Can they win it all this year?
Niagara University, N.Y. — Coats are getting zipped up, gloves are becoming ideal and warm temperature is a thing of the past. The change of weather means a lot of things for people in WNY, but for those at NU, it’s time for basketball.
The basketball culture at Niagara has always been a felt presence that runs deep with purple pride, but this year, the atmosphere is nothing short of electric. Both the men and women’s team have had great potential leading into the 2017-18 season.
Veterans Matt Scott, Khalil Dukes and Marvin Prochet will lead the men as this year’s captains, announced by head coach Chris Casey at the start of the fall semester.
“[These are] three captains we are very, very excited about,” said Casey. “[They’re] captains who have shown terrific leadership since the end of last season.”
The big three averaged a combined 41.9 points per game in the 2016-17 season, (a total of 1382). Scott and Dukes, the one-two punch, were just recently named as preseason all-MAAC selections. Scott was selected to the first team and Dukes with second team honors. It is the first time since the 2009-10 season that two Purple Eagles were honored on all-MAAC preseason teams.
Not only is it the men who are earning preseason all-MAAC honors, but so are the women. For the second consecutive season seniors Victoria Rampado and Kaylee Stroemple have been named to the first and third preseason all-MAAC teams, respectively.
Rampado and Stroemple have dominated throughout their years at Niagara. In the 2016-17 season Rampado averaged 16.8 ppg and Stroemple 13, combining for an average of 29.8 ppg. Their presence has been felt not just in scoring, but rebounding, combining for 13.9 rpg.
Hopes are high this season for the Purple Eagles, despite losing last year’s seniors. For the men it was forwards Ali Tew and Maurice Taylor Jr., who filled in the vital role as the big men down low. For the women it was guard Tiffany Corselli, who was third on the team in scoring and was a threat from the perimeter. On the bright side, there are a number of veterans returning ready to make some noise of their own.
Players to watch this year for the women’s team are sophomore Morgan Baughman, a three-point specialist who was fourth in scoring for the Purple Eagles last season, averaging 6.5 ppg and held a three point field goal percentage of .349 (her first year). Senior guard Jamie Sherburne, who led the team in 2016-17 in assists with 73, should have more of an opportunity on both offense and defense with the loss of Corselli.
Notable returning players for the men include Kevin Larkin, who will look to up his role as one of the primary scorers on the team as well as increasing his defensive value making him a threat on both sides of the court. Junior forward Dominic Robb will aim to hold the paint down as the team’s primary big and arguably best shot-blocker in the MAAC. James Towns is another returning guard that has the ability to run the court and make big plays coming off the bench.
New additions to this year’s team include freshmen Dominik Fragala, a six-foot guard out of Aldia, Virginia, Kaleaf Tate, guard from Washington, D.C. and Greg Kuakumensah, a six foot six forward coming from Worcester, Massachusetts.
On the women’s team, freshmen guard Claire Wenzer from Amherst, NY and forward Emerald Ekpiteta from London, England will be this season’s newest features.
There is much excitement coming into this year for both teams. According to the 2017-18 men’s basketball coaches preseason poll, Niagara is ranked fifth in the MAAC with 76 points.
The men will play their second exhibition match at home in the Gallagher Center versus The College of Saint Rose on Nov. 4, at 3 P.M. The women’s team will host Saint Joseph’s University for their home-opener on Nov. 11, at 12 P.M.
“Fans, we need your support, so come out to the Gallagher center” commented Casey. “You’ll see an exciting style of basketball, you’ll see exciting players, and you will see us win.