The wind’s starting to pick up, the leaves are falling, college football’s almost over and snow should be on the horizon soon. Yes, it’s time for another season of West Chester University men’s basketball, and boy, does this team have a chance to make some noise. One year after being picked to finish seventh in the PSAC East, WCU is now expected to contend for the league crown. The Golden Rams destroyed expectations last year, culminating in a No. 3 seed for the PSAC playoffs and some much-needed playoff experience. Now, Cinderella’s not satisfied with just making it to the ball. It’s time to take over.
WCU might have the most formidable trio of players in the conference, boasting three All-PSAC players. Center/power forward Ralph Hegamin, a first-team All-PSAC selection last season, returns to patrol the middle for the Golden Rams. Hegamin is coming off of a season which saw him average 17.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. With two full seasons under his belt at WCU and a second year in head coach Damien Blair’s system, bigger and better things are expected from Hegamin, and he relishes the challenge. However, Hegamin emphasizes team success over any level of individual success.
“I want to aim for the highest level of personal achievement I can get, but that won’t happen unless I do what the team needs me to do,” Hegamin said. “If our team doesn’t succeed, any personal goals I reach will be irrelevant to me.”
The 6’8″ Hegamin is the poster boy for versatility. He’s got the muscle and post game to battle the PSAC’s smaller big men, and is just as comfortable taking his game around the perimeter to use his speed and quickness against bigger, slower big men. The 15-foot jump shot, a lost art amongst many big men, is one of the things that makes Hegamin so deadly and so hard to defend.
WCU’s other first-team All-PSAC selection from last year, guard Kenny St. George, is one of the PSAC’s most exciting players. St. George averaged 16.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season and is capable of playing three different positions, which offers coach Blair a ton of flexibility in picking and choosing match-ups. He can run the point, play shooting guard, or even has the muscle to play a little bit of small forward.
When watching St. George, one can’t help but notice an uncanny comparison to Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. While St. George obviously isn’t as talented as Bryant, the similarities in playing style are easy to see. St. George plays angry and is one of the best closers in the PSAC. When the game is on the line, this is the guy who wants the ball in his hands. He’s a primetime player who is better when the game needs to be taken over.
Kehinde Roberts, an absolutely lethal three-point shooter and another extremely versatile player, returns from an All-PSAC second-team season. Roberts averaged 13.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while making a scintillating 46.2 percent of his three-point attempts. Roberts is the team’s silent assassin. He goes about his business quietly, almost unnoticed, until it’s time to take over. The 6’4″ Roberts is arguably the team’s best defender, and will likely draw the opposing team’s best scorer on a nightly basis.
While it’s all well and good to have a great core of players to build around, no one can win any league, much less the PSAC, without some good depth. Sam Scott, a 6’5″ forward with unparalleled leaping ability, returns to the Golden Rams’ frontcourt. Scott averaged 5.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. If Scott can develop his offensive game a little bit more, the Rams could have the most dominant frontcourt in the PSAC.
Sandy Tanner, the team’s returning point guard, will be expected to improve on a season which saw him average 4.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Tanner led the team in assists as well, and Hegamin expects big things from the young guard.
“He’s very confident right now, and he’ll need to stay aggressive for us to be a well-rounded unit on the court,” Hegamin said. “I think he’s ready to step up and show people the progress that his game made over the summer.”
In a stark contrast from last season, the pre-season pundits expect big things from the Golden Rams. Picked to finish second in the East to Kutztown, the Golden Rams will now have a bull’s-eye on their back. When asked about those lofty predictions, Hegamin didn’t shy away.
“I feel good that people are giving us respect, but we can’t feel pressure nor think too much about those expectations because we need to stay focused on ourselves and what we need to do to be successful. We have high expectations for ourselves.”
So, a very good team with a great nucleus. Heightened expectations following a surprising year. A few other PSAC teams in rebuilding mode. The question now is.can the Golden Rams win it all?
“There’s no question in my mind that we have the pieces to win the PSAC,” Hegamin said. “We’re a confident, humble group which all stems from what our coaching staff preaches. It’s up to us how focused, hard working, and dedicated we’re going to be to our goals.”
“The family is ready to go as far as we take it. Let’s get it. The sky’s the limit!”
Matt Chandik is a fifth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.