Nov. 19, 2004
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - As MIT men's basketball makes the trek to North Dartmouth for Friday's tip-off tournament, the team will be looking to build on an extremely successful preseason. Head Coach Larry Anderson's mantra "play hard, play together, play smart," will be vocalized more than ever, but the consensus is that the Engineers could be priming for a special season.
MIT has always prided itself as one of the toughest defenses in the nation, however the Engineers boast a significant scoring punch, and will have the ability to spread the floor if and when they decide to run. Push and Pressure are defining terms for this year's hardwood unit. On offense, the Engineers will be looking to create easy baskets and test the opposition by pushing the ball. The defense will aim in supplying heavy pressure on the ball, while playing the strong, man-to-man half-court defense that has resulted in numerous national rankings. Despite the excitement surrounding the upcoming campaign, coach Anderson is quick to point out that a lot of work lies ahead of the Cardinal Red and Silver Gray.
"We're going to bring it all along slowly," noted Anderson. "We may not be the team we want to be right away, but we'll be ready to compete for the NEWMAC Conference Championship."
Leading the way for the Engineers' attack is the backcourt duo of junior Mike D'Auria and senior Adam Gibbons. D'Auria, the only player in the NEWMAC to finish among the top 15 in the league for points, rebounds and assists, is the epitome of MIT basketball. A fiery competitor with a tenacious work ethic, D'Auria is a fearless player and a gifted scorer.
Gibbons is a lock-down defender, and showcases the most complete game on the squad. Injuries have often plagued Gibbons tenure, but he enters his senior campaign in the best physical shape of his career. His health is strong and the coaching staff has noticed a huge improvement in focus and leadership. Above all else, the success of MIT's dynamic duo will factor in considerably to the team's postseason aspirations.
The rest of the backcourt is filled with potential contributors despite being heavy-laden with youth. Freshman Will Mroz, who served as Tech's best shooter in the preseason, leads this exciting group. Mroz is a gym rat and a lethal scorer with plenty of range. Sophomore Alex Krull also spreads the defense with a feathery jump shot and has upped his game both physically and mentally heading into the new season. Rahmin Kandil was named the team's most improved player after last season, and the 6'4" sophomore continues to get better. Kandil has a nose for the ball; a testament of his work ethic, which is also his greatest asset.
Rookie Alex Bagley should also play prominently in the mix. "Bags" brings size on the perimeter, while boasting a strong understanding of fundamentals and a solid feel for the game. Tech rounds out its deep back with freshmen Jack Genberg and Alan Ho, two quick studies that will look to work their way into the lineup. Although MIT features an extensive collection of perimeter players, the Engineers will be without one of their top freshmen from a year ago as Ryan Richardson will be forced to the sideline in the wake of injuries.
"Not having Ryan in the lineup is a blow to our team," Anderson reminded. "His vision and skill sets are unique, and he is the team's only true point guard."
Because every team in the NEWMAC is so powerful on the perimeter, MIT will need to rely on improved play from the low post in order to conquer its championship quest. Tech's frontcourt used the preseason to successfully shift its image and deliver a new sense of optimism. Senior Mike Huhs paces that change with an aggressive presence in the post. In the past, Huhs would sometimes fade from the Engineers attack, although this season, Huhs has been one of MIT's key catalysts with explosive play on both ends of the floor. He has also managed to use his experience to create more room and display his talents.
Joining Huhs under the hoop is the upper-class trio of Gary Atkins, Phil Murray and Evans Boney. Atkins is the team's most fundamentally sound big man. A great shot blocker, Atkins is the only player on the squad that can guard all five positions on the floor. Murray features soft hands and a fantastic scoring touch from the baseline, while Boney also offers a great shot and is the club's ultimate competitor. During the preseason, the rotation in the frontcourt worked masterfully. The cohesive mindset will allow each of these players a chance to shine and supplies the MIT coaching staff with multiple options.
Freshmen Barnett Koryan and Hamidou Soumare should also earn minutes during the campaign, and will be counted on to nurture their understanding of the game and advance their skills. Fortunately, Koryan is a quick learner and is committed to elevating his game. "Dou" is extremely athletic and has a tremendous upside. An exciting player, his combination of size and speed could create mis-match problems for opposing teams.
While it's difficult to tell how this group will develop over the long haul, it's clear that this team will be one of the most competitive units in the New England region. If the coaches are successful in getting the players to surrender themselves to the program's mission, all signs point to a memorable season. For the Engineers, the tumultuous road to the NEWMAC Championship and a berth to the NCAA Championship start tonight in North Dartmouth, Mass.
Let the games begin.