Lang, Burgess give Rams some experience
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Those who follow Shepherd and its men’s basketball team should be able to form some firm early-season opinions of the Rams.
The first six games the Rams play this season are all at home, beginning on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in the annual Clarion season-opening tournament, where Millersville provides the opposition. Then the next day, the Rams will play Gannon at 6 p.m. in the same tournament. Millersville was 10-19 last season, and Gannon was 22-10 after it opened the 2017-18 campaign in this same Clarion-sponsored event.
The following week, Virginia Union is at the Butcher Center on Nov. 13 and West Virginia State is in Shepherdstown on Nov. 17. The fifth-straight home game features Charleston on Nov. 19 and then West Virginia Wesleyan on Nov. 28.
Six consecutive home games to open the season should give the fans a solid impression of just how the final season in the MEC will play out.
Shepherd finished with a 16-13 overall record last season, after dropping its final three games.
Thomas Lang and Winston Burgess are the two leading scorers back from a year ago. Lang, a guard, scored 14.9 points a game and the 6-foot-8 Burgess scored 10.9 points a game and had 6.6 rebounds per night.
Returning for the second straight season are senior guards Derek McKnight and Devin Smith, both junior college transfers on the 2017-2018 team. McKnight scored 8.6 points a game. Sophomore Cam Stephens, who has started 14 games, is another guard.
There are five new players on the roster who would seemingly have important roles in any success the Rams might enjoy. There could be a starter or two in the group, but even if none of them finds their way into the starting fivesome, this team’s bench contributions and playing time will be their’s.
Maliq Sanders is a junior from Voorhees, New Jersey, and at six-foot-six and 175 pounds is a guard. Jarnell Jones, transferring to Shepherd from Alderson-Broaddus, is a guard. Jon Preston is another freshman guard, and he played at Rock Creek Christian last season. Noah Wimbish was at Massanutten Military Academy a year ago. The six-foot-five freshman is joined by Emmanuel Ashayere, a six-foot-five, 285-pound inside player who comes to Shepherd from South Lakes, Virginia.
West Liberty, Fairmont and Wheeling Jesuit are no surprises as the MEC’s preseason favorites, to make the most conference noise. Glenville should be an improved team and Charleston won 18 games a year ago.
Shepherd joins the PSAC beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
Making its last treks to Urbana, South Euclid (Ohio), Wise (Virginia) and Institute for mid-winter games won’t cause any lingering nostalgia for the Rams.
Playing the first six games at home had better be a jump-start to the 2018-2019 season, especially since three of them are conference games.