Rams see solid group of returners for basketball
With Steffen Davis and AJ Carr in the forefront, Shepherd readies for another winter of seeing Wheeling-Jesuit, Fairmont and West Liberty as the player-rich teams-to-beat in the Mountain East Conference.
Fairmont actually played in the NCAA Division II national championship game a year ago.
Shepherd won 19 games, but the Rams were still overshadowed by the league’s “Big Three”.
Heavy scorers Steffen Davis (16.4 points a game) and AJ Carr (15.7 points a game) will be front and center this season as the Rams attempt to get past Wheeling-Jesuit, Fairmont and West Liberty.
Both Fairmont and West Liberty have new head coaches with Youngstown State and Nova Southeastern being the destinations of their previous coaches.
Winston Burgess is a third starter returning from last season. The 6-foot-6 center/forward averaged 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Carr was Shepherd’s best rebounder with a 7.4 per game norm.
Gavin McTavish was a valued reserve during the 2016-17 season, scoring 7.4 points a game and taking down four rebounds a night.
Another much-used reserve was Thomas Lang, who scored 3.4 points and made 80-percent of his free throws.
Where will the much-needed depth come from this season? Two junior college transfers are on the 11-player roster – they are 6-foot-1 Derek McKnight from Louisburg CC, a school that played in the national championship game last season, and Devin Smith, a 6-foot-3 junior.
The four freshmen on the opening-night roster are Kyle Daggett (Walkersville, Md.), Chris McAboy (St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown), Cam Stephens (Musselman) and Zane Cogan (Springs Mills).
The Rams open the season with games at the familiar Butcher Center on both Friday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 11.
Mountain East Conference coaches predicted the Rams would finish fourth in the 12-school conference standings – behind Wheeling-Jesuit, Fairmont with first-year coach Joe Mazzulla and West Liberty.
Finding first-rate and useful depth will be one of the early tasks of Shepherd coach Justin Namolik.
Getting additional scoring and rebounding from McTavish will be closely monitored. Lang, a sophomore, could be the most-watched piece of the Shepherd early-season puzzle. His minutes will increase from last season’s pace. Therefore, his scoring must also increase if he is to be effective.
Shepherd has much experience with five of its players. And it has no experience with four-year school basketball games with its other six athletes.