Where do we go from here?
Sunday night inside JMU’s brand new Atlantic Union Bank Center, it was an all-too-familiar scene for Tribe fans. As the final buzzer sounded on a season like no other season before, there was at least one commonality: William and Mary just could not quite put the pieces together to make a run at the NCAA tournament. As the #7 seed in the CAA tournament, the Tribe faced a daunting but attainable challenge: win four games in four days. Seems simple, right? First up was UNC Wilmington.
Saturday night, the Tribe never trailed against the Seahawks and cruised to an opening round victory behind 17 points apiece from CAA Rookie of the Year Connor Kochera and Second-team all-CAA guard Luke Loewe. Those two at the top of the box score this season was quite the combination wasn’t it?
If there was a time of the season to need momentum, it was right here, right now. Junior Quinn Blair added 14 points while freshman Yuri Covington chipped in 8 of his own including one of the most gargantuan dunks we have seen all season that got every Tribe fan across the Commonwealth out of their seat.
Nearly a year after bowing out in the quarterfinals last season against Elon, the Tribe and head coach Dane Fischer picked up a much-needed win to get the weekend started. The victory marked Coach Fischer’s first CAA tournament victory, and he is sure to rack up plenty more of those in the years to come. Next up was the #2 seeded Northeastern Huskies.
Sunday night, William and Mary jumped out to an early lead, carrying a 3-point margin into the half, 28-25. The Tribe only turned the ball over three times in the first half, a key stat if it was going to pull off the upset. The second half was a completely different story.
Unable to get anything going, the Tribe faltered down the stretch, shooting just 23 percent in the second half. Luke Loewe potentially closed out his career in the green and gold with another gutsy performance, finishing with 18 points in the 63-47 defeat.
If that was indeed Luke Loewe’s final game for the Tribe, then he had one heck of a career. The senior from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin transformed his entire game to become one of the top performers in the CAA. As a freshman, Loewe averaged 1.1 points a game. Read that again. 1.1 points per game.
As a senior, Loewe led the offense night in and night out with 16.2 points per game. The amount of growth we have seen from Loewe over the past four years on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor has been utterly astounding. Last season, he was one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference, connecting on 44% of his tries from beyond the arc.
Not only was he lethal on the offensive end this year, but he also showed that he can guard any guard in the CAA. He finishes his career as a two-time all defensive selection in the conference, notorious for shutting down the league’s top guards night in and night out. So what’s next for Luke?
Due to the ongoing pandemic, winter sports athletes receive an extra year of eligibility. Even though we would love to see Luke Loewe back in Kaplan next season, we wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors if he decides to move on.
Speaking of transformations, ladies and gentlemen, we present Mekhel Harvey. The 6’9″ junior from Huntington Beach, California also landed a spot on the all-CAA defensive team this year thanks to his 41 blocks, a huge increase from his total of 4 from last season. He also led the team in rebounding with 6 per game.
Harvey sat behind the great Nathan Knight for the first couple years of his career, but when Knight graduated this past season, it was Harvey’s time to shine. He quickly recorded eight blocks in the first two games of the season, vaulting him to the top of the national leaderboards in the early goings. The junior led the conference in blocked shots this season, and will certainly be near the top of the leaderboards next season as well.
The 2020-2021 freshman class was one for the ages. Thrust to the forefront of the program, Connor Kochera and Yuri Covington took on leadership roles as immediate starters, and began to place their stamp on the program. Kochera collected Rookie of the Year honors in the conference thanks in part to his 13.4 points and 4.8 assists per game.
The Arlington Heights, Illinois native was a consistent force on the offensive end, providing a much needed spark to a sometimes struggling offensive unit. We knew Kochera was going to be a star when he opened the season with 19 points with 6 made threes against Old Dominion. That performance marked the most points in a Tribe debut since 2004.
Also showing flashes of brilliance in his inaugural season was point guard Yuri Covington. Covington averaged 9.5 points per game and shot 33 percent from beyond the arc. His athleticism and quickness shined as well, often speeding right past defenders in the lane. However, Covington did lead the team in turnovers with 67, nearly four per game. As he grows as a player and adjusts to the game at the collegiate level more, Covington is going to be a star in Williamsburg for many years to come.
The other two members of the freshman class, Jake Milkereit and Ben Wight also performed well in their first seasons in Williamsburg. Wight started 13 games this season and averaged 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The sky’s the limit for this kid, and he’s sure to grow into a force in the paint. True freshman Jake Milkereit appeared in 15 games this season, finishing with 2.9 points per game.
Another key consistent contributor was junior Quinn Blair. The Michigan native averaged 11.7 points per game, and was second on the team in rebounding with 5.8 per contest. Blair is a fighter, finishing the season with a shoulder injury in the CAA Tournament game against Northeastern, but still managing to put up 11 points and a pair of rebounds in the loss. Blair will return next season looking to add to his improvements this season. If he stays healthy, Blair has the potential to be an All-CAA performer next year.
In a season that was distinctively unprecedented, the Tribe certainly felt the impacts of the COVID-riddled season. W&M had 12 games cancelled due to COVID protocol and was in quarantine on two separate occasions during the season.
In fact, the CAA played only 56% of its games this season, by far the worst among conferences in the entire country. Although the disappointments of quarantine and cancellations were plenty, we are blessed to have seen any basketball at all this season. Hats off to all the players, coaches, and support staff that underwent extremely difficult circumstances so that we could see our beloved Tribe play.
So where do we go from here? We are roughly 8 and a half months away from the start of next season and I cannot wait to see what Coach Fischer and the entire program have in store for 2021. With Loewe being the lone senior and potentially returning, it is a distinct possibility that the Tribe will return its entire roster next season.
Even if Loewe decides to finish his career, the Tribe will return 4 out of 5 starters and will welcome yet another stellar recruiting class to the ‘Burg next season. Kochera, Covington, and Blair will definitely have an impact on the offensive end of the floor, with Mekhel Harvey and Ben Wight controlling the paint.
Hopefully we will get to see a full slate of games, including a packed Kaplan Arena, but we may have to wait and see. Until then, I only have three words…
LET’S GO TRIBE.
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