The Hamilton College men's basketball team won six of its last eight regular season games in 2013-2014 and aims to build on that late surge. The Continentals finished one game out of third place in the NESCAC standings with a 5-5 conference record. The leadership abilities of last season's captains Matt Dean '14 and Greg Newton '14 will be missed in 2014-2015.Team captains Jack Donnelly '16, Ajani Santos '16 and Pete Kazickas '15 have taken the reigns from Newton and Dean and plan to do big things this season. Donnelly proved he is one of the best shooters in the region by leading the NESCAC in 3-point field goal percentage at 46.3 percent in 2013-14. Santos established himself as a post presence by averaging better than 12 points and five rebounds down the stretch. Kazickas will return to his natural wing position with the influx of some height to the roster. Kazickas, who has shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc for his career, should see a scoring boost as a result.
The three captains are going to shoulder a large part of the responsibility but there are many other players expected to take on expanded roles. Joseph Lin '15 is in line to become the lead guard following the graduation of Newton, who was a three-year starter. Connor Reese '17 and rookies Jack Dwyer '18 and Matt Moros '18 will compete for minutes as well.
There will be a lot of competition at the wing positions as Matt Magruder '15 will use his shooting ability to stretch defenses, and Kyle Pitman '17 and Wes Wilbur '17 hope to build upon promising freshman campaigns. Before arriving on The Hill, Joe Pucci '18 and Kelan McConnell '18 played at highly competitive prep schools and will bring that experience to the squad.
Up front, Carlos Fineman '17 gained valuable experience as a freshman and will team up with Santos. Karl Koster '18 and Zander Wear '18 will battle the returners as they begin their careers with a lot of optimism.
The Continentals will have several players step into expanded roles and it will be exciting to see the team's progress as the season unfolds. The schedule involves the annual challenge from other NESCAC members but also includes road games at SUNY New Paltz, Union College, Ithaca College and Hobart College. The highlight of the non-conference home schedule is the 2014 Hamilton College Invitational, which includes local schools Utica College, SUNY Polytechnic, and SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. St. Lawrence University and Lycoming College round out the tournament field. Opening night at Hamilton's Margaret Bundy Scott Field House is Wednesday, Nov. 19, against SUNY Poly. The season opener is at New Paltz on Saturday, Nov. 15.
Hamilton appeared in the postseason 35 straight years from 1975 to 2009. The Continentals have played in nine NCAA Division III championship tournaments and have advanced to the third round three times. Hamilton captured 10 Eastern College Athletic Conference Upstate Region tournament crowns from 1976 to 1992. Hamilton has won more than 1,000 games since 1899 and passed the milestone in 2007-08 with 17 victories.
The NESCAC is one of the top athletic conferences in NCAA Division III and men's basketball is no exception. Three NESCAC teams played in the 2014 NCAA championship, two advanced to the semifinals and one played for the national title. The NESCAC boasts three NCAA titles and four runner-up finishes since 1995. The conference champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Kazickas was selected to the 2014 Allstate National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Good Works Team®. This community service honor recognizes college basketball players who have made a commitment to improving their communities and the lives of others. The team is comprised of five student-athletes from NCAA Division I and five more from NCAA Divisions II and III and the NAIA. Kazickas worked with "Hoops 4 Hope" in Zimbabwe during the summers of 2011 and 2013 when he helped repair basketball facilities and the Hoops 4 Hope Center.
The Continentals earned a spot on the 2013-14 NABC Team Academic Excellence Awards list. The award recognizes outstanding academic achievement by a team with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better for the 2013-14 season. Kazickas and Magruder were on the NABC Honors Court, which recognizes men's collegiate basketball student-athletes who excelled in academics during the past season. Magruder made the 2014 NESCAC Winter All-Academic Team. Each honoree is a varsity letter winner with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.35. The student-athlete must have reached sophomore academic standing to be considered for honors.
In 2011-12, the Continentals started 8-0 and locked up a NESCAC championship quarterfinal berth on the regular season's final weekend with wins against Tufts University and Bates College in Hamilton's first season in the conference. The Continentals ended up with a 15-10 record and were led by NESCAC all-conference pick Pat Sullivan '12, who went on to play professionally in Ireland.
The 6-foot, 7-inch Sullivan became the 32nd player in program history to score 1,000 points in a career in February 2011. He ended up ninth on the Continentals' all-time list with 1,439 points. Sullivan was a 2011 Division III East Region All-District first team selection by the NABC and was voted the Liberty League offensive player of the year. Ephraim McDowell '12 was in fourth place on Hamilton's all-time list with 164 3-point field goals made when he graduated.
From 1995 to 2011, the Continentals dominated the Liberty League. Hamilton's league record in 16 seasons was 155-59 and the Continentals reached the league tournament championship game eight times in 12 years. Hamilton captured four tournament titles -- the last of which was in 2006 with a 107-72 dismantling of Union College in the final.
More Hamilton men's basketball players have earned more All-America awards than any other Division III program as 14 Continentals have received 22 All-America honors. Tsakani Ngobeni '07 was the most recent All-American in 2007 when he was voted to the second team. Two-time All-American Michael Smith '92 holds the Division III record with 1,628 rebounds in a career. Cedric Oliver '79 and Michael Schantz '99 scored more than 2,000 points in their careers. The Continentals own a 10-9 record in the NCAA championship and they are 57-29 all-time in postseason play for a .663 winning percentage. Hamilton men's basketball has won 20 or more games in a season 16 times, including 23 victories in 2005-06. The program record for wins in a season is 26 in 1990-91 when the Continentals finished 26-1 and were ranked No. 1 in the final Division III poll.