Date Posted:11/18/2003,  11:00AM

2003-04 Men's Basketball Preview

The Bowdoin men's basketball team has established itself as one of the elite teams in New England over the past 18 years under head coach Tim Gilbride. Despite the fact that the Polar Bears posted their first losing season in over a decade in 2002-03, there is a sense of anticipation around the program that hasn't existed in the past few years. With an influx of young talent and the return of consistent veterans, no one knows quite what to expect from the Polar Bears in 2003-04. But one thing is for sure; it'll be very exciting.

"We'll be a completely different team than we were last year," says the coach, who enters his 19th season at the helm (238-194 record). "Last year, we worked on getting outside shots for Braden (Clement '03) and Danny (Ginn '03). This year, we're going to run the court and look to get some points in transition, while working through the post offensively and setting guys up to take shots where they're comfortable."

The Polar Bears will not lack athleticism, and perhaps the best example of that is sophomore Kyle Petrie (Iowa City, Iowa), Bowdoin's leading returning scorer at 14.8 points per game. Petrie was a one-man highlight show as a first-year, filling the box score with 8.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting over 54% from the field. The challenge for Petrie this year will be to repeat his performance while being the target of opposing defenses.

"Kyle is working very hard in the preseason," says Gilbride. "He causes some match-up problems with his size and his ability to take people off the dribble. I think he has the potential to be one of the better players in the league."

The return of captain Jon Farmer after a one year absence will be critical to the forwards as the 6-5 native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida averaged 7.1 points and 5.6 boards in starting 23 of 25 games in 2001-02. Six-foot-seven junior Mark Yakavonis (Barrington, R.I.) will likely start at the other forward spot coming off a solid campaign that saw him average 8.7 points and lead the team with 8.4 rebounds per contest. Teddy Ligon (Medford, Mass.), a six-six forward, will look to return from injury to give Bowdoin even more size up front. Sophomore Nick Ordway (S. Portland, Maine) showed flashes of great play last season in playing 20 games and posting nine points and 10 boards against Colby-Sawyer. First-years John Goodridge (Merrimack, N.H.) and Jac Arbour (Augusta, Maine) will look to make an immediate impact.

"Its nice to have Jon back," according to Gilbride. "He brings experience and strength to our team and the ability to defend the bigger players in the post. Mark seems to have gotten even stronger and physical this year and we're really looking for him to emerge offensively in addition to his defense and rebounding. Jac runs the floor and rebounds well, while Teddy is very athletic around the basket. Nick is a real smart player who'll see some time at the three. John Goodridge handles the ball well and could see time at guard and forward."

A plethora of guards will look to fill the void left by Braden Clement '03 and Danny Ginn '03, two of Bowdoin's top performers last year. Senior co-captain T.J. McLeod (Gorham, Maine) will likely get one of the nods at guard, coming off a stellar year that saw him average 9.0 points and 2.1 assists per game coming off the bench. Beyond that, juniors Sean Walker (Skowehegan, Maine) will fight to see more action, as will classmate Corey Gildart (Bangor, Maine).

Sophomore Eli Maitland (Acton, Mass.) will be in the mix along with Antwan Phillips (Little Rock, Ark.) and Mario Lopez (Brooklyn, N.Y.). The key to the season may the emergence of a rookie guard such as first-years Nick Lawler (Auburn, Maine) or Kevin Bradley (Seekonk, Mass.). Coach Gilbride expects the squad to develop as the year moves along.

"Kevin will be our point guard to start the year," says Gilbride. "He's clever with the basketball and see the court well. He's young and with that comes some mistakes, but he's playing very well right now. T.J. will start at the off-guard. He's had a real good preseason and is shooting the ball very well. Nick Lawler, along with Goodridge and Corey could all see time at point guard while Sean Walker will also see some time at the two."

Bowdoin will play a full slate of contests, including the always-tough NESCAC schedule. The Polar Bears will play tough conference weekend games at Amherst and Trinity (Jan. 16-17), while hosting defending national champion Williams (Jan. 30) and Middlebury (Jan. 31) back-to-back. The non-conference schedule includes the UMaine-Farmington Tournament and the Springfield College tournament, along with non-league games against Colby-Sawyer, Southern Maine and Babson.

"We're looking to blend some new talent with returners this year," says the coach. "I'm very happy about how hard we've been working because we've really been pushing the guys hard. We're in as good condition as we've been the past few years. But it all comes down to how soon we can develop our strengths as the year goes along. The sooner, the better, because when that happens we think we can compete with the better teams on our schedule."