Brand New Bobcats

Men’s basketball adds seven players to 2015-16 roster

By on November 11, 2015

If you plan on attending a Quinnipiac men’s basketball game this season, you’ll notice many new faces.

Former seniors Zaid Hearst, Evan Conti, Ousmane Drame and Justin Harris have graduated and moved on to play professionally overseas. Former sophomores Kasim Chandler and A.J. Sumbry have transferred to different programs and even former walk-on Samir Kalil has left the team to focus on his studies.

So who should you be looking for on the 2015-16 roster?

15920923234_9bc1050d3d_oChronicle File Photo

The Bobcats have added seven new faces to the team in hopes that they will make immediate impacts during games. Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore, who is entering his ninth season in Hamden, is optimistic about his revamped team.

“There are a lot of new faces, so there is a lot to learn,” Moore said. “They had a great fall in terms of how hard they have worked. We are hoping all seven of them will help us in one way, shape or form. It’s the least experienced team we have ever had.”

All seven of the newcomers bring something to the Bobcats that the team seemed to lack last season.

Quinnipiac severely struggled with shooting from behind the three-point line last season, posting an abysmal 31 percent clip. In large part because of their inconsistent shooting, the Bobcats lost eight games by four points or fewer.

Enter junior college (JUCO) transfer Daniel Harris as an immediate fix to the solution,

“Danny is a two-guard from Florida and can really shoot it,” Moore said. “He works hard and has impressed me with how solid he is at a lot of things.”

Harris is a player who Moore will be able to rely on for shooting due to his consistency at the junior college level. During his sophomore season at Hillsborough Community College, Harris averaged 14.5 points per game and shot nearly 38 percent from three-point territory.

Harris isn’t the only newcomer that Moore will rely on for shooting. The Bobcats head coach will also look to freshman twins Aaron and Andrew Robinson.

The Robinson’s are both bigger guards, standing at 6-foot-6 apiece, and will look to earn big minutes this season after playing their senior seasons at Springbrook High School in Maryland and a post-grad year at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut.

Compared to his brother, Aaron is best known for his shooting ability. Aaron made 48 three-pointers in his senior season of high school. Aaron also hit eight three-pointers in a game last season with Putnam Science Academy.

Andrew is best known for his all-around game. Andrew can score in bunches and use his size and athletic ability to pull in rebounds as he averaged 17 points and six rebounds a game during his senior season in high school.

As usual, Quinnipiac thrived in the rebounding category in 2014-15. Quinnipiac led the nation in defensive rebounds per game (29), rebounding margin per game (+12.4) and were second in offensive rebounds per game (16.4). The Bobcats will look to build on these numbers as they have added size and athleticism to the roster.

The Bobcats added senior transfer Will Simonton, a 6-foot-10 big man, from the University of Illinois-Chicago to add to its presence in the paint. Freshman athletic big man Abdulai Bundu also joins the roster, aiming to keep Quinnipiac’s rebound numbers at the top of the country.

“Abdulai is a man-child,” senior guard James Ford Jr. said. “He is a physical specimen, the kid never stops.”

Bundu stands at 6-foot-8. During his senior season at Largo High School in Maryland, he averaged 28.4 points per game, the highest average in the Washington, D.C. area. In fact, Bundu was held below 20 points only three times his entire senior year.

With his ability to score and rebound, Bundu will be a key cog in the Bobcats rotation.

But the newest forward who can make the largest impact is junior college transfer Donovan Smith.

Smith is an imposing big who stands at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, yet is mobile for his size and should earn lots of minutes for the Bobcats.

“I bring low-post scoring, perimeter scoring, and defense,” Smith said. “You can expect a lot of blocked shots this year.”

Smith played two years at Triton College and led them to a 29-4 record during his sophomore season. During that season, Smith averaged 12.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game and set a program record with 120 blocked shots on the season. Smith left his mark on the program as he finished as Triton’s all-time leader in blocked shots (205).

Since arriving at Quinnipiac, Donovan has shown that the change from JUCO to Division I can go seamless with hard work.

“Smith is a talented young guy. He is so much farther along on his conditioning and consistency in practice than I thought he would be,” Moore said. “When you combine the work ethic with the relentlessness that he has, then he has a chance to be a very special player.”

Moore raved about the combination of Smith and returning sophomore Chaise Daniels in the post.

“The sky’s the limit for them,” Moore said. “I get caught up in practice because sometimes I have them guard each other because it is good for their development. I like to see them together too, so I split up practice where they play together and go against each other.”

“There won’t be any other team in the MAAC with a frontcourt that has their size.”

Smith loves the idea of playing together with Daniels on a nightly basis.

“When Chaise and I are on the floor, we are unstoppable,” Smith said. “I don’t see anybody in the MAAC that can stop us when we are on the ball.”

Even with all the fresh additions to the team, there is still a hole to fill in veteran leadership.

Quinnipiac graduated former captain Zaid Hearst, meaning Moore will be looking for someone to step up into a leadership role.

Giovanni McLean will look to fill the void that Hearst left on the court. McLean is technically a newcomer to the roster due to being ruled ineligible last season because of transcript fraud at his previous JUCO, Westchester Community College.

“Gio will have the quickest impact. We are going to need a lot out of him right away and I believe he is ready to give that,” Moore said. “We put a lot of responsibility on his plate and he seems ready to accept it. He doesn’t have an easy job. We are going to need him to score, to distribute and to be a leader.”

The Bobcats, who finished at 15-15 during their 2014-15 campaign, surely missed McLean’s skill-set last season. McLean, who garnered initial offers from Big East and Big 12 schools, averaged 16.8 points, 7.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game in his final season with Westchester.

McLean recognizes his role as a leader and mentor for his teammates, and is itching to get back on the court.

“I am more anxious than anyone in this world probably,” McLean said. “I didn’t want to sit out, I hate sitting out and missing games. You could imagine how badly I wanted to play after one loss, two losses, I just wanted to get out there so bad and play.”

McLean won’t have to lead the team alone, though. He’ll be aided by Ford Jr., the only player to be on the Bobcats roster for at least three seasons.

“Being here all four years, I just know all the ropes and I am trying to bring all the young guys with me,” Ford Jr. said. “The guys have been coming along great. They are catching on to the offense and to the defense and learning the Quinnipiac Bobcat principles and how we play basketball.”

Ford Jr. is the highest returning scorer for the Bobcats as he averaged 5.3 points per game, but those stats don’t tell the story.

JamesFord3Chronicle File Photo

“My role is still going to be that hustle guy and to have that energy on the court,” Ford Jr. said. “But at the same time I am going to show my ability to score more. Toward the end of the year last year I was averaging over 10 points a game over the last eight games, so I plan to do that over a consistent basis last year.”

Ford Jr. was never able to earn consistent minutes over his first three years due to a rash of injuries, but that figures to change this season.

“He is the healthiest he has ever been in four years,” Moore said. “He has brought the same energy, intensity and focus that we have needed everyday. He is the clear emotional leader of the team.”

Sophomore guard Ayron Hutton joins Ford Jr. and McLean as leaders in the backcourt.

Hutton took over the reins as starting point guard halfway through the 2014-15 campaign and never gave up the spot.

“Starting made me have more of a leadership role,” Hutton said. “Coach Moore loves his point guards to have a leadership role on the floor so I had to step up from not playing. He basically threw me in the fire and I just had to quickly adjust.”

Even though Hutton is a point guard, he figures to have more scoring chances with McLean now being part of the team.

“With the addition of Gio, I see myself playing more off the ball,” Hutton said. “It will give me more opportunities to score more and show my offensive abilities.”

Despite all of the additions, the Bobcats were picked to finished No. 7 of 11 teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coaches’ Preseason Poll.

“We don’t understand what those people are saying, we don’t take that into account,” Smith said. “We know what we are doing in this gym and the hard work that we put in everyday, therefore, anything someone says about Quinnipiac basketball has nothing to do with Quinnipiac basketball.”

Comments

About Tyrell Walden-Martin

Sports Editor