The 2015-2016 basketball season has officially come to a close. It was a great season that saw the Tribe achieve its third 20th win season in a row, and come within a few points of its third CAA Championship game. To steal a quote from Dave Johnson of the Daily Press, “In 111 seasons, Tribe basketball has won at least 20 games only nine times. Three of those were in ’13-’14, ’14-’15 and ’15-’16.” The impact of Head Coach Tony Shaver cannot be understated.
What Coach has accomplished over the last few seasons at such an academically-focused school like W&M is nothing short of incredible. Finding true student-athletes is no easy task, but Coach Shaver and the entire coaching staff seem to have made it an exact science. So then, who will make up the 2016-2017 crop of W&M basketball starters? We start the long offseason with an analysis of our projected starters for the 2016 season, and will soon post another article analyzing the rest of the bench. So stay tuned! Let’s get to it.
An Ode to Seasons’ Past: Terry Tarpey & Sean Sheldon
To begin, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tip our hats to two incredible seniors in Terry Tarpey and Sean Sheldon. Terry was an incredible two-way player who played with the most heart on the team; his tenacity materialized into a 2014-2015 CAA Defensive Player of the Year Award, despite Tarpey checking in at just 6’5″. That year, he nabbed 8.4 rebounds per game–best for #1 in the entire conference, while also averaging 12 points per game and achieving CAA All-Defensive Team Honors.
Tarpey would undoubtedly answer the mail in his Senior year, as he averaged 10.4 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and finished with an insane 62 total steals–by far the most on the team and one of the most in the entire nation. Tarpey’s 4-year running mate was this year’s fellow senior captain in Sean Sheldon. Now perhaps no other player under Head Coach Tony Shaver has grown more over his career than Sheldon.
Looking at sheer stats alone, Sheldon’s 4-year stat progression looks like this, Freshman Year: 5.4 min per game, 0.5 PPG; Sophomore Year: 14.7 min per game, 3.4 PPG; Junior Year: 22.6 min per game, 6.2 PPG; Senior Year: 25 min per game, 8.5 PPG. Sheldon grew into a consistent low-post player–the likes of which W&M was lacking since the graduation of Tim Rusthoven. His confidence was at an all time high his senior year, and we really enjoyed watching the culmination of all of Sheldon’s work. So, we tip our hats to both Tarpey and Sheldon for 4 incredible years. One Tribe.
New Look: 2016 Tribe Basketball
Despite losing two starters, the Tribe looks geared up and ready to go for another run at the CAA crown. The Green and Gold will return 3 everyday starters from last year who also happen to be major contributors on the offensive side of the ball. W&M also has plenty of depth thanks to Coach Shaver’s player rotation strategy over the last several years.
Projected Starting Five: Daniel Dixon, Omar Prewitt, David Cohn, Greg Malinowski, Jack Whitman
Sixth Man: Oliver Tot
Depth: Connor Burchfield, Hunter Seacat, Nathan Knight, Justin Pierce, Michael Schlotman, Jamison Glover, Paul Rowley
[Projected Starter] #0 Daniel Dixon, Senior, Guard (6’5”, 210): Daniel Dixon will be one of two seniors who will be tasked with leading this team to the promised land. Over the past couple seasons, Dixon has developed a nice dribble drive to the basket, in addition to his marksmanship from beyond the three-point line. He finished this past season averaging 12.5 points per game, and finished with the 4th most three-point shots made in the CAA, with 70 overall. However, Dixon struggled some down the stretch, as he averaged just 6.6 PPG over the last 5 games of the season. Despite all this, we know that Dixon has what it takes to rack up the points, as proven in an insanely strong 8-game stretch earlier in the season in which he scored 10+ points in all of them, including a high of 20 points against High Point. A strong offseason should have Dixon back on track and ready to go for his senior year. In Dixon we trust.
[Projected Starter] #4 Omar Prewitt, Senior, Forward/Guard (6’6”, 190): Omar Prewitt finished the season as the second-highest scorer in the CAA, averaging 17.8 PPG; he also finished with the 4th-best field goal percentage in the league, converting on 49.3% of his shots. His 2015 performance was good enough to earn him 1st Team All-CAA honors. The sky’s the limit for Prewitt in what will be his senior season in 2016. Helping him along the way will be fellow point guard David Cohn, a player who is willing to push the envelope and get him the ball. The Tribe will rely on this tandem to get going early and often next year. In the end, this will be Prewitt and Dixon’s team, and we believe these two have the ability to get this team over the hump and to the promised land.
[Projected Starter] #34 David Cohn, Junior, Guard (6’2”, 170): Cohn, a transfer guard from Colorado State, joined the Green and Gold for the first time this season after sitting out the year before (due to NCAA transfer rules)–and what an addition he has been. Cohn started out the year as an assist machine, sprinting down the court and dishing it out. As the season wore on, Cohn developed a scoring touch and became a budding star for the Tribe. He led the team with 4.6 assists per game, and finished the year averaging 9.6 PPG. He also developed a smooth 3-point shot, and was the most consistent and clutch free throw shooter down the stretch, converting 83.5% of his free throw attempts. It’s been a while since the Tribe had a point guard this good, and we’re ecstatic that the Tribe has him for the next two years. Cohn will only amplify the players around him, and continue to take pressure off Dixon and Prewitt moving forward. And that’s always a good thing.
[Projected Starter] #5 Greg Malinowski, Junior, Forward/Guard (6’5”, 205): Greg Malinowski has been one of the best sixth men in the CAA for the last two years. Now in his junior season, he’ll finally get a full-time role; we’re excited to see what he can do. Greg is a consistent, all-around player who can do a little bit of everything. He can shoot the three, dribble drive to the basket, and dish the ball out–a truly all-around talent. As the sixth man this past season, he averaged 7.7 points. Perhaps no game stood out more this season than the last one, and if the Tribe had knocked off Hofstra in the CAA Tournament, he would have undoubtedly been remembered as the hero that knocked off the Pride. Malinowski went 5-8 from three, and finished with total 22 points off the bench. It was a truly amazing performance that showed us he’s ready to contribute full-time in big games. We’re excited to see what he can do, and can think of no one who has earned a starting role more than Greg.
[Projected Starter] #41 Jack Whitman, Redshirt Junior, Forward (6’9”, 235): With the graduation of fellow big-man Sean Sheldon, Jack Whitman looks to take over the reigns this offseason. Whitman saw his minutes increase last year as Coach Shaver elected to look to the bench more frequently. Whitman, after an up-and-down early season performance, came on strong when it counted. The 6’9″ forward contributed mightily to the Tribe’s second-round CAA Tournament win vs. JMU, in which he notched 9 points and 5 rebounds–doing the majority of his work in the paint. We’re hoping Whitman will continue developing a strong low-post game in his redshirt junior season. He will face stiff competition from sophomore Hunter Seacat and freshman Nathan Knight, but as the incumbent, he will likely get the first shot at a starting role–and he’s earned it. Any way you look at it, competition at the big man position is always a good thing, and is in fact a rarity in Williamsburg. This is the deepest the Tribe has been at the position in years.
Conclusion: Despite the graduation of two strong players this offseason, the 2016 Tribe starters look stronger than ever. With stellar guard play and a strong supporting cast, the Green and Gold will undoubtedly have the firepower to make another run in the CAA. Let’s just hope that the CAA won’t be as strong as it was this year! It surely can’t be any stronger. Even if it is, our confidence is at an all-time high with these starters and Head Coach Tony Shaver–especially with the consistency we’ve seen over the last several seasons.
In the coming week we will post our analysis of the Tribe’s bench players, which is quite honestly, almost as strong as the starters. The analysis will also include info on two incoming Freshmen with bright futures; you won’t want to miss it. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!