Unity, hard work and fundamentals focus of FSU hoops team
Special to the OBSERVER
Head coach Phil Seymore enters his fifth season with the Fredonia Blue Devils men’s basketball team heading into the 2017-18 campaign. This year, the team has not set its focus on goals, but each player has an individual commitment to focus on daily to improve himself and the team. The team’s focus will be on three commitments — unity, hard work, and consistently improving fundamentals. “We feel once we come together,” said Seymore “we can dominate.”
Overall 10-15; finished 7-11 in the SUNYAC, eighth place.
Ian Helps — senior forward was team leader in scoring (15.0) and rebounding (6.7).
Dante’ Williams — senior guard averaged 9.4 points per game (third on team), 5.8 rebounds per game (second).
Kay Jackson — starting point guard missed most of last season, averaged 6.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 2015-16.
Isaiah Ice — a 6’0” junior guard and Jamestown Community College transfer, averaged 12.1 points for the Jayhawks, led team with 39 steals.
Vinace Zoungrana — a 6’6” transfer, tremendous defender, has range offensively.
Jonathan McDonald — a 6’7” freshman, had a strong showing in scrimmage vs. DI Fordham, shot blocker.
Richard De La Cruz — 10.8 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, team-high 39 three pointers.
Kareem Brown — 9.2 points per game, 29 three pointers.
Nicc Johnson — came off the bench in all 25 games, led team with 31 steals.
The Devils opened their pre-season with a stiff challenge, taking on a Division I opponent in Fordham to prepare for the upcoming season. They open the regular season on Wednesday at Penn State Behrend.
Returning starters Helps and Williams provide the offensive punch. The return of Jackson — he missed most of last season due to injury — to the point guard position will help on both ends of the court. “Kay is in tune with the team and staff (on offense),” said Seymore. “He is our lead defender. The ball starts with him on offense, and the defense will start with him.”
Helps is already in the 1,000-point club and has improved his mid-range jumper this off season. At 1,090 points, Helps sits at No. 10 on the team’s all time list. His 563 career rebounds also puts him in the Top 10.
Williams is one of the most unselfish players, and has been asked him to be more aggressive this year. “With our depth in other areas, I have asked him to do more — and he will,” said Seymore.
Ice will add a scoring touch and range to replace the graduation losses of De La Cruz and Brown, the team’s top three-point threats a year ago. A seasoned player, Seymore feels he also has the ability to make those around him better.
Seymore feels the team’s strength is its length. A lot of depth with size and wing span should be an ingredient to success.
A pair of newcomers provide that length and have impressed right away — McDonald, a 6’7” freshman, turned in the team’s top mile time the first week of practice, and Zougrana, a 6’6” sophomore, was not far behind. In addition to their size, “they came in in great shape, and they are quick and can run,” said Seymore.
Senior Keith Ruiz adds some depth and experience, and will push for time at the point. He came off the bench in 23 games last year.
Sophomores De’Quan Smith and Chris Marinez have stepped up since their freshman seasons, and will help the team improve. Smith is an excellent passer and ball handler and will fill in at the point. The 6’5” Marinez is an all-around player that adds to the team’s length.
Brian Baril started both pre-season scrimmages, and is a very good offensive rebounder that brings a lot of energy. Colden George provides range from the outside and is an excellent passer. Tyler Roberts returns after missing last season.
Other freshmen include Adam Braniecki, Kam Jackson, Tariq Troutman, and Abdullah Yusuf.
After the Behrend game, the Devils travel to Hamburg for the Hilbert College Tip Off Tournament Nov. 17-18.The home opener is Saturday, Nov. 25 vs. Medaille College.
SUNYAC play commences on Dec. 1-2 when the team travels to the North Country to take on Plattsburgh and Potsdam.