Out with the old and in with the new; that is the current mindset for the Utica College men’s basketball team going into the upcoming season. With only two seniors and one junior on the roster, the Pioneers are looking to fill big shoes left by the graduating class last year, but also look to compete in the Empire 8 this year.
The biggest loses going into the year for the Pioneers would have to be a combination of Conor Maisch and Aaron Nevins. Maisch was the MVP for the Pioneers throughout his years on the court and last year he finished his playing career averaging 17 points per game along with four rebounds. Nevins, on the other hand, was the point guard for the team and led them up and down the floor almost every minute of every game last season where he averaged 11 points, four assists, and a couple of rebounds in every contest.
Finishing the season with a 10-15 overall record and a 6-10 record in conference the Pioneers do have a couple things to work on such as defending their home court, where they only had a 3-6 record over at the Harold T. Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium.
One of the two seniors, Robert Tutein is looking to build off of his very successful campaign last season. He finished averaging 12 points per game along with accumulating 22 steals and 16 blocks on the season. Tutein has the utmost confidence with how the team has been coming along in the offseason.
“It’s going to be an exciting year and the games will be fun to watch,” Tutein said. “We have the capability to be one of the better teams in the conference, to make playoffs and that right now is our goal.”
Sophomore Carl Taylor has a lot of expectations coming into the season as he will most likely be in charge of the offense with the loss of Nevins. Taylor did receive a good portion of minutes through last season and he is excited to get back onto the court with his returning teammates.
“We have a lot of promising freshman and returners like myself ready to guide them in the right direction,” Taylor said. “With the help of Coach Connolly and the rest of the new assistant coaches, we are working toward a promising season and hopefully bringing an Empire 8 title back to UC.”
Then there is Junior Agim Hamiti, the sharpshooter who can also get in the lane, is also excited to get back into action this year. Hamati looks to be a big contributor to the offense and use all of his skills. Likewise, Hamati said the Pioneers are still working to get better every day.
“I think that this year we have a good group of players, maybe not so big in the size of players but very athletic and humble players,” Hamati said. “We want to be the hardest working team in our league. We want to be a passionate team and a team that doesn’t beat itself.”
The team has their opening game of the season and home opener on Saturday when they will play SUNY Cortland at 7pm.