Men's Basketball Ready for 2012-13 Season
Contact: Ben Badua
Enjoying another stellar season, Amherst posted a 26-3 overall mark in 2011-12, going 13-0 against NESCAC opponents en route to its fifth conference crown. Making their 14th NCAA Tournament appearance, the Jeffs earned a first round bye before handing NYU an 80-56 setback in LeFrak to finish the year with an unblemished 13-0 home record. Traveling to Lancaster, Pa. for a third round matchup with ninth-ranked Franklin & Marshall, Amherst finally saw its run come to an end with an 80-71 loss.
Returning three of its starters, the Jeffs stand poised to defend their league title, entering the season ranked fifth on the D3hoops.com Preseason Top-25. Amherst kicks off the season on Nov. 16-17 with the annual Ken Wright ’52 Invitational featuring Newbury, Curry and Colby-Sawyer, before welcoming Western New England and Lasell to LeFrak for a pair of non-conference games on Nov. 20 and 27, respectively.
The Jeffs play five road games during a month-long stretch beginning Dec. 11, while opening conference play at Wesleyan on Jan. 4. Amherst returns to the Valley for a Little Three showdown against the Cardinals on Jan. 15, kick starting a four-game homestand that includes a Jan. 23 tilt with archrival Williams.
Amherst closes out its regular season slate with games at Williams and Middlebury on Feb. 8-9 before conference championship play opens with the quarterfinals on Feb. 16.
“Our motto for the year is 11:8:1,” said head coach David Hixon ’75, who enters his 36th season. “There are 11 NESCAC teams. Eight make the conference playoffs and one gets the automatic bid. As far as immediate goals go, we’d like to finish in the top half of the league and host a quarterfinal game - which is always tough.”
Fresh off a stellar sophomore season, Aaron Toomey ’14 will once again direct the Jeff offense from the point guard position. Equally comfortable as a scorer and distributor, the first-team D3hoops.com Preseason All-America selection ranked among the conference leaders in points (3rd, 17.9), assists (2nd, 4.82), steals (2nd, 1.82) and free throw percentage (2nd, .910).
Also garnering NABC All-Region and All-NESCAC praise last season, he set program records for free throws made and foul shooting percentage, hitting 182-of-200 attempts, with his .910 clip ranking fourth nationally. Leading Amherst in scoring 17 times, including each of the team’s final six outings, he netted at least 20 points on 13 occasions and was especially effective during the team’s five-game postseason run, averaging 24.0 ppg.
Arguably the team’s most versatile player, Willy Workman ’13 does a little bit of everything as a 6’6 swingman, providing Amherst with a dynamic 1-2 punch alongside Toomey. Finishing among the league leaders in scoring (11.3 ppg), rebounding (6.5 rpg), assists (2.97), steals (1.72) blocks (1.17) and free throw shooting (.725), he earned a spot on the All-NESCAC second team as a junior.
Able to guard all five positions and often assigned to some of the league’s top scorers, Workman was named the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year. Posting four double-doubles, he enjoyed several well-rounded performances, scoring at least 10 points in 20 games, grabbing at least five boards 20 times, blocking at least two shots in 10, and nabbing at least two steals in 16.
One of the best combinations in Division III, Toomey and Workman combined for 32.7 points and 9.3 assists during the Jeffs’ three conference tournament wins, while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor.
Anchoring the Jeff frontcourt, Peter Kaasila ’13 looks to take another step in his development after starting 21 of his 29 appearances last season at center. A big presence down low, he averaged 10.0 points and 5.3 rebounds as a sophomore before putting up 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per game last season.
With a great touch around the basket, Kassila has always been efficient from the field, shooting 60.6 percent in 2010-11 before connecting on 57.4 percent of his attempts a year ago. Notching a double-double in the team’s regular season finale against Middlebury, he buried the game-winning putback with just 2.8 seconds left in overtime.
Giving Amherst some depth, David Kalema ’14 looks to build on a strong sophomore season. A scoring point guard, he can help Toomey set up the offense as one of the team’s primary ball handlers. Relying on an explosive first step, Kalema was often at his best going to the basket, scoring 11 points in his lone start of the season against Brandeis and another 11 off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting in the first of two meetings with Middlebury.
Joining Workman and Kaasila as one of the team’s tri-captains, Allen Williamson ’13 could see time at both forward spots as an explosive player around the basket. Appearing in all 29 games last season, he averaged nearly six points and 3.5 rebounds in just over 15 minutes of action and has the potential to become a dynamic rebounder and defender. Capable of putting together a solid all-around game, he should help fill the void left by David Waller ’12.
Helping to compensate for the graduation of Taylor Barrise ’12, who left as the program’s all-time leader in three-pointers (224), are perimeter players Connor Gach ’14, Tom Killian ’14 and Ray Barry ’15. An effective spot up shooter, Gach can help stretch the defense, while Killian can rely on his quickness to get to the basket.
Sitting out last season due to injury, Barry could eventually see time behind Toomey at the point as a complete player that can get to the glass, shoot and distribute equally well. While the Jeffs lack a single shooter as prolific as Barrise, Hixon believes a better dribble-drive game and an abundance of capable jump-shooters could help offset the loss of squad’s best long-range threat.
Hoping to help fill the hole left by Jeff Holmes ’12 down low, Logan Buckner ’14 could develop into a solid contributor on the low post. In limited action last season, the 6’7 forward showed flashes of his potential, notably scoring a season-high 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four rebounds in a victory over Marymount (Va.).
Connor Green ’16 and Ben Pollack ’16 headline a talented first-year class that could help make an immediate impact. A former New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year, Green gives the Jeffs another option at the guard spot and has the ability and strength to get to and finish near the basket. Pollack gives Amherst a little more size in the frontcourt as an agile big man who can be active at the rim.