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Coming off their most impressive season since joining the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC), the Hilbert College men’s basketball team is looking to take last winter’s success to an even higher level in 2012-13. 11th year head coach Rob deGrandpre’s Hawks are hoping to be in a position where they are extending their season and playing for a conference championship come late February.
“We’ve accomplished a lot the past two seasons by getting our program back to being contenders in this league”, stated deGrandpre. “I just don’t think our kids are satisfied with simply appearing in post-season play. They want more.” More will come with a high price to pay as the AMCC has blossomed into a very competitive conference in men’s NCAA Division III basketball. Two years ago the conference was tough enough to send at-large berth recipient Penn State Behrend and conference tourney winner, La Roche College to The Big Dance.
Hilbert finished an impressive 15-12 last winter and 11-7 in conference play – good enough for a fourth place finish. After a first round home playoff win over D’Youville College, the Hawks watched their season come to a close after a late rally at Medaille College came up just short. The host Mavs won the next day to advance to the 2012 NCAA tournament. The loss marked the fourth time deGrandpre’s Hawks have reached the conference semifinals, only to lose to the eventual conference tourney champion.
Returning starters Dan McFarland and CJ Hodge should keep the Hawks on track this winter. McFarland averaged 17.9 ppg during his junior campaign and can score in a variety of ways. The 6’2 first team all-conference selection a year ago ranked among the league’s very best, and has 1,168 career points to his credit. Hodge, the AMCC Newcomer of the Year during his rookie campaign, has dished out more than 100 assists in each of his two years quarterbacking the Hilbert offense.
Returning post players being counted on include 6’3 senior Isaac Bushey and a pair of sophomores in 6’10 Mike Jones and 6’6 Ryan Brewster. All three are quality finishers and rebound the basketball well on the defensive end.
5’8 senior guard Anthony Hodge averaged 8.0 ppg in his first season wearing the royal and white. The continued development of sophomores Rob Cuomo and Trevor Stark have also been pleasant surprises for the coaching staff.
Seven true freshmen join one sophomore transfer in rounding out an eight-person recruiting class that should solidify the continued growth of one of the conference’s most competitive programs. The Hawks poured in 76.7 ppg while allowing 71.2 ppg in 2011-12. Averaging a league low of 13.1 turnovers a game helped the Hawks rank 26th nationally in turnover margin (+4.11).
“We take great pride in stopping our opponents from scoring”, added deGrandpre. “We have a nice mix of veterans and newcomers that are all capable of scoring, but doing a lot of the little things consistently will determine how far this group can go this winter”.
A pre-season pick to finish fourth in the latest AMCC coaches poll puts an early target on the Hawks back. Expect contests against non-conference foes St. John Fisher College, Alfred University, Keystone College, and Elmira College to be a good measuring stick to see just how much damage this team can do come conference time. If the Hawks hope to be playing come March, they’ll have to get off to a god start. The fun gets underway next Thursday, November 15th at home against Fredonia State in the 2012 Hilbert College Tip-off Classic.
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