Buffalo, NY - The D'Youville Spartans Men's Basketball team begins the 2017-18 season with high expectations.
Eleven players return, including eight of last year's top ten scorers and seven of the top nine rebounders. The 16-17 Spartan team held the lead in the second half of eight of their last nine conference games and have used the year of maturity to prepare to challenge for the top of the conference this season.
"We are in the unique position of being a young yet veteran squad," seventh year Head Coach Earl Schunk said. "We have a lot of players who have played a lot of meaningful minutes, yet we only have one senior on the team."
That lone senior, Steve Kunelius (Oswego, NY/Oswego), is a deadly three point shooter and tough rebounder who underwent off season knee surgery but is back ready to help lead the attack. He is joined by five juniors who all played big roles last year. Leading scorer and 6'6" guard Jeremy VanDuluitgaarden (Verona, NY/Vernon-Verona-Sherrill) is a matchup nightmare who was an AMCC Third Team All-Conference selection as a sophomore.
In the post, 6'7" Jake Socha Tonawanda, NY/Niagara Catholic) was the team's second leading scorer and 6'5" forward Juan Miguel Rosales (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Village School) provide a double threat in the post, averaging a combined 21 points and 11 rebounds a game.
Forward and co-captain Will VanAuken (Caledonia, NY/Caledonia-Mumford) is great defender and rebounder, doing all the important things that do not always show up on the stats sheet. At 6'2", Brian Nwaekeke (Corona, CA/John F. Kennedy) came on very strongly at the end of the season, recording double doubles in two of the last three games of the season. His unique mix of strength and agility will cause nightmares for opponents this season.
Coach Schunk is very excited about the Spartans' guard depth this season.
"We wanted to get quicker and have more depth to play the style I prefer, and I think this group allows us to do that," he stated.
Sophomore guards Simeon Heard (Rochester, NY/Charles Finney) and Darrius Hartzog (Rochester, NY/Wilson Magnet) received plenty of experience last season and will be counted on as part of Schunk's "young veterans". Heard averaged eight points in 18 minutes of play last season, highlighted by a 20 point in four minute outburst that single handedly brought the Spartans back against Houghton. Hartzog was the Spartans' top defender last season, holding last season's AMCC player of the Year to 3-16 shooting in their January game.
Haiden Ward (Bloomfield, NY/Bloomfield) is a 6'2" sophomore with a 30" plus vertical jump who is coming into his own and will see major minutes this season. Two transfers, sophomore Wanya' Bruce (Rochester, NY/Fairport) and junior Devon Camel (Cheektowaga, NY/Cheektowaga) have already shown their value and will be counted on to keep up the pace of the Spartan attack.
Freshman guard Brian Sharp (Newark, NY/Newark), a three point specialist, and freshman guard/forward Jagdeep Drumgoole (Rochester, NY/Early College), a tough defender and scorer, will also figure into the mix.
Junior guard/forward Bryce Little (Arcade, NY/Pioneer) is working his way back from knee issues and is an excellent three point threat, while junior guard Patrick Plummer (Cheektowaga, NY/Cheektowaga) is solid defender who had big moments last season. Late arrivals Tyreke Mims (Churchville, NY/Churchville-Chili) and Will Anderson (Hamburg, NY/Frontier) have impressed Coach Schunk and will be counted on as the season progresses.
The team looks to revitalize the "RUN-DYC" mantra that they have been known for in past seasons.
"We actually played at the fastest pace in the conference last season," Schunk commented, noting the team averaged over 80 possessions per game last season. "We are looking to up that to 90-100 possessions this season while becoming more efficient on offense. If we can accomplish that, the sky is the limit."
Look for a lot of exciting games in the newly remodeled College Center Gym this season.
"We want to play at a level worthy of the best gym in the conference, which I believe we now have."
The Spartans will tip-off their season on Friday, November 17 as they travel to Alfred State to play Alfred Univeristy at 5:00pm. On Monday, November 20 the men will open the home portion of their schedule as they host Wells at 6:00pm.