The men's basketball season is about to begin and the Knights are using two scrimmages as a way to prepare for the season ahead.
Geneseo is a different team than they were last year, particularly after forward Gordon Lyons ‘15 graduated following a season in which he averaged over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. Now, the Knights will be relying more heavily on guard play rather than size.
"We don't have size. In the past several years, I would say to you that I'm not concerned with any big, strong team because we were pretty big and strong ourselves,” head coach Steve Minton said. “But we are smaller than we've been and the new rules that create a faster game are something that we're not as accustomed to because we've used size to our advantage for so many years now. We have to adapt and make the changes and do nothing but get better as we go along."
The team's new fast-paced offensive philosophy was evident in the first scrimmage, as the Knights scored 96 points and relied on three-pointers for much of their scoring. As is the case with any team that emphasizes shooting and drive-and-kick plays, spacing is key.
"We've broken down the offense more into three-on-threes, two-on-twos and four-on-four situations on the perimeter where the spacing is most important,” Minton said. "We've done it based on what angle the ball is driven inside at and how we can adjust to keep that spacing."
But defense is just as important as offense. The Knights allowed 111 points in the first scrimmage, forcing Minton to dedicate large portions of practice to just transition defense. The drills that resulted were creative.
"Some drills involved two basketballs," he said. "One basketball was live and then the second the whistle blew, that ball was dead and there was suddenly a second ball going the other way, so you had to recover when it was already at half court. There's stuff like that that they find fun while still understanding the emphasis of the drills."
Despite the team's very different roster, Minton stressed that the Knights will still be striving for a playoff spot. Such a spot is no guarantee, however, in one of the more competitive conferences in the nation.
"The SUNYAC is, without a doubt, one of the toughest conferences from top to bottom in the country," Minton said. "The parity that we have from the first place team to the 10th place team is hard to imagine."
A few conference rivals are expected to be at or near the top of the conference. First, there is defending champion SUNY Oswego—a team with strong guards and a perimeter-oriented attack. Then there's SUNY Cortland—a team with possibly the best inside presence of any SUNYAC opponent. SUNY Brockport also consistently remains competitive for a playoff spot.
With five new players, there will be a learning curve for the Knights. For the time being, though, a new season brings nothing but renewed optimism.
"You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season and I think that if we continue to progress, we can be where we want to be by the end of the season and get a playoff spot,” Minton said.