BRUNSWICK, Maine - Last season, the Bowdoin College men's basketball team was one measly NESCAC win away from reaching the inaugural NESCAC Tournament. Instead, the Polar Bears were left on the outside looking in, due to a conglomerate of tie-breakers that decided who gained the seventh and final spot. This season, Coach Tim Gilbride doesn't intend on making it that close.
"We're very optimistic about this season," says Coach Gilbride. "I really like the work ethic we've shown so far, and the experience weÍre returning is the key."
The strength of the team lies in it's experience, and the backcourt is where it all begins. Four of the team's five senior captains are listed as guards, and Gilbride will depend on them for leadership and production this year. Senior captain Hugh Coleman (Dorchester, Mass.) returns after a year away to pick up where he left off. As a junior in the 1999-2000 season, Coleman was the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 12.5 ppg and shooting over 42% from 3-point range. Senior captain Greg Orlicz (Liverpool, N.Y.) is the Polar Bear's top returning scorer this season, after averaging 11.1 ppg in 2001-02. Classmate and fellow captain Mark Gilbride (Topsham, Maine) will see time at the point this year, after averaging 6.0 ppg and 3.3 apg last year. Senior captain Scott Jamieson (Marshfield, Mass.) will look to get more time this season after seeing action in 22 of 23 games last year. Junior Braden Clement (Skowhegan, Maine) will look to improve his 9.2 ppg average from last year with more court time this year.
Adding depth to the backcourt will be a group of young and exciting performers. Sophomore T.J. McLeod (Gorham, Maine) saw limited action last year as a freshman, while first-years Sean Walker (Skowhegan, Maine) and Corey Gildart (Bangor, Maine) are two Maine natives who will look to shine in their first seasons as Polar Bears.
"Our experience in the backcourt is our strength," according to Gilbride. "We'll count on them to set the tone, both offensively and defensively."
After losing All-NESCAC performer Dave Baranowski and his 6-9 frame to graduation, Bowdoin will look to a group of athletic players in the frontcourt to fill the absence. Senior captain Chris Ranslow (Hallowell, Maine) started 22 of 23 games last season and averaged 8.5 ppg to go with 5.7 rpg on the year. He will join four juniors: Jon Farmer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), Matt Fleck (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Michael Harding (Hanover, Mass.) and Danny Ginn (Windham, Maine) in the frontcourt rotation. Two first-year skyscrapers, 6-7 Mark Yakavonis (Barrington, R.I.) and 6-11 Jim McDonald (Denver, Colo.) will look to make an impact in their first season.
"We're counting on having the new guys up front blend in quickly," says Gilbride. "The quicker they do that, the better we'll be as a team."
The Polar Bears open their season at the University of Rochester Tournament on November 16-17. Their home opener will be against the University of New England on November 20, while the NESCAC season opens in mid-January with a trip to Wesleyan and Conn. College on the 18 and 19 before returning home to Middlebury and Williams on the 25 and 26. The Polar Bears will host rivals Bates on February 1 and Colby on February 9. With the NESCAC being one of the most balanced conferences in the nation, the season looks to be an extremely exciting one for the Polar Bears.
"We're really looking forward to getting started," says Gilbride. "Our depth in the backcourt will allow us to be a little more up-tempo in the past. But our conference is so close across the board. ThatÍs what makes the NESCAC so great. Most likely, it'll come down the last weekend again this year, with teams battling for postseason position on the final day. WeÍre just going to take it one game at a time."