Basketball to build on last season’s successes


Oliver Pomazi

The men’s basketball team huddles together before a game in February 2017.

Sabrina Hood, Staff Writer

It’s almost that time of year. Feeding off the success of going to March Madness last season, the hope of another successful season is on the horizon.

“Coming off a perfect conference season last year, expectations are high,” head coach John Becker said. ”We have a lot of guys coming back and we feel good about things, but we have a lot of work to do.”

The first exhibition game Friday, Oct. 27 against Boston University was a victory for the Catamounts, as they won 87-66.  

“It’s a great game we added against our former America East rival. Our guys are excited to play another division-one team in the exhibition season,” Becker said prior to the game.

This exhibition game was added to have all its proceeds support hurricane relief efforts, according to UVM athletics.

Vermont were also winners in their second exhibition game, defeating Concordia University 92-63.

The men’s basketball team will play one more exhibition game before their first season game.

The team has been practicing for a month to prepare for the upcoming season. There are eight players returning and seven new players, including four first-years and three redshirts, Becker said.

“The biggest challenge so far has been integrating everyone and getting everyone up to speed,” he said.

Another objective that the team wants to improve on this season is defense. “We can always get better on our defense. Our rotations also need to be better and a lot more crisp,” Bell-Haynes said.

Even as a personal goal, Bell-Haynes said he strives to be “a good defender for the team”.

Bell-Haynes won the America East Player of the Year award last season and just received America East Preseason All-Conference Honors.

The preseason honors included the Associated Press’ All-American Honorable mention, ECAC first team and the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District First team nods, according to UVM athletics.

Becker said that the major challenge this year will be “finding our defensive rhythm and our intensity”.

Bell-Haynes said that the improvement in defense has to come early in the season, because of the quality of their opponents.

Two of the team’s top perimeter defenders graduated last year, so it’ll be up to the newcomers this year to fill that void.

“Junior forward Samuel Dingba can help on the defensive end. He’s long, athletic, can block shots and rebounds well,” Becker said.

In regards to the new players, “obviously they’re replacing a bunch of really good players, but they are all skilled, ready to go and will add depth to the team,” Bell-Haynes said.

Becker said the team has what it takes to repeat last year’s success, but they will have to work hard for it.

“I think we’re going to be really good offensively again,” Becker said. “When you achieve what we did last year and to think that it’s just going to happen again, it’s important to battle complacency to try to keep the guys focused. They’ve done a good job working hard and being ready to go”.

For the last exhibition game, the Catamounts host St. Michael’s Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.  They will travel to Kentucky to face the University of Kentucky for their regular season opener Nov. 12.