As fall sports head into postseason play, UR Men’s and Women’s Basketball are beginning their preseason training, focusing on a conference championship and an NCAA tournament berth. The women were picked to win the University Athletic Association title for this season by the conference’s head coaches, receiving six first-place votes. The men were pegged to finish fourth out of eight teams, despite losing three stars, Sam Borst-Smith, Mack Montague, and Zach Ayers, to graduation.
“We have been having a great preseason so far,” senior forward Tucker Knox said. “All the returners have been playing well together and the freshman are quickly getting up to speed.”
Last season, both teams received bids into the NCAA tournament. The men made it all the way into the Elite Eight but lost to Whitman College 91–87 in their final game. The women were defeated by local rival SUNY Geneseo 78–72 in the second round. With an 8–6 record in the UAA, the women finished third in the conference and were 18–9 on the season. The men finished second behind the University of Chicago in the UAA last season with a 10–4 record, and went 24–5 overall.
Washington University was picked to win the men’s conference title again this season and received seven first-place votes. Emory University received the other vote for first place and was picked to finish second in the conference. The spot above UR belongs to the University of Chicago, who proved to be tough competition for the Yellowjackets in the two games they played last season. UR defeated the Bears 88–82 in the first game at home and lost 90–87 at their game in Chicago.
Behind UR Women’s Basketball, the University of Chicago received two first-place votes and came second in the poll. Washington University, who went 26–3 last season, won the conference last year but were predicted to finish third in 2018.
The return of starters senior post Al Leslie, senior forward and guard Lauren Deming, sophomore guard Lauren Foley, and sophomore point guard Brenna James contributed to receiving votes for winning the UAA title. Leslie had a strong junior year with 21.9 points per game (fourth in UR history), 9.7 rebounds per game, and 44 blocks. Deming followed her with 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Last season, Leslie earned three All-America honors and was named East Region Player of the Year by the USBWA and All-Rochester Area Player of the Year. She also set a UR single-season free throw record and holds the second-place spot in school history for single-season points, field goals, and field goal percentage.
For the men, junior point guard Jacob Wittig (8.8 ppg, 4.7 apg) and Knox (5.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) will return to the court as starters. Other key players include junior guard Ryan Clamage, who appeared in all 29 games last season and finished fifth on the team in scoring with 7.5 ppg, and junior guard Michael Mangan who played in 29 games and was ranked 16th in the UAA in steals. Senior guard Kyle Parker, the team’s manager last season, is an addition to the roster this year. He transferred from Grinnell College in the fall of 2016, where he averaged 16 points per game as a junior for the Pioneers.
“We have a ton of talent and I think we could surprise people in the UAA,” Knox said. “We look to build upon the success of last year and be a contender for UAA champions.”
UR Women’s Basketball will play their first game of the season in the Chuck Resler Tournament at the Palestra against Capital University on Nov. 17., with the men playing Bard College on the same day.