- The 2004-05 edition of the William and Mary men's basketball team will have a dramatically different look in head coach Tony Shaver's second season leading the Green and Gold. Gone are three-year starter Zeb Cope and two-time First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association pick Adam Hess, but rising to take their place will be six newcomers*four freshmen and two junior transfers*who will be making their W&M debut in 2004-05. The added depth is something Shaver believes will be crucial to the success of the program.
"These new players will definitely make us more athletic and allow us to play more of a full-court, up-tempo game," explains Shaver. "That's exciting for us. We will have more athleticism and more quickness on the floor this year, which will allow us to play our preferred style."
W&M will have tremendous depth at the guard position, where four players return with Division I experience and four more will see their first collegiate action this season. This depth will be necessary for the Tribe to excel under Shaver's fast-paced style of play.
Leading the way at the point for the second straight year will be senior co-captain Nick D'Antoni. After starting nearly every game as a rookie, D'Antoni had a breakthrough season last year. The only returning player to have started all 28 games, he ended the 2003-04 campaign with an average of 5.68 assists per game, second in the CAA and the second-best mark for a season in W&M history. With 159 assists on the year, D'Antoni was just nine short of tying the school record and became just the second player in school history with three double-digit assist games in one season.
"Nick plays as hard, and has as much passion for the game as anybody I've ever coached," praised Shaver. "Returning as one of our captains, he's really given us great off-season leadership. If he can play a little bit more of a cerebral game at times, he will be a great, great player for us."
Backing up D'Antoni will be incoming freshman Nathan Mann, a first team All-Johnson County and All-Eastern Kansas League selection. Mann averaged 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game his senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kansas.
"Nathan has really impressed me," said Shaver. "He's a tough player and very committed to the game of basketball. His body is cut out of stone and he is one of the strongest guys on the team. He's a tough, competitive guy and a really fine shooter of the basketball, who will definitely see some minutes this year."
Also in the mix at the point guard position is walk-on junior Adam Dutton. A transfer from Cuesta Junior College in San Luis Obispo, California, Dutton averaged 19 points and six assists per game as a senior at Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia, where he was the Region II Player of the Year in basketball and was a first team All-Virginia Group AA selection in both basketball and football (as a wide receiver).
"Adam is somebody who can really help our team at the point," said Shaver. "He understands the game and knows how to get other people involved. His challenge will be that he hasn't played competitively at this level and will need to adapt to the speed of the game."
Leading the way at the off-guard position will be a pair of returning players with significant experience in senior Reid Markham and junior Taylor Mokris. Markham has been plagued by injuries and illness over the last two seasons, taking a medical redshirt in 2002-03 after playing in only five games, and then missing 13 games in the middle of last year with a broken hand. He has proven to be a legitimate scoring threat when healthy, as he averaged 6.7 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting from the floor in 20.9 minutes per game as a sophomore.
"As a senior, we really need good leadership out of Reid," said Shaver. "If he can stay healthy, he could be a major factor for us."
Mokris played in every game last season, including nine starts, and is the second-highest returning scorer with an average of 7.0 points per game. Shooting 44.4 percent from the field overall and .373 from the three-point line, Mokris scored in double figures seven times last season, including a career-high 19 points on 8-11 shooting against Liberty.
"Taylor certainly is a very good shooter and has a knack for putting the ball in the basket," said Shaver. "He also worked very hard at improving his conditioning over the summer and has come back noticeably stronger and faster."
Also returning is sophomore walk-on Adam Trumbower, who played in all 28 games, including two starts, and became the first walk-on to start for the Tribe since the 1996-97 season. With a proclivity for scoring at key moments, his biggest basket of the year came in the first league game of the season. Trumbower knocked down the game-tying three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left in regulation against two-time defending conference champion UNC Wilmington, a game that the Tribe won by one point in overtime.
"Adam had a really nice year for us as a walk-on freshman," praised Shaver. "There's nobody on this team that's going to outwork Adam Trumbower and I expect that when we get out on the floor, we're going to see him as a bigger, stronger athlete who will once again be a solid contributor."
Rounding out the guard position will be a pair of true freshmen in Edwin Ofori Attah and Kyle Carrabine. A tremendous scorer, Ofori Attah set the North Carolina high school single-game scoring record with 71 points and also has the state's third-highest total with 68 points in another outing, as he ended his senior season with 760 points for Statesville Christian School.
"Edwin will be a great talent for us," said Shaver. "He's a dynamic athlete who is better-known for his scoring right now, but I think he can also be a lock-down defender, which we really didn't have enough of last year. I'm extremely excited about his future."
Carrabine, a product of Nequa Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois, will also be pushing for playing time at the guard position. An all-conference and academic all-conference selection in both basketball and golf, he averaged 13 points, five rebounds and three assists a game as a senior.
"Kyle runs like a deer and can really shoot the ball, he just needs to get stronger to succeed at this level," said Shaver. "He's another freshman who brings good skills and a great understanding of the game."
Also on the roster this season is Adam Payton, who transfered from Vanderbilt over the summer and will have two years of eligibility for W&M after sitting out this season. A terrific athlete, Payton played in 52 games in two seasons with the Commodores, shooting 47.3 percent from the floor, including a .458 three-point field goal percentage.
"I wish Adam could play right now," said Shaver. "He's been very impressive so far. He's very energetic and loves the game of basketball. He'll bring a level of athleticism and explosiveness next season when he's able to play for us and will be a great addition to our practice time this season."
Although W&M has just one returning player at forward who saw action last year, Shaver expects that quality should make up for a lack of quantity at the position. Corey Cofield, the 2004 CAA Rookie of the Year, will look to improve on a season that saw him finish second on the team with 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, while recording a team-best six double-doubles.
"Corey was thrown to the wolves last year, but responded very impressively," remarked Shaver. "He's a gifted athlete, but needs to be able to step away from the basket and score a little more this year. What will be different for Corey this season is that he will be a marked man from the very first game. He'll probably start the season as the guy teams will feel they have to stop to beat William and Mary. How he deals with that is going to be very important."
One of the Tribe's co-captains, Hawley Smith, will be in his first season wearing the Green and Gold, but does not lack experience, after playing two seasons at Temple before transferring to the College a year ago. A two-time Sixth Man Award winner for the Owls, he played in 62 games his first two seasons and earned a selection to the Atlantic 10 All-Academic Team as a sophomore.
"Hawley is a great leader. It's very impressive for someone who has never played a minute in a William and Mary uniform to be voted a captain by his teammates and the coaching staff," said Shaver. "He's a physical-minded player who brings great toughness to our team. Probably the strongest player on the team, he is a fine rebounder for his size and can be a lock-down defender for us."
New to the team is freshman Laimis Kisielius, a native of Lithuania who spent two years at The Miller School in Charlottesville. A versatile athlete who could play any of four positions for the Tribe, he was an all-state and all-conference selection in high school, who also played for the Lithuanian Junior National Team.
"Laimis has a great future," said Shaver. "He has good instincts, can shoot the three and loves to handle the ball. He's also going to have to get stronger, or he's going to get beaten around in this league."
A pair of experienced players with starts under their belts return for the Tribe in junior Nate Loehrke and sophomore Brian Hutt. After seeing limited action as a redshirt-freshman, Loehrke came on strong at the end of last season, starting 10 of W&M's final 11 contests. In his first career start, a home game against Old Dominion, he sparked the Tribe to a win with 14 points and five rebounds in just 27 minutes.
"Nate finished our season extremely well," said Shaver. "He became a real factor and hopefully that will carry over to this year. We don't have a lot of height inside this year, so it will be important for him to play well."
Hutt played in all but one game and made seven starts at the beginning of the season. Hutt led the team and finished tied for 12th in the CAA with 0.74 blocked shots per game, averaging one block every 18 minutes.
"Brian might be the most improved player on our team right now," said Shaver. "He worked very hard at his game over the summer. Probably the biggest improvement for him is in the level of confidence he has in his own abilities. Brian's a good athlete and a tough kid, and I think he believes in his own abilities a little bit more right now."
Shaver and his staff have positioned the team for a successful season with a quality schedule that gives the Tribe 14 home games, while also providing an opportunity to travel and face some of the most storied college basketball programs in the nation.
A key factor in the ability to have 14 home games, tied for the most since 1991-92, is the inaugural W&M Tip-Off Classic. Hartford, Radford and Yale will come to Williamsburg to take part in the first regular-season tournament ever hosted by the College.
"It's terrific to be able to even out our schedule," commented Shaver. "It's great to have that many home games for the fans and one of the big factors in that is our administration helping us with the Tip-Off Classic. It's a great addition to our schedule, and in the long-term, a great addition to our program."
The remaining three non-conference home games for W&M are against in-state opponents, including a matchup against Virginia Tech, the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to play in Williamsburg since the 1996-97 season. The College will also host local rival Hampton, and Longwood will come to town for the first ever meeting between the two schools in men's basketball.
W&M's road schedule will pit the Green and Gold against two of the premier teams in the nation, as the Tribe will face Kentucky and North Carolina in a span of less than two weeks. W&M will also play road games against Campbell and UNC Greensboro.
"Having the 14 home games is great and hosting the tournament is very exciting for us," continued Shaver. "Obviously we're challenging our team with some pretty tough opponents. Playing at North Carolina and Kentucky are exciting events for all of us. We're also happy that we're able to keep an in-state flavor to our schedule."
The schedule will not get any easier when the Tribe begins conference play, as the CAA has consistently been rated the top non-football league in the nation. W&M will get an early taste of conference play with a game at Old Dominion on December 4, and the Tribe's first CAA home game will be against Hofstra on January 5. The final home game of the year will be on Saturday, February 19 against long-time rival Old Dominion, and the Green and Gold will end the regular season the following weekend at Towson. Starting March 4, the 2005 CAA Tournament will once again be held in the Richmond Coliseum, with the conference's championship game televised nationally on ESPN March 7.