For the 11th straight season, Head Coach Charlie Brock ’76 will be at the helm. Last season, Brock joined some elite company as he became just the fourth coach in the long lineage of Springfield head coaches to amass 150 career wins at the Birthplace of Basketball. Overall, in a total of 28 years at four different schools, Brock can lay claim to 379 victories.
Brock hopes to tack on many more wins at Springfield College with three returning starters from last season, all of whom averaged over 10 points per game. Last season, the Pride finished with a 10-15 record, despite knocking off a pair of teams ranked in the top 25 in the country in Trinity and Rhode Island College.
“As always, I think we have the potential to be very competitive in what once again will prove to be a quality league in the NEWMAC,” said Brock. “We were able to get some guys some valuable minutes last year as freshmen and sophomores, and I am hoping we can translate that into more success this season.”
Leading the way for the Pride this campaign will be a trio of seniors who have made remarkable improvements to their games since arriving on campus three years ago. John Strawson was one of the squad’s most consistent players last year as well as establishing himself as one of the up-and-coming big men in the league. The 6-7 post loves to get physical down low and is a real asset on the boards, snagging 7.5 rebounds per game as he started 24 games a year ago. “John is a very strong low post player, and a constant threat that teams must prepare for. We will continue to look to John for strong inside play and rebounding,” said Brock. Strawson averaged 10.6 points for the Pride last season, became a real presence on the blocks, and always found a way to get to the charity stripe, connecting on 78-of-123 attempts.
With the departure of Jamaal Gibbs, Danny White will assume the point guard duties as he looks to run the Pride’s offense. One of the hardest workers on the team and a true gym rat, White really emerged last season and, at times, made very serious contributions in what was his first full season with the varsity squad. White played in all 25 games last year, starting in three contests, as he dished out 35 assists, snagged 24 steals and averaged 2.2 points. White is a student of the game and it shows with his patience on the floor running the team. “Danny continued his progression as a basketball player last season,” said Brock. “He became a full-time contributor to the varsity team, and will be looked upon to serve in the same role this season.”
The third senior is Gary Broadhurst , who came off the bench last season. He had transferred from Mohawk Valley Community College. If Gary can provide some rebounding punch, he can make an impact.
The first junior to mention is arguably Springfield’s best player. The Pride’s offense is expected to go through junior Pat Crean, who must be considered its go-to player. A fiery competitor, Crean netted 12.3 points per game and led the team with 76 assists and 45 steals a year ago. At 6-4, Crean is a slashing, wing player who can get to the rack as well as knock down the mid-range jumper. A leader on the floor, Crean carried the Pride to the Holiday Inn/Naismith Classic crown at the turn of the New Year in Blake Arena. That is when he posted back-to-back 20-plus point outings en route to being named the Classic’s MVP. “A consistent starter since his arrival at Springfield, Pat is a tremendously hard worker,” said Brock. “Pat will be looked upon for scoring and as a defensive stopper. He contributes greatly from his wing position and never stops hustling.”
Also entering his junior year will be shooting guard Ryan Blackmon, who appeared in 24 games last season, starting 21, all en route to netting 10.5 points per game. Certainly a three-point threat, Blackmon had struggled from behind the arc during the 2007-08 season, but that is not expected to be the case this year. Blackmon, however, still had some very nice outings, including a 21-point effort in the win over then-No. 25 Rhode Island College.
Last season, Brock had the luxury of several freshmen on his bench that he could use at his disposal. Their sophomore campaigns appear bright.
Matthew Cavalieri was one of the first guys off the bench towards the beginning of the season, playing in 11 games. The 6-5 forward provided a real spark and was demonstrative on the glass, averaging 3.5 boards. He grabbed more boards on the offensive end than the defensive. However, due in large part to a chronic back injury, Cavalieri’s season was cut short. Showing promise down the stretch,Darryl Smith played in seven contests, earning one start. Smith, at 6-8 the team’s tallest player, showed he could do a little bit of everything as he was efficient from the field, crashed the boards, and blocked shots. He continued to develop all season.
Springfield will be bolstered by several newcomers who have the capability of helping the cause right away. Three or four may have a chance to become part of the rotation in short order. The names Ryan Coburn, Anthony Epps, Antoine Hicks, and Ryan Sawyer could become household names on the Alden Street campus. Others who have a chance to break through include Evan Christner, Patrick Fanning, Conner Flynn, and Jon Gattuso. Coburn is a 6-7 shot blocker, and Epps, Hicks, and Sawyer are all blessed with good speed. All could play specific roles.
The Pride will play nine games before the Holiday break, but only one of those will be played at home – versus Salem State on Tuesday, December 9. The November and December schedule will include tournament games at Elms College and at Eastern Connecticut. In addition, there is the Pioneer Valley Classic. Just after New Year’s, there is the Holiday Inn/Naismith Classic at home, followed by the arduous New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference schedule. In the NEWMAC, anyone can knock off anyone. “It’s a testament to our conference that on any given night, either team can win,” said Brock.
In a league that boasts such parity, the Pride will have to be prepared each night for each team. “I feel that we will be ready when the first ball goes up to compete and battle with some very stiff competition,” said Brock. “If our veterans continue to improve like they have since they arrived on campus, I think we will be in a position to have a successful season.”