The 2016 basketball season has officially come to a close. As most know by now, the Tribe came to play in this year’s CAA Tournament, starting by knocking out a strong #5-seeded Elon Phoenix team. W&M prevailed 71-66 behind a pair of 20-point performances from senior captains Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt. And let’s not forget that dagger three point shot by Prewitt to seal the deal toward the end of the contest. Absolute ice in the veins, a moment Tribe fans will not soon forget!
However, in the semifinals against the #1-seeded UNCW Seahawks, the Tribe faced a team that just could not miss the net. Down 10 at the half (47-37), the Seahawks actually turned things up in the second half. And even though W&M posted an incredible 57 points in the second half (and 94 total), UNCW posted 58, winning by 11 points behind 58.9% shooting from the field and an insane 52.4% 3-point field goal percentage. Final score: Seahawks 105 Tribe 94. The Seahawks would go on to beat the College of Charleston in the CAA Championship, securing the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for their second year in a row.
An Ode to Seasons’ Past: Daniel Dixon & Omar Prewitt
We’d be absolutely remiss if we didn’t pay tribute to two of the best scorers in recent Tribe history. These two players, Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt have brought nothing but success to Williamsburg for the past four seasons. Over their careers, the duo combined for 77 wins, 2 CAA Championship appearances, and 1 NIT appearance. From a scoring standpoint, the two combined for 3183 points in their career, including 1828 from Prewitt and 1355 from Dixon. WOW! Salute to two all-time W&M Tribe greats. We’re sad to see you go, but are eternally grateful for the opportunity to have seen you two play side by side in Williamsburg for our Green and Gold these past four years. Roll Damn Tribe.
New Look: 2017 Tribe Basketball
Despite losing two all-time starters, Coach Shaver‘s squad returns plenty of talent to compete in next year’s CAA, including 4 rising seniors. Instead of relying on two scorers, as the team has done in the recent past, next year’s squad will have to play a true “team game” to get the job done. There will surely be growing pains, and again, much can and likely will change as developments pour in over the offseason, but below are our (very early) projections for next year!
Projected Starting Five: David Cohn, Greg Malinowski, Jack Whitman, Paul Rowley/Matt Milon, Justin Pierce
Sixth Man: Paul Rowley/Matt Milon
Depth: Nathan Knight, Connor Burchfield, Oliver Tot, Jamison Glover, Omar Mostafa, Jihar Williams (Fr.), Luke Loewe (Fr.)
[Projected Starter] #34 David Cohn, Senior, Guard (6’2”, 168): Already named a captain last season, David Cohn will need to be one of the go-to leaders on next year’s squad. An electric player who can get up and down the court in a flash, Cohn has been the Tribe’s leading assist-man for the past two seasons since transferring in from Colorado State. In what will be his third and final season with W&M as a senior, look for Cohn to expand his role as more than just an assist man, and more of a scorer in 2017.
[Projected Starter] #41 Jack Whitman, Redshirt Senior, Forward (6’9”, 235): Last season, Jack Whitman may have been the Tribe’s most improved player. Sitting behind former Tribe big man Sean Sheldon, Whitman averaged a mere 2.3 and 3.3 points per game over his first two seasons in Williamsburg. With Sheldon graduated, Whitman has blossomed in more of a full time role. This past year, Jack averaged 10.1 ppg on 66% shooting to go along with 5.4 rebounds per game. Not bad at all. However, fellow big man Nathan Knight, also played very well this past season — especially down the stretch, finishing 2nd in the CAA in blocks while averaging 8.2 ppg. Any way you look at it, the Tribe will be set in this department in 2017.
[Projected Starter] #5 Greg Malinowski, Senior, Forward/Guard (6’6”, 210): After serving as the Tribe’s 6th man his first two seasons, Malinowski finally became a full time starter for the first time in his collegiate career this past season. Despite starting just about every game for the Tribe, Greg averaged just 3 more minutes of playing time per game than he did the season before, and finished with the same exact points per game mark as he did last season as the 6th man: 7.7 ppg. We would have liked to see a little more out of the Tribe’s all-around forward/guard this year, but know that he has what it takes to excel at this level. When Greg is on, he’s really on, finishing with 10+ points eleven different times. We’re looking for Greg to fill a big chunk of the scoring void left by Prewitt and Dixon’s graduation in 2017.
[Projected Starter] #34 Paul Rowley, Redshirt Junior, Forward (6’8”, 200): You really could debate whether it was Jack Whitman or Paul Rowley who should win this past season’s “Most Improved Player” award. Averaging just 2.4 minutes per game in his redshirt freshman season two years ago, Rowley managed just 1.0 points per game. After proving himself early this season, Paul has seen his minutes sky rocket to 16 minutes per game, while averaging 5.4 points per game. A tall, lanky forward, Rowley really found his touch from behind the 3-point arc this season, connecting on 38 three pointers. A great example of his abilities came in the final game of the season in the CAA Tournament vs. #1-seeded UNCW where he finished with 9 points on three 3-point shots, the vast majority of which came in the first half. In more of a full time role next season, look for Rowley to expand those scoring totals into the double digits. [There are also rumors that transfer Matt Milon could start in place of Rowley. Milon is a Shooting Guard from Boston College. Check out our preview of Milon here.]
[Projected Starter] #23 Justin Pierce, Sophomore, Forward/Guard (6’6”, 205): One could call Pierce “Omar Prewitt 2.0.” After watching Pierce’s high school highlights, his athletic abilities immediately jump out. He can dribble the ball all the way up the court through defenders, go up for the monster slam, and even jack up the deep three. Pierce is a player that should fit in perfectly with the offensive system that Head Coach Tony Shaver has in place. Averaging just 10.7 minutes and 3.7 ppg in his freshman campaign, Pierce still finished with 10+ points four times. Look for Pierce to contribute big time in the points column next season.
Conclusion: With this season over, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead to next year’s 2017 W&M Basketball squad. The team will have a good mix of older and younger players; the depth is certainly there. And although the team won’t have one or two players to rely on to score game in and game out, it may actually work to the team’s advantage if everyone can contribute. Think about it, if all players do their job and are able to score the ball, who are opposing teams supposed to focus their attention on? It’ll be an interesting offseason, and one that already can’t end soon enough. See you in Kaplan! LET’S GO TRIBE!!!