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Springfield, Mass. -- November, 2011 -- It appears, if early-season returns are any indication, that the Springfield College men’s basketball team will be an improved club in 2011-12.

In order to be improved, the team must better its 15-11 overall record from one year ago. And it must better its 7-5 record within the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. SC reached the semifinal round of the NEWMAC post-season tournament last season.

But the Pride this year would dearly love the chance to win the NEWMACs, and move onto the NCAAs for the first time since 2005.

And why would Springfield College feel there is such a possibility? After all, the graduated duo of Matt Cavalieri and Billy Harkins, the heart and soul of last year’s team, has moved on. And an important duo they were. Cavalieri, a 6-5 forward, and Harkins, a 5-11 guard, were First Team and Second Team All-Conference, respectively, in 2010-11.

Cavalieri scored well over 1100 points in his career, and averaged 17.4 points and 8.0 rebounds a year ago. Harkins, like Cavalieri, also started all 26 games, averaged 9.6 points, accumulated 129 assists, and came up with 76 steals. They became two of the league’s most accomplished stars.

In addition, Springfield lost two more starters in 5-9 shooting guard Darvis Rankins and 6-3 small forward Trevor DiMicco. Rankins was a fine shooter, averaging 10.5 points per game. DiMicco did the dirty work for the team, and kept the machine fluid, although he averaged just 3.4 points per game.

In all, SC returns just six players from last year’s team, and just one of its top four scorers.

So, how is the Pride supposed to be better? Conventional wisdom says “wait and see.” Just don’t count them out quite yet. Last year, Springfield relied upon its inside game. Two of its inside enforcers included its better rebounders, and they both return. One of those is the only returning starter.

Ryan Coburn is a 6-8 senior center/forward whose forte is his defense and shot-blocking capability. In 2010-2011, he averaged 10.6 ppg (second-best on the team), 6.0 rebounds (second-best on the team), and had 70 blocks (one of the best in the nation). His 29.4 minutes per game were third-best on the squad.

Coburn is expected to start once again. And right behind him is 6-5 senior forward/center Evan Christner, a down-low force whose forte is straight-to-the-hoop.

“We’re expecting a lot out of these two,” said Head Coach Charlie Brock. “Once again, we’ll need their rebounding ability and strong defensive efforts.”

Pat Rossi, a 6-5 junior, will most likely come off the bench at a forward spot. “We kind of like Pat’s capability as someone who can provide a spark,” said Brock. “We like him as our sixth man, or at least someone who will provide continuity in our running game.”

While we are talking about the big men, please add 6-6 junior forward George Adams and 6-4 sophomore Robbie Burke. Adams is entering his third year on the team, while Burke is playing his first. A native of Queens, N.Y., Adams has added muscle this season and could very well average more than his 0.7 points per game from last year. A native of Cheshire, Mass., Burke comes to Springfield from Colby-Sawyer, where he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman. He was also named All-Conference third team and his Conference’s Rookie of the Year. He scored 1,394 points in three years at Hoosac Valley HS. He was the Western Mass. Tourney MVP his junior year.

Jordan Barnaby is also a 6-3, 200-pound freshman forward from Madison, Conn. He was his Team MVP as a junior at Daniel Hand HS. As a senior, he averaged 15 points and eight rebounds.

But for all these accolades, it is even more possible that guard-play will dictate just how much success this Springfield College team will have in 2011-2012. There are six guards listed on this squad, and most of them are new. It is easy to say that the guards will be noticeable.

One of the more noticeable could well be 5-11 junior Alex Berthiaume, a native of Springfield, Mass. and a transfer from St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont. While at Cathedral High, Alex played four years of basketball and soccer. He averaged 19 points as a senior. He was second team All-Western Mass as a sophomore, and first team All-Western Mass. as a junior and senior. He was also a Super Seven selection as a senior.

At St. Michael’s as a freshman, he averaged 14 points per game, leading his team in scoring and assists. As a sophomore, however, he was injured and missed the entire season. As a player, he has moments where he is as flashy as he is confident.

Besides Coburn and Christner, Jordan Rote is the team’s only other senior, although he has a another year of eligibility beyond that should he choose to use it. A native of Sheffield, Rote played some JV ball a year ago before he could not be hidden any further. He made quite a splash towards season’s end when he suddenly emerged to be the team’s high-scorer in three of a series of five games. He averaged 7.2 points in 20 games, but 15 points in that short stretch. He only averaged 15.3 minutes per game on the season.

Berthiaume and Rote have a chance to be explosive as a duo.

Another guard, a junior, also returns. Matt Pascuzzo, a 5-7 junior, is as frenetic as one can get, which makes him a crowd-favorite on the court. It appears he will be the back-up point guard, but is expected to give the team bursts of energy.

Then there is Nick Sienkiewicz, a 6-3 freshman who comes from Cranston, R.I. Nick was the valedictorian at Providence Country Day School in 2010. He was also a MacDonald’s All-American nominee, and earned numerous All-Star plaudits in Rhode Island. He scored over 1000 points at PCD in just over 2 years.

Josh Altman is a 6-3 freshman from Rockport, Mass., another who definitely has talent. Josh is a two-time Team MVP, and was All-League twice.

And Sean Martin is a 6-1 sophomore who hails from Conant High School in Jaffrey, N.H. Sean resides in Rindge, N.H. His claim to fame is starting for a three-time State High School champion. He averaged 17 points, six assists, and three steals as a senior.

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Head Coach Charlie Brock

Charlie Brock Charlie Brock in 2013-14 will enter his 16th season as the head coach at Springfield College and his 34th season as a head coach overall. Brock’s achievements as a coach are certainly impressive. He has taken three schools to the NCAA Division III Tournament and has an overall, 32-year record of 440-397. Read more.

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