Buffalo, NY - Coming off a playoff appearance in 2018-19, the D'Youville men's basketball team enters this season striving for a repeat trip to the postseason and more.
"We are excited to get started," said Head Coach Earl Schunk as he enters his 9th year at the helm.
D'Youville ended the season in the first round of the AMCC Playoffs at the hands of the Mount Aloysius Mounties. The men finished the season with a 9-9 conference record and an 11-15 overall record for the 5th seed in the playoffs.
Coming into this season, the men have a promising roster mixed with young talent and seasoned veterans. Coach Schunk knows that their conference opponents have lost some important players and his team has a great opportunity in front of them.
"The conference is truly wide open this season," said Schunk. "Almost every team had a lot of attrition due to graduation. I think our playing style will be different that most teams in our conference and that should force teams to prepare specifically for us. We also have solid guard play, something that is needed in a playoff run. If we can defend and rebound, there is no reason we can't compete to win the conference title."
That style of play is something the team will look to hang their collective hats on. In years past, the team has used the mantra "RUNDYC" and will look to further that brand of basketball this season.
"We led the conference in scoring last season, and were second in pace of play.," said Schunk. "We hope to improve on both of those statistics, and I think fans who come see us will be very entertained by our up and down style."
The offense will be paced by sophomore point guard Devon Darrell (Lockport, NY/Lockport) as the speedy playmaker returns to run the offense for a second season. Darrell started all 23 games in which he played as a freshman, leading the team in assists (3.5 APG) and steals (1.3 SPG) as well. While he was on the court, Devon led the team in plus/minus at +45 and the team was -49 with him off the court. His impact as just a freshman was huge.
Expected to take over the scoring load for the men this season will be junior guard/forward Grant Beyer (Williamsville, NY/St. Joe's). Beyer finished sixth in the scoring in the conference (14.7 PPG), ninth in three-point percentage (41.1%), and fourth in free throw percentage (80.7%) last season in his first year as a Spartan. Grant had nine games in which he made three or more threes and three games of five or more made threes and finished the season first in three-point percentage, second in scoring, third in steals, fourth in rebounding, fourth in minutes, and fifth in field goal percentage. His unique skillset will be counted on to lead the offense.
A great deal of veteran leadership will add to the incoming and young talent. Senior guard Simeon Heard (Rochester, NY/Charles Finney) is the leader of the team and brings athleticism, playmaking, and is a dangerous scorer. Senior Juan Miguel Rosales (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Village School) returns to the team as an outstanding low-post presence that brings scoring, rebounding, and energy to the lineup. Junior guard Darrius Hartzog (Rochester, NY/Wilson Magnet) also returns to the squad and is an excellent two-way player.
With Rosales and Hartzog back in the lineup, the two add a combined 19.6 PPG from the 2017-18 season that was missing from the team last season. That season, Heard added 11.2 PPG while shooting 44.7% from the field last year as all three are dangerous on the offensive end of the court.
On the permitter, junior guard Brian Sharp (Newark, NY/Newark) is one of the best shooters in the conference beyond the arc. Brian tallied six games with four or more made threes and eight games of scoring in double figures. Junior guards Jagdeep Drumgoole (Rochester, NY/Early College) and Wanya Bruce (Rochester, NY/Fairport), as well as junior forward Jake Funderburk (Amherst, NY/Amherst), will all be expected to contribute not only on the court, but as leaders.
Sophomores Trey Boling (Tonawanda, NY/St. Joe's), Latrell Butler (Olean, NY/Olean), and Mike DiPane (Seaford, NY/St. Anthony) are in their second season under Coach Schunk and will look to create expanded roles for themselves.
As for the freshmen, Noah Denz (East Aurora, NY/East Aurora) earned the start against Mercyhurst last Friday in the team's final exhibition game of the preseason and is a young player to watch. Torree Cheatham (Lockport, NY/Lockport), Ryan Davis (Darian Center, NY/Alexander), and Javon Ruffin (Lockport, NY/Lockport) add depth and will look to carve out their own roles as young players.
With a perfect split of eight upper and eight underclassmen, the team has a blend of talented youth with experienced efficiency. That mix of players is what Coach Schunk sees as what can separate this team from others in the conference.
"We have great overall depth," Schunk said. "I really like our guard play. DD (Darrell) is as talented as any point guard I have had, and I have had many good ones. Sim (Heard), Darrius (Hartzog) and Wanya (Bruce) are very quick and good two way players. Brian Sharp is a great shooter, and Grant Beyer was sixth in the conference in scoring last season. We also have some freshmen and sophomore guards with great potential."
"Our front line has two freshmen with limitless potential, Ryan Davis and Noah Denz," he added. "It's great to have Juan Rosales our MVP from two seasons ago back with us. He adds a veteran presence and is a mentor to our younger big men. Plus, with his experience of playing internationally for his country, he is not overwhelmed by the moment."
The team has lost a great deal of scoring, rebounding, and defense from last season to now. Filling those voids will provide greater opportunities to the current roster to make an impact.
"It's very hard to lose our all-time leading scorer and rebounder and our second all-time leading rebounder, along with our best defender and a strong presence on both ends of the floor," said Schunk. "We will adapt by playing at a faster tempo to take advantage of our speed and depth. It also helps that we have three veterans returning after missing last season. They give us needed depth and experience."
One of the seniors from last season, Devon Camel, is now on the team's coaching staff as Director of Basketball Operations. His desire and passion for the game of basketball will greatly help the team this season.
"Devon is a great addition," said Schunk. "Coaching is something he wants to do, and he works hard at being prepared. He also has the perspective of being a recent former player. That gives him instant credibility with the team."
Camel joins the existing coaching staff of long time assistant in Associate Head Coach Mike Haskell and second year Graduate Assistant, Aweso Noor. The knowledge, experience, and leadership of the staff are all major assets of the team.
The men will open their regular season on Tuesday, November 12 as they travel to Fredonia to take on the Blue Devils at 7:00pm. D'Youville will then host Wells this Friday, November 15 at 7:00pm before playing their next three games on the road. On Wednesday, December 4, the men will host Penn State-Behrend at 6:00pm for their first home conference game after opening their conference schedule on Wednesday, November 20 at Hilbert at 6:00pm.