BY KEVIN STEELE —
The men’s and women’s basketball teams each have 10 new players this year, but their chemistry, and their competitiveness makes them hopeful for the upcoming season.
The coaching staff and the players who remain on the men’s team have been using their time in practice to get their new teammates acclimated with the system, figure out the things that they are good at, and what they need to work on, said sophomore forward, Hershell Williams.
“The biggest thing when you have 10 new guys is focusing on finding your identity, building your strengths, and trying your best to eliminate the weaknesses,” Williams said.
One of the strengths Williams believes will play a factor in their success is their ability to get each other involved on the court.
“We have a knack for sharing the ball,” Williams said. “We trust each other and know that the next guy is going to make the shot if he’s open, and give us the ball if we’re open.”
Out of the 10 new players, four are freshman, and five are transfer students. One attended William Paterson University last year, but did not compete athletically, according to the wpupioneers’ website.
George Sapp, a senior who will play point guard on the team, praised his new teammates.
“We gained a lot of transfers and a lot of really good freshman, and I think we’re a lot better, a lot bigger too,” Sapp said.
The Pioneers men’s team are looking to improve from their 11-14 record last season.
Head Coach Brian Chapman believes that a big part of their success will depend on players staying healthy.
“The last two years we’ve been really banged up and had a lot of injuries,” Chapman said. “So far in preseason we’ve remained healthy, and the guys did a really good job of getting themselves in shape to try to avoid any injuries.”
The coach of the women’s team, Erin Monahan, is excited about the new players on her team, as well, and the added help that they bring.
“We’ve struggled with forwards in the last couple years,” Monahan said. “That has been a goal of ours, and we are loaded in the forward area [this year].”
Last year, the women’s team finished with a record of 14-12, which earned them a trip to the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament. Despite losing in the first round, the women’s team has a history of winning.
Over the course of 24 seasons, Monahan has led WPU to 11 NCAA Tournament bids, three NJAC titles, nine appearances in the NJAC Tournament championship game, and has an overall record of 457-198, according to the wpupioneers’ website.
“My goal is not to get to 200 losses for the year; hopefully it doesn’t happen right away,” Monahan said.
Monahan, however, said that it is all about her players, and even if there are no future All-Americans and Hall of Famers on the team, based on what she has seen in practice, they will still be successful.
“What I like about what we have is our nucleus, and our practices are very up-tempo,” Monahan said.
Tori Woetzel, a senior who will either play the small forward or power forward position, likes what she is seeing so far in her new teammates.
“There’s a lot of big kids which we needed,” Woetzel said. “I think they’re a very athletic group, and their very competitive.”
Wednesday, Nov. 15, the Pioneers will play their first games of the season at home. The women’s team will play Vassar College at 6 p.m., and the men’s team will play Brooklyn College at 8 p.m.