The men’s basketball programs at Alfred University, Texas Wesleyan and SUNY Fredonia have circled Nov. 22, 2002 on the calendar ever since their seasons ended last spring. They all have one common goal ? knocking off host Rochester in the Chuck Resler Invitational Tournament. The Yellowjackets enter the 2002-03 season on unchartered ground. With a national ranking of number one in several publications, and a ranking of third by D3hoops.com, UR will be the biggest game for many of its opponents throughout the season. Despite the high expectations, the Yellowjackets have never looked stronger.
UR returns 12 letter winners from last year’s final four squad, including four seniors in key positions. Every returning player is stronger,” coach Mike Neer said, “and all but one have increased their weight. The guys have worked out.” They are led by 6’3″ shooting guard Jeff Joss, who was first-team UAA last season, and a pre-season second team All-American by D3hoops.com.
Joss averaged 10.5 points per game and shot 43 percent from the field last year. He is joined in the backcourt by two other experienced senior point guards, Tim Sweeney and Justin Hughes. The frontcourt, meanwhile is considered the strength of the team. UR has tremendous depth at power forward where they have the option of starting either 6’7″ sophomore Seth Hauben, or 6’6″ junior Andy Larkin. Hauben comes off a monster playoff, where he had a career high 39 points and 18 rebounds in the national semifinals loss to Elizabethtown.
Expect a quick, up and down game from Alfred on Friday night . Alfred will have difficulty matching up with the size and strength of the UR frontcourt, so they will attempt to turn the contest into a track meet. “They will pressure the ball fullcourt and try to do things to prevent us from running our offense,” assistant coach Mike Benfer said. “We must have the discipline to play to our strengths.”
Alfred has a talented center in 6″7′, 230 pound senior Jeff Hopkins. “He is their only true center, so if we can get him into foul trouble it would give us an advantage,” Benfer said. If UR is able to limit Hopkins’ playing time, they will look to feed the ball inside and draw double and triple teams that will free up their 3pt shooters on the outside. On the defensive side Benfer emphasized the importance of getting in the face of Alfred’s three point shooters. “We must do a good job of getting through screens to be with their shooters when they catch the ball, to contest the shot,” Benfer added.