CATS FIND THEIR MOJO’

Hope of success for the 2008-2009 campaign was rekindled after the disappointment that lingered from the University of Vermont’s bitter season-ending loss in the America East conference semifinal last season. Despite the loss of key seniors and question marks in the post, Vermont’s positive outlook rests strongly on the shoulders of the team’s newest recruit – Maurice “Mojo” Joseph. In a move unusual for the world of college basketball, the Montreal, Quebec native decided to transfer from basketball powerhouse Michigan State to the University of Vermont last season. “Being closer to home and having a big opportunity to contribute to a team’s success were the two things that made me want to transfer,” Joseph said. “Vermont’s a perfect combination of those two things.”The team was overwhelmingly welcoming, Joseph said, and he was voted co-captain by his teammates before ever playing a minute for the Catamounts.”Coming here, I wasn’t too sure how I would interact with the guys, and as soon as I got here, they embraced me,” Joseph said.During his sophomore season at Michigan State, Joseph averaged 5.9 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. How?ever, those numbers are expected to rise with expanded playing time for Joseph.”On the court, Maurice gives us another scorer – he’s a very good shooter and when he gets to the foul line, he’s a very good foul shooter,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.All ability aside, however, Longergan said his favorite attribute about his newest recruit is Joseph’s character.”He’s a great kid, a great student and I think he’s an ambassador to our pro?gram,” Lonergan said.”Usually kids are transferring for the wrong reasons, or carrying some baggage with them, but for us Maurice was a great student – he had over a 3.0 GPA at Michigan State – and it was just a good fit for everyone.”Even after playing for the legend?ary coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Joseph was quick to return praise to his new coach.”He’s been great – he’s a tough coach who pays a lot of attention to detail, similar to coach Izzo,” Joseph said. “He expects you to go hard every day, in the classroom as well as on the basketball court.”For now, Joseph and his new teammates are focused on guiding Vermont through a tough non-conference schedule that contains such quality opponents like Pittsburgh and Maryland, who the Cats lost to in overtime over Thanksgiving break. However, Joseph certainly isn’t op?posed to the idea of getting to face his old team.”I’ve still got a lot of friends out there, and I think that would be a lot of fun if we got to play against them,” Joseph said.Joseph is only the second big-time transfer UVM has received in recent memory, following ’07 graduate – and Rhode Island transfer – Chris Holm. While Lonergan said he doesn’t see Vermont turning into an overly popular destination for transfers, he feels confident that Joseph can follow in the footsteps of Holm and have a successful final two seasons in green and gold. “I think it’s difficult here because of location, but I think Chris Holm had a fabulous career here after transferring from Rhode Island, and hopefully the same happens for Maurice,” Lonergan said.”Being able to say the [transfers] that have come here – Chris and Maurice – have done really well, that should definitely help us,” Lonergan said.No matter what storylines exist for the Catamounts this season, however, Joseph adds scoring depth at the guard position for an exciting team which looks poised to make a strong run at the America East crown and make a long-awaited return to the NCAA tournament.