Basketball teams look forward to solid season

The Geneseo men's basketball team heads into the 2006-2007 season with high expectations. Playing with a young roster last season, without any seniors, the team went through some growing pains early on, but head coach Steve Minton's team came around late in the season to go 11-8 over its last 19 games.

This season, as the team gains experience, the outlook is bright. The squad features 10 returning players, including five seniors, highlighted by last year's leading scorer, Steve McDonnell. The senior will look to fellow classmates Brian Bennett and Greg Spears for help, as well as junior Tarik Kitson.

Point guard and captain Bennett echoes the optimistic sentiment of his team, indicating that the Knights "hope to be back at the top of the conference where we belong."

Crucial to a return to prominence will be the continued development of several players who emerged as threats last season. Heading that faction is junior Joe Kling, who improved his play during the 2005-2006 campaign to the tune of 12 points per game over the last 10 contests. Minton could not be happier with Kling's development, stating that the guard "has always had the ability to get to the basket and finish. He's improved on that along with his outside shooting tremendously, making him a much more complete player. You'll see him doing even more for us this season."

Sophomore Scott Morton will also look to improve on his output after being named SUNYAC Rookie of the Year last year. Morton tallied nearly eight points per game, and also chipped in with 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. Minton believes the biggest difference for Morton this season will be his increased offensive contribution, observing that he "has taken on a more active role offensively, whereas last year he deferred to older players. We're seeing him be very aggressive."

Couple the wealth of upcoming players with already established forces, and the Knights appear armed and dangerous heading into the new campaign. Minton stressed that it will not be an easy road, but he is pleased with his team's progress, remarking that "in that one year's time, they've matured so much. We're hoping it's going to pay off." If the early indications are any hint, fans of the Knights can expect an enjoyable and successful 2006-2007 season.

The Geneseo women's hoops team has equal reason for enthusiasm heading into the new year. Lead by head coach Kris Ruffo, the Lady Knights are coming off of a 17-11 effort last year, including 11-5 in conference play.

Leading the team will be junior sensation Annie Verdino, who will look to build on last season's outstanding performance, when she led the SUNYAC in scoring with over 18 points per game and in free throw shooting at nearly 85 percent. The forward also led the Knights in rebounding, tallying 7.5 boards per contest. Heading the list of those assisting Verdino will be junior Amanda Haney and senior Katy Irving.

Ruffo stressed that while Verdino is the focal point of the offense, the rest of the team plays an equally important role. "I don't think there is anyone that can stop Verdino one-on-one," Ruffo proclaimed. "But we have a great core surrounding her, and they will help her become a better player as she will help them become better players," she said.

The team will have to work hard, especially early, as Ruffo stated they have "the potential of playing seven of the top 30 schools in the nation. That's a good challenge, and its something that will certainly prepare us for our conference season."

To add another element into the 2006-2007 formula, Ruffo will be coaching with a chip on her shoulder. Despite her career record of 68-43 at Geneseo, Ruffo's contract has not been renewed past this season. She stressed, however, that it will only serve as motivation for her and her team. "They're resilient, they're loyal, and they're out there to prove a point, as am I."

With a balanced team, a budding superstar, and a coach with something to prove, the upcoming campaign promises to be an exciting one for the Lady Knights and their fans.