McTavish brothers, Carr and Davis lead Rams through unchartered waters
Morgan McDonald and Austin Cunningham were long-time starters for Shepherd’s men. They are both gone from this 2015-16 team as are Garett Burkhead, Ochae Bynum, Seth Myers and Tommy Hargroves.
Even with McDonald and Cunningham, the Rams finished at 14-14 last season. What will happen without their two leading scorers?
There are three starters from a year ago to help alleviate the problems created by the loss of McDonald and Cunningham.
A.J. Carr, Ryan McTavish and point guard Steffen Davis give Coach Justin Namolik some experience as the season opens on Saturday at the Butcher Center against Virginia Union. Shepherd then faces Clarion on Sunday evening in another home game.
Besides Carr, Ryan McTavish and Davis, Shepherd also has Naim Muhammad, Skyler Roman and Gavin McTavish returning from its regular rotation of players from a year ago.
Even with its four incoming freshmen, the Rams will almost always be at a height disadvantage.
The four first-year players are 6-foot-6 Winston Burgess from Colonial Forge High in Virginia, 6-foot-6 Matthew Seip from Lower Dauphin High in Pennsylvania, 5-foot-11 Marcus Adkison from St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Virginia and 6-foot-3 Austin Shields from Washington High.
Mike Reed, a 6-foot-4 junior, could join this year’s steady player rotation.
Carr is the likely center and he’s 6-foot-6 and an able rebounder. Both McTavish brothers are about 6-foot-5 and provide Namolik with energy, hard work and some scoring.
Davis needs to find more games when he scores 14 to 17 points if the Rams are to better the conference coach’s prediction that they will finish ninth in the 12-team league.
Muhammad was a starter during the 2013-14 season and Roman was usually able to score well enough off the bench last season.
Will any of the freshmen make the Rams better than the league coaches think they are?
There are five home games before Christmas and 15 home games in all.
In preseason predictions, nationally-recognized West Liberty was seen as the Mountain East’s best team. Fairmont, Wheeling Jesuit, Concord and Charleston were seen as finishing two-through-five in the regular season.
It appears that depth will be a Shepherd problem if Namolik wants to go to more than seven players. And injuries, foul trouble and sporatic performances almost always cause any coach to go past his seventh player as the season goes along.
Can the Rams rebound with the league’s teams? And will there be enough foul-free defense to cause problems?
There will be no problem with hustle or an iron-willed work ethic.
Shepherd will have to do well in games decided by six points or less . . . or doing well in the conference will be a struggle.
Carr, Davis and Ryan McTavish will all likely score in double figures, but they all will have to play 35 minutes a game if the Rams are to be able to scare teams on the road.