Posted by Jesse Shayne
Last season marked a historic high for the Skidmore men's basketball program; the team won the Liberty League championship and made it to the NCAA tournament, both for the first time in Skidmore's history. Having graduated only one senior last year, the team has lofty goals for the upcoming season.
"My goal, to be honest, is to try and win a national championship," head coach Joe Burke said.
Considering the circumstances, Skidmore's chances of winning it all are not too shabby. The team went 18-10 overall (including playoffs) in their first season with a new head coach. Along with winning the League championship and making it to NCAA's, the team did something that no Skidmore athletic team has ever done - be on ESPN's highly viewed sports show, Sportscenter.
The team played against Southern Vermont University for their third game of the season, which turned into a seven overtime victory that tied the NCAA record for overtimes in a basketball game. Aside from making it on to the Sportscenter highlights, the win also gave the team momentum that carried them through the rest of the season.
"The seven overtime game was a coming together point for us because anytime you have a new coach there is always a big transition period," Burke said. "I felt like we played six or seven games in one and I felt like that was something that brought us close together. We learned to trust each other a lot after that game."
While the team is losing their second-leading scorer, Jeff Altimar, they will have nine seniors on the roster this season, all of whom will play significant minutes according to Burke. Seniors on the team this season include: Garret Bush, Kyle Clark, Melvis Langyintuo, Brian Lowry, Dyan Malloy, John Mantas, Raoul Oloa, Liberty League first team selection Gerard O'Shea and last year's team captain Terron Victoria.
"The nine of us have been together since freshmen year and we are all best friends and get along...team chemistry is very high," said O'Shea, who was the starting point guard last season.
Everyone else from the team last year will be coming back except for one member who has taken a leave of absence. Two freshmen will be joining Skidmore men's basketball as well, Connor Merrill (Vermont Academy) and Nanribet Yiljep (Westtown Prep.). "Both freshmen were highly recruited..both had division one and two offers but they really loved this place and loved the team," Burke said.
The team will be facing a revamped Liberty League that lost Hamilton College but added Bard College and Rochester Institute of Technology. Hamilton was the team Skidmore beat in the Liberty League Championship last season.
No team has repeated as Liberty League Champion for the past eight seasons, so if Skidmore does it they will be breaking a trend. "We have a target on our back so we are going to get every team's best effort. Everyone wants to beat the champion," O'Shea said.
The team has been working hard since they started practicing at the end of September. "Having been at division one I know how hard those guys work, and these guys work just as hard, they just don't get the notoriety," Burke said.
Skidmore will open up the regular season with a three game homestand. They will start the season on Nov. 15 against Cobleskill College, play a rematch of last season's seven overtime thriller against Southern Vermont College on Nov. 22 and then face Oneonta State on Nov. 30. They will participate in a national division three tournament in Las Vegas over Christmas break. Liberty League play will kick off on Jan. 6 against Vassar College.