Williamsburg - Fresh off one of the best seasons in school history, the excitement surrounding the William and Mary men’s basketball program continues to build. Despite losing four seniors, including three starters, the cupboard is far from bare for eighth-year head coach Tony Shaver. The Green and Gold returns eight letterwinners from last season, including three with significant starting experience. Add to that what ESPN.com and Scouts, Inc., rated the top freshman class in the CAA and one of the top Mid-Major groups in the country and the talent level has continued to grow during Shaver’s tenure in Williamsburg.
A driving force behind the Green and Gold’s 22-win, NIT berth season in 2009-10 was chemistry. Tri-captains, senior Marcus Kitts and juniors Quinn McDowell and Kendrix Brown, will be charged with developing that unity and building the 2010-11 edition of Tribe basketball ‘Together as One.’
Kitts, McDowell and Brown are the Tribe’s three most experienced players, having gained starting nods during their careers. Junior JohnMark Ludwick is the Tribe’s fourth upperclassman and showed flashes of his abilities last season. He earned his first start of hte season in the NIT first-round contest at North Carolina, subbing for an injured McDowell. Sophomores Matt Rum and Kyle Gaillard both appeared in every game as key reserves for the College, giving W&M six players who played significant minutes during their careers.
Returning Letterwinners 1 - Kendrix Brown (Jr., 6-3, 195, Norfolk, Va.)
11 - Doug Howard (So., 5-9, 150, Leesburg, Va.)
4 - Matt Rum (So., 6-4, 200, Baltimore, Md.)
The position most hit by graduation for the Green and Gold was the guard position as the Tribe lost its starting backcourt of David Schneider and Sean McCurdy. While the both starters are gone, W&M returns junior captain Kendrix Brown who saw his share of starting minutes as a freshman in 2008-09.
Coming into last year, Brown looked to be the Tribe’s most effective guard, but an injury forced him to miss the first month of the season and slowed him for the rest of the year. Despite the injury, the Norfolk, Va., native came up big in important spots. In one of his first games on the season at Radford, Brown drilled a pair of 3-pointers, including the second with just over two minutes remaining to extend W&M’s cushion to five points and help secure the road win. He finished with eight points, two assists (compared to zero turnovers) and three steals against the Highlanders.
Brown also tallied a pair of game-winners during the CAA portion of the slate. He came up with a pair of clutch plays in the waning minutes at Hofstra to help the Green and Gold equal the school record with 10-straight wins in early January. Defensively, Brown came up with a steal of CAA Player of the Year Charles Jenkins that resulted in a fast-break bucket and tied the game late. Then, with the Tribe trailing by two points with 17 seconds remaining, Brown scored on a driving lay-up, was fouled and converted the conventional 3-point play to give the College a 48-47 road win. In the Tribe’s 53-52 home win over Northeastern, Brown pulled down an offensive rebound, had the composure to collect himself and convert a fade-away putback with 3.8 seconds remaining to cement the one-point win.
Brown, who has appeared in 56 games over his career with 22 starts, will be the role model to an otherwise youthful Tribe backcourt. Over the summer, an already physically strong guard, Brown worked to become more physically fit and lean. If the early part of workouts is any indication, Brown will be a terror for Green and Gold opponents to deal with in 2010-11.
Sophomore Matt Rum will have the opportunity to garner starting minutes at the two-guard position after gaining confidence over his rookie campaign. Despite playing behind a trio of experienced players, Rum forced his way into valuable minutes with solid, composed play, not normally seen from a rookie. He appeared in every game and averaged over 12 minutes per contest. Rum played over 20 minutes in each of the Tribe’s win over NCAA Tournament teams, Richmond and Wake forest. He had big games, including an eight-point showing in a home victory over VCU, but none bigger than his three-game run at the CAA Tournament.
Over the three-game league championship, Rum averaged modest numbers of 16.3 minutes, 3.7 points, 3.7 assists and 1.3 rebounds per game, but his play spoke a lot louder than his numbers would indicate. Over his 49 minutes, the Baltimore, Md., native had 11 assists compared to zero turnovers. He dished out five assists against both James Madison and Old Dominion in the title tilt. In the semifinals against Northeastern, Rum scored a big six points in a low-scoring 47-45 victory, including a rare 4-point play.
The other Tribe returner in the backcourt is walk-on sophomore Doug Howard. Despite only appearing in five games last season, Howard provided the Green and Gold with invaluable energy. A speedy guard who has become a more consistent shooter from the perimeter over the offseason, the Leesburg, Va., native held his own throughout practice last season against the Tribe’s veteran backcourt. During his rookie campaign, Howard averaged 1.4 points per game, while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the free throw line.
A trio of newcomers joins the mix for the College in the backcourt. Freshman Julian Boatner was a starter for the prestigious Indiana Senior All-Star team in its yearly series against Kentucky. One of the top players out of the state of Indiana, he scored over 1,000 career points and was an All-State honoree. Boatner, who is a versatile scorer with a knockdown jump shot, can play both guard positions as he did throughout his high school career. He will have the opportunity to gain minutes in the backcourt as a freshman.
Brandon Britt a the local product out of Atlantic Shores Christian in Chesapeake, Va. An ultra quick lead guard, Britt can score in a multitude of ways. He led the Hampton Roads area in scoring at 24.5 points per game as a senior. Britt also set a Atlantic Shores Christian record 10 3-pointers in a game as a junior. With the ability to add a different dimension to the Tribe’s offensive scheme, Britt has the chance to earn playing time at the guard position as a rookie.
Freshman Ben Whitlatch also joins the fold as a walk-on at the guard position. Another Bloomigton, Ind., native, Whitlatch is a winner, having played for a state championship program in Bloomington South and an elite AAU program in Indiana Elite. As a junior, Whitlatch’s high school team finished the year unbeaten and ranked No. 3 nationally. He was an Indiana Wendy’s High School Heisman Award State finalist and a nominee for the Larry Bird Character Award.
Newcomers 24 - Fred Heldring (Fr., 6-9, 235, Winnetka, Ill.)
22 - Tim Rusthoven (Fr., 6-9, 210, Winfield, Ill.)
The strength of the Tribe returns at the forward position as the College brings back a pair of starters and three other letterwinners, including two who played significant minutes a season ago. Headlining the group is a pair of captains in senior Marcus Kitts and junior Quinn McDowell.
Kitts is one of the top returning bigmen in the CAA after averaging 7.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest last season. His rebounding average ranked among the CAA leaders and is the sixth-best returning total. After providing a exceptional complement to the Tribe’s perimeter scoring last season, Kitts’ senior campaign will be his opportunity to take a bigger role in the Green and Gold offense.
Last season, the Holly Springs, N.C., native showed he can play with anyone in the country, enjoying standout performance against the likes of Wake Forest, Maryland and North Carolina. Kitts flexed his muscle averaging nearly 11 points and seven rebounds while shooting 74 percent from the floor on the home floor of the ACC foes.
He not only demonstrated his ability to score in the low post and rebound, but also the capability to take bigger post players off the dribble within the Tribe’s offense. No situation was that more evident than the game-winner at Georgia State as Kitts drove from the top of the key and finished, while getting fouled to give the College the lead for good with under 30 seconds remaining.
McDowell, a third-team All-CAA selection last season, is the Tribe’s top returning scorer and one of the top shooters in the country. The 6-6 forward averaged 13.9 points per game last season, a number that ranked 10th in the CAA and is the fifth-best scoring output to return in the league for 2010-11. McDowell’s exploits as a shooter allowed him to be one of only six players nationally to shoot at least 49 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line. He finished at 49.3 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from 3-point range, which ranked second in the CAA, and 80.3 percent from the free throw stripe.
As a sophomore, McDowell was the most versatile scorer in the CAA and his understanding of the game is unparalleled. He topped the 20-point mark on eight occasions, a total that ranked fourth in the CAA. Perhaps the biggest game of his career came on one of the Green and Gold’s biggest stages. In the College’s 83-77 upset at ACC regular season co-champion Maryland, the Mason, Ohio, native finished with a career-high 28 points on 8-of-14 from the field and 9-of-9 from the free throw line.
Junior JohnMark Ludwick and sophomore Kyle Gaillard return to the mix after seeing major minutes in 2009-10. Ludwick appeared in all 33 games, making his lone start in the NIT first round game at North Carolina when McDowell was out with injury, while Gaillard came off the bench in all 33 contests, averaging over 11 minutes per game.
Ludwick averaged 4.5 points per game for the College and was deadly from 3-point range. He came up in some big spots both in his ability to stretch the defense and as a defensive sub in the low post. In the Tribe’s 78-68 upset at Wake Forest, Ludwick was 3-of-5 from 3-point range to help cement the victory as the College became the first team ever to beat the Demon Deacons in Joel Coliseum during the month of November. He was 3-of-3 from long distance at home against eventual CAA Champion Old Dominion, before finishing the season on a high at UNC. In his first start in the Green and Gold, Ludwick was 5-of-12 from long range, finishing with 15 points against the Tar Heels. In a back-and-forth contest, Ludwick provided deep three after deep three in helping the College set a school record with 16 treys against the Tar Heels.
The most athletic player on the Tribe’s roster, Gaillard worked hard in the weight room during the offseason to gain some noticeable bulk. After averaging 2.8 points per game off the bench and shooting 34.2 percent from 3-point range, he will be given the chance to earn a starting nod at the wing position, vacated by the graduation of 1,000-point career scorer Danny Sumner.
Gaillard has the ability to score in a variety of ways and is a tough match-up with his length. Along with his work in the weight room, he also worked on developing the consistency on his jump shot. Gaillard busted on to the scene for the College with eight points in his debut at UConn. He also came up big at George Mason toward the end of the year to help the College gain an opening-day bye at the CAA Tournament. He hit a big 3-pointer from the left corner in the second half in helping the College overcome an 11-point halftime deficit.
Sophomore Andrew Pavloff adds to the depth and could have an impact on the Tribe lineup in 2010-11 after recovering from the injury bug that plagued him for most of his rookie campaign that limited him to just six games.
With his size and shooting ability, Pavloff can cause match-up problems with his ability to stretch the floor. He has added strength and is more fit entering his sophomore campaign. During preseason individual workouts, Pavloff has impressed with his shooting touch and his understanding of the Tribe Hybrid offense.
While the returning core of forwards is strong, the Tribe adds a pair of talented freshmen from the Chicagoland area to the mix. Freshman Fred Heldring is a big-bodied forward who has an exceptional basketball IQ. He played for standout high school (New Trier) and AAU (Rising Stars) programs as a prep, competing on a national level against some of the top talent in the country.
Heldring was rated the 42nd best center in the country according to ESPN.com and was one of the top 20 players in the state of Illinois. Along with a skilled low post game, the 6-9, 235-pounder is an exceptional passer, an active rebounder and can cause problems for opponents with his ability to shoot the basketball.
Freshman Tim Rusthoven adds another versatile scorer to the fold for the College. He graduated from high school as the all-time leading scorer in Wheaton Academy history at 1,439 points. A two-time all-state selection, he was rated as one of the top 20 players in a loaded state of Illinois class.
An active rebounder and defender in high school, Rusthoven can score both in the low post with his back to the basket and facing up with the jump shot. He was slowed in the preseason a bit by injury, but gives the Tribe staff another talented option in the frontcourt.