Men’s basketball expects another productive year despite young core

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Sophomore Trae Bell-Haynes lines up for a free throw at Patrick Gymnasium Oct. 31 against Keiser University. This was the team's first exhibition match of the season and they won 78-67.

Sophomore Trae Bell-Haynes lines up for a free throw at Patrick Gymnasium Oct. 31 against Keiser University. This was the team’s first exhibition match of the season and they won 78-67.

The UVM men’s basketball team is looking to build off last year’s success after finishing with a 20-14 record, including a dominant 12-4 conference record.

The Catamounts came within three points of advancing to the America East Conference Championship last year, only to fall to Stony Brook University at home.  However, with several returning starters, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this year’s team.

First-year Cade Nesbitt, who works as a team statistician, is expecting a lot from the squad.  “I expect big things and to win the America East,” Nesbitt said. “I read an article that said UVM will be one of the five biggest breakout teams in the country.”

If the Catamounts hope to live up to these expectations, with a young team they will need to rely on their core group of experienced players.  This year’s team will return five of the top six leading scorers from last year’s campaign.

Despite only having one senior on the roster, the team has plenty of experience. The Catamounts used a relatively young rotation last season.  “We have a core group of guys back from last year, a 20 win team,” head coach John Becker said. “A team that did advance to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational.”

If the team is going to build off of last year’s impressive run, one of the biggest things that the Catamounts must work on is turning the ball over.  “We can’t turn the ball over,” Becker said. “I think over 20 percent of our possessions last year ended in turnovers.”

The team’s lone senior, forward Ethan O’Day, is expected to have a star role on the team once again.  O’Day had a breakout junior campaign last year, earning 2015 America East All-Conference First Team honors while leading the entire conference in field goal percentage.

In addition to O’Day, sophomore point guard Trae Bell-Haynes will again help anchor the Catamounts’ starting five.  In his first season, Bell-Haynes proved to be one of the most effective points guards in the entire conference, dishing out 3.5 assists per game, the second most in the America East Conference.

The second-year guard also showed a consistent ability to score, finishing with the third most points on the team last year.  As Bell-Haynes continues to progress in his second year of college basketball, he hopes to build on his impressive first-year campaign.

The Catamounts’ first exhibition game was a 78-67 win Oct. 31 against Keiser University at Patrick Gymnasium.  They have another exhibition at 4 p.m Nov. 7 home  against Saint Michael’s College.  

They start their regular season Nov. 13 away at Eastern Michigan University.