November 5, 2013

Season Preview: Experienced Bulldogs Set For Exciting Campaign

Yale Seeks 14th Straight Top-Half Ivy Finish

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – James Jones, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach at Yale, is confident heading into the 2013-14 season. There are plenty of reasons for Jones' optimism.

Last year, the Bulldogs were a young team that showed dramatic improvement over the course of the season. By the end, Yale was playing as well as anybody in the Ivy League. The Bulldogs won seven of their last 10 games and swept the season series from both Penn and Princeton for the first time in school history. The good news for Jones and Yale fans is that a large majority of that team returns.

"I feel really good about our team," said Jones, who begins his 15th season at the helm of the Bulldogs. "We have a lot of questions answered this year that weren't answered at this time last year."

Jones, the longest tenured coach in the Ivy League, needs only 15 victories to become the winningest coach in Yale basketball history. He trails only Hall of Fame Coach Joe Vancisin, who led Yale to 204 wins.

Size figures to be a strength for the Bulldogs, who have 13 players on the roster 6-foot-5 or taller. Yale led the Ivy League in rebounding margin last year and should be among the leaders again this winter.

Here is breakdown of the 2013-14 Bulldogs:

BACK COURT

The Bulldogs feature a deep and talented back court. Juniors Javier Duren and Armani Cotton were two of the players who gained the most experience last year. Duren, a point guard, led the team with 80 assists and 37 steals. He was one of only four players to appear in all 31 games and started 12 of the 14 Ivy games. Cotton also played in all 31 games and finished ninth in the league in rebounding (5.3 rpg.). His top performance came against Holy Cross when he posted his first career double-double (20 points, 12 rebounds). In all, he started a career-high 23 games and led the team in rebounding 11 times.

Senior Jesse Pritchard, the team captain, returns after missing a good chunk of last year with an injury. Pritchard, who has played in 67 games in his career, made two starts last year. In his sophomore season, he had career highs in games (28), starts (7), points (63), rebounds (56) and three-pointers (12). Yale also will welcome back senior Isaiah Salafia, who took a leave of absence from the team midway through his sophomore year and missed all of last season. As a freshman in 2010-11, he appeared in 25 games off the bench.

Sophomore Nick Victor made an impact in his rookie season, appearing in all 14 Ivy games. He scored eight points at Dartmouth and grabbed seven rebounds in the home victory over Brown.

Two other sophomores – Jack Montague and Khaliq Bedart-Ghani – will vie for playing time in the back court. Montague hot 66.7 percent (6-of-9) from the field and added 11 assists with just three turnovers in limited action last year. Bedart-Ghani was injured for much of the season but has worked hard to recover.

Freshman Anthony Dallier, the most valuable player of the national prep championship while at Northfield Mount Hermon, has a chance to make an impact. Two other freshmen are in the mix in the back court. J.T. Flowers was a second team All-New England selection last winter at Choate Rosemary Hall. AJ Edwards spent last year at South Kent School after averaging 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists at Roosevelt High School in Seattle.

FRONT COURT

The Bulldogs should feature one of the top front courts in the Ivy League. Juniors Brandon Sherrod and Matt Townsend provide plenty of bulk down low. Townsend ended last season in strong fashion, scoring in double figures in four of the last five games, including a 19-point performance at Cornell. He finished the year second on the team in rebounding (4.0 rpg.) and tied for third in scoring (7.7 ppg.) and was the recipient of the team's George McReynolds (Defense) and Richard Derby (Academic) awards. Sherrod also came on strong at the end of the year after being slowed by an injury. He scored in double figures in four of the last seven games and had a career-high 18 points in the season finale against Penn. He was the recipient of the Josh Hill Award, presented for hard work and dedication to the Yale Basketball program.

Justin Sears was one of the top newcomers in the league last year, finishing as the fourth highest scoring 9.5 ppg.) freshman. Overall, he was sixth in field goal percentage (.489) and eighth in rebounding (5.3 rpg.). In addition, he grabbed 78 offensive rebounds, which was the second most in the league. Junior Greg Kelley is coming off a breakout season. Kelley, who tied for third on the team with 20 three-pointers, appeared in 30 games overall and started the last 13.

One obstacle the Bulldogs will have to overcome is the loss of senior Jeremiah Kreisberg, who is unable to play this year due to injury. One of the candidates to fill the void created by Kreisberg's absence is junior Will Childs-Klein. Childs-Klein has appeared in 19 games in his career. Last year he shot 57.1 percent from the field and blocked three shots in 11 games.

Freshman Sam Downey will look to earn playing time in the front court. Downey was an all-state, all-conference and all-area selection at Lake Forest High School in Illinois.

The Bulldogs kick off the 2013-14 season on Saturday against Central Connecticut at the Connecticut 6 Classic at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity

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