After a disappointing 2009-10 campaign that had the men’s basketball team sitting at home during the postseason, the Rams are expecting to alter their system and rely on the performance of new additions to make them unwanted opponents in the PSAC.In the preseason coaches’ poll, West Chester was picked to finish fifth in the Eastern Division, but received one first place vote. East Stroudsburg led the first place votes with four and is projected to finish atop the east.
Their 2010-11 season kicked off in mid November, and they have gone 5-1. Their only defeat was a 3-point marginal loss to University of the Sciences.
Their season opener was played at home when the Rams hosted Wilmington University. Newcomer Lance McDowell immediately made his presence known at West Chester by scoring a game-high 21 points.
After being down by as many as 14 points, West Chester did not capture their first lead of the game until there were only eight minutes left. Miguel Bocachia hit a three for the Rams that started a string of scoring.
West Chester scored 55 points in the second half after going 19 of 32 from the field to grab the win in their season opener, 85-76.
McDowell was named the PSAC men’s basketball athlete of the week after his team’s come-from-behind win against Wilmington. Eighteen of his 21 points came in the second half to assist in erasing their nine point half time deficit.
In their following game against University of the Sciences, West Chester could not seem to find a rhythm in their shooting all night.
USP had just as low of shot totals, accounting for the low final score of 45-42.
West Chester went 4-for-30 from behind the arc and by the end of the game their field goal percentage was 26.7. Shannon Givens played 35 minutes for the Rams and registered 12 points in the loss.
Whatever wasn’t working for the Rams in their game against USP was quickly fixed before they matched up against Penn State Abington. West Chester easily handled PSU-Abington, beating them 100-45. This was only West Chester’s 25th 100-point game in the history of the program.
Every player for the Rams was a contributor to the offense. Bocachia came off the bench and scored a team-high 13 points. Freshman Troy Hockaday was right behind him with 12 points. West Chester’s bench was accountable for 58 of the Rams’ 100 points in the game.
In the following game against Philadelphia University, West Chester needed every last second of the game to secure their victory, which was another come-from-behind win.
With 32 seconds left and the score at 49-48 in favor of West Chester, Ola Sasano stepped up to the free throw line for Philadelphia University. He made the first attempt but missed on the second, giving Elie Daniel the chance to grab the rebound.
Daniel started the offense the other way and laid in a basket with only five seconds to play. The foul on the play and made free throw attempt gave the Rams a 3-point lead with only enough time for Philadelphia U. to quickly inbound the ball and attempt a long range three. West Chester won the game 52-49.
Since their first four games, West Chester has added another couple of tallies to their win column in convincing fashion over their opponents.
The Rams welcomed back some of their key contributors from last year’s squad. Daniel registered time in all 27 games for the Rams last year and was third on the team in scoring with 244 points. He averaged nine points per game.
Kehinde Roberts, a three year letter winner, returns for West Chester. He was second in scoring last season with 335 points. He averaged 12.4 points per game along with 4.6 rebounds.
Thiel Benn was a strong forward for the Rams last year whose size will be utilized this year for West Chester.
Daniel and Roberts are seniors this year while Benn is a junior. They will be leading the team as veteran players.
Younger players will also play a large part of the Rams’ success this year. Harley Williamson saw significant playing time in his freshman season last year, averaging almost 23 minutes a game. He is already becoming a leader for the team this year. In Saturday’s win against Holy Family, Williamson came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points.
Damien Blair returns to the West Chester sideline for his third season as head coach. He is hoping to bring his team back to the playoffs after they finished in sixth place last year, missing the postseason.
The team is experimenting with team chemistry and what works in game situations before they begin conference play in January.
West Chester is starting this upcoming season without two of last year’s starters. Ralph Hegamin played and started in 26 games for the Golden Rams last year and averaged almost 35 minutes per game. He averaged nearly a double-double per game with 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds. He led the team with 454 points on the year.
Kenny St. George will also be a notable absence to the West Chester line-up. Although he was plagued with injury for some of last season, he played in 18 games for the Rams and averaged 10.9 points per game.
West Chester will begin conference play when they travel to Mansfield on January 12. Their first conference game at home will be on January 15 when they host East Stroudsburg. Their first two conference games are against the number one and two teams in the preseason polls.
Preseason Coaches’ Poll:
East Stroudsburg (4)
West Chester (1)
Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.