike Chergey (Bow, N.H./Bow) and junior Tom Dowd (Portsmouth, N.H./Portsmouth) are returning starters in the front court and give PSU a presence down low. An experience veteran, Chergey averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds last year while Dowd averaged 7.0 and 5.6 in his first year as a starter. Those two will combine with senior center Bill Stowell (Stratham, N.H./Exeter) and sophomore Jesse Sabolis (Stoughton, Mass./Stoughton) in the post.
"I am really excited about that group," said Scheinman. I like the depth and the way they complement each other. They each do something uniquely different."
The point guard challengers are senior Eric Hondal (Miami, Fla./Piper), junior Matt Feehan (Nashua, N.H./Nashua South), and freshmen Curtis Williams (Newmarket, N.H.) and Justin Hojlo (Pelham, N.H.) Hondal has the early nod, according to Scheinman, but the others are right in the m ix.
"Unlike last year, when I hadn't coached many of the players, this year things are running very seamless so far," said Scheinmen. "If the team plays mature and if we can find an identity, we can be very successful."
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