Former captain and shooting guard Alex Zampier ’10 accounted for 26 percent of the men’s basketball team’s scoring last season, but head coach James Jones hopes that with a new offensive scheme, the team will be able to spread out the ball and make a more serious run at an Ivy League title.
One year ago, the Bulldogs, who begin their season Saturday night against Quinnipiac, finished fourth in the Ivy League after compiling a 6–8 conference record, and 12–19 overall. The media has projected Yale to finish fifth in the Ivy League, but those projections may not be a good indicator as the Bulldogs have exceeded their preseason ranking in four of the past five seasons.
“This year, I think that the league is as wide open in terms of teams that can win as it has since I’ve been here,” point guard Porter Braswell ’11 said. “It’s really exciting that the league is going to be competitive.”
After averaging 66.7 points per game a season ago, the Bulldogs have instituted a new motion offense. The new scheme will rely on individual players to read the defense and make decisions. Last year, the Bulldogs used set plays and were exploited by defenses that scouted ahead and understood their offense; however, the Bulldogs realize they cannot rely on the new scheme alone. Jones, who will begin his 12th season with the Bulldogs, added that with a young team and the loss of four seniors, he has to focus on minimizing mistakes. Zampier, who averaged 17.4 points per game to lead the team, has moved on after graduation along with three other seniors.
“There are very few guys on our team who have logged significant minutes,” Jones said. “You start from the ground up and you certainly do that with a young team.”
This year, Jones said that captain Michael Sands ’11, Braswell and guard Raffi Mantilla ’11 are expected to lead the inexperienced team. Sands was second on the Bulldogs last year with 10.8 points per game after Zampier, and led the team in rebounds with 6.1 per game. Mantilla is expected to be the deep threat the Bulldogs need to replace Zampier after shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the arc a year ago. Braswell was 10th in the Ivy League last season with 2.4 assists per game. As point guard, he will be the initiator of the new offense.
“[It involves] a lot more passing and cutting and kind of getting back to the basics,” Braswell said. “You’ll see us getting out into transition a little bit more than we have in the past.”
With Zampier gone, the Bulldogs will have to replace the scoring provided by the shooting guard who accounted for over a quarter of Yale’s points. Jones said that last year, teams thought if they could stop Alex Zampier, they could effectively shut down the Bulldogs. This year, he hopes to spread the scoring beyond just one player.
“We want to have a team by committee,” Jones said of this year’s point scorers. “We want to make sure that we have a number of guys who can carry the scoring burden.”
Coach Jones also said that he expects the new freshman class to help the team before the year is over. Forwards Will Bartlett ’14, Greg Kelley ’14, Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14, and guards Jesse Pritchard ’14 and Isaiah Salafia ’14 constitute the Eli freshmen. Kreisberg was the 69th-ranked power forward in his class according to ESPN.com.
Defensively, Jones said that the team is switching from a base 2-3 zone to a matchup 2-3 zone. A matchup 2-3 zone involves elements of a typical man-to-man defense. The on-ball defender applies pressure to the ball handler, and teammates on the other side of the floor play help defense. Forward Greg Mangano ’12 said he is fully behind the change.
“I think a lot of that is to help us out on defensive rebounding,” Mangano said. “It tries to stop teams from penetrating and kicking it out to make three-point shots.”
The Bulldogs will meet their first challenge Saturday as they face off with last year’s regular season Northeast Conference Champion Quinnipiac. The Bobcats are projected to win another NEC championship, and Jones said the game will be a good indication of how the Elis stack up against proven teams.
Back for the Bobcats is reigning NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty who averaged 15.3 points and 10.9 rebounds as a junior. In last year’s matchup with Yale, Rutty put up 23 points while grabbing 14 boards.
“He’s a monster,” Jones said of the Bobcats’ star player. “We need to have a body on him whenever he’s around the basket. We need to make sure that we know where he is.”
Yale is expected to be without Michael Grace ’13 and Kelley. Grace is out with a bad ankle, while Kelley suffered a concussion.
The Bulldogs’ matchup against Quinnipiac is set to begin at 8 p.m. in Uncasville, Conn., at the Mohegan Sun Arena as part of the Connecticut 6 Classic.