Plenty of changes as MU men look to return to the top
A year ago, the Mansfield Mountaineers struggled to a nine-win season.
Something that didn't sit well with the players or the coaching staff.
Now, everyone has much bigger goals for this season.
"Last year what we did obviously was not working," junior Charles Becoats said. "We are not okay being a nine-win team. We have the mindset that we want to win championships."
This year a lot of things have changed, starting with the addition of a number of newcomers, as eight players who didn't play last year are looking to contribute this year.
Forward Onyema Utti and guard Kenny Johnson are a pair of newcomers with experience who will break into the starting line-up this season. Utti, a junior college transfer from McCook C.C in Nebraska, recorded a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds in an exhibition game against defending Atlantic 10 champions St. Bonaventure before recording another double-double with 17 points and 10 boards in an exhibition against Gwynedd-Mercy. Johnson, a transfer from Division II Virginia State, has totaled nine points in his first two exhibitions contests.
Freshmen Taijay Williams, Kamil Parzych and Tremaine Bowman are all freshmen looking to make a big impact, while Mark Wilmer, a 6' 6" sophomore, provides solid depth at the forward position. Wilmer appeared in 21 games last season as a freshman where he totaled 14 points and 20 rebounds.
Brad Williams is a redshirt freshman guard who came off the bench to post 11 points in each of the Mounties first two exhibitions games. Redshirt freshman Brady Burke provides depth at guard.
"I don't get too excited about things," Mansfield coach Rich Miller said. "I take it day by day and we are just looking to try and get better. It's a process.
"There are a lot of things for us to improve on. We have a lot of work to do. We only have six returning players and essentially eight newcomers this year. It's about how well they blend together. We have some guys that played heavy minutes last year, but we only won nine games."
Miller expects the newcomers to have a big role right from the start.
"The plan when we brought them in isn't for them to sit and wait," he said. "We knew they had talent. We expect them to come in and play. They came in ready to contribute, ready to work and improve."
And, the returning players can see that the newcomers can help out.
"To come in here and have everyone have so much faith in me is great,' Johnson said.
Headlining the group of veterans are seniors Chuck Harper and Cory Henneghan. Harper was second on the team in scoring last season, averaging 13.0 points per game over 24 appearances including 15 starts. He also ranked second on the team in rebounds with 5.3 per outing and in assists with 60. Henneghan saw time in 22 games in 2011-12 while making four starts on his way to averaging 8.2 points per game. The 6-foot guard was a threat along the perimeter, knocking down a team-high 49 3-pointers while shooting 39.8% from behind the arc.
Returning for his sophomore season is 2011-12 PSAC East Freshman of the Year Joe Bell, who led the Mounties in scoring last season and ranked 7th in the PSAC with 16.3 points per outing. Not only can the 6' 6" forward score in the post, but he can knock down the jumper. Last season, Bell paced the conference in field goal percentage, shooting 57.0% from the floor. Bell led the Mountaineers and ranked 14th in the PSAC in rebounding with 6.9 boards a game. Bell also hit
Becoats, who started 19 games in 24 appearances last season, will have a big role in running the Mountaineer offense this season. Becoats was tied for fifth on the team in scoring in 2011-12 with 8.0 points while leading the team in 3-point FG% at 40.0%. Fellow junior Kevonte McClain will be a key reserve at the forward position. McClain averaged 8.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per outing while starting in 17 games and making 25 appearances.
Becoats says that the newcomers have fit right in and everyone has gotten along great this year.
"We do everything together, we have gotten to know each other really well," he said. "If you see one of us, you see all of us."
"We are a team," Johnson said. "At the end of the day that's the key, we are a team."
The one thing that Becoats has liked seeing is that all the players this year have the same goal of winning games.
"Whoever steps in the lineup has the same mindset," he said. "They have the mindset that they want to be out there, they want to win."
With such a young team Miller sees the potential show up at times in practice.
"Every night in practice you see it for 5-10 minutes," Miller said. "It might not seem a lot, five minutes. But every night it's a little bit more than the night before. It might be 30 seconds longer the next day. Maybe it's five minutes, then five and a half minutes, then the next night it's six minutes.
"We are getting there, but it's a process. As the year goes on you just want to see it more and more. The thing people might say is it's just 10 minutes, but when the games start, you just need 40 minutes. You don't need three hours of a practice, you just need 40 good minutes in a game."
Miller hopes as the year goes on his team continues to get better and better.
"I expected it last year and it didn't happen," Miller said. "We wanted to see that happen and it just didn't happen. That's something we want to see this year."
While Miller is expecting the newcomers to come in and play a big role and improve each game, he's also looking for improvement from his returning players, including leading scorer Bell.
"The key with Joe is he was a really good scorer on a poor team,' Miller said. "Can he be a good player on a good team. Joe's biggest obstacle is becoming a complete player. Can he become a complete player.
"I hate to compare players and I have a very high opinion of Yuseff Carr. Yuseff was a defensive weapon and we had to try and make him a complete player. Joe handles the ball well, but we need him to be a more consistent shooter from the three point line. He's a good scorer, but he was a good scorer on a bad team. We need him to be a more complete player this year."
A number of the returning players will also be playing new roles this year.
"Some roles have changed," Miller said. "Charles Becoats role will to be play the point more often. Chuck Harper played the four at times last year, this year he will be on the wing more.
The players on this team don't mind what their role is as long as it helps them win
"We won the division two years ago, and that was nice, but I want a ring," Becoats said.
"I won in high school, but I want to feel what it's like to win a ring in college," Johnson said.
For the new players there will be a bit of a learning curve.
"It's my first year here, I don't know what the league looks like yet, what to expect," Johnson said. "I just want to be ready to do what I can."
Around the conference the expectations aren't very high for Mansfield with them being predicted low in the preseason and that's just something that motivates them.
"I feel a little disrespected," Becoats said. "For Millersville to be ranked ahead of us, fifth in the East and we beat them twice last year to have them ranked ahead of us, I feel like that's disrespecting us."