The men’s basketball team has a clear strength that it can exploit.
With six quality big men on the team, the Yellowjackets have a combination of size and depth that they can use to wear down their opponents.
“We can start any combination of three big guys and lose very little ? if at all ? going to the bench,” head coach Mike Neer said. “We’re clearly going to establish an inside power game.”
As the only senior on the team, forward Kyle Leach will be asked to lead by example.
He will get help from center Ryan Kadlubowski ? the largest player on the team at six feet, nine inches and 250 pounds ? who would be a senior if he had not gotten injured last season.
Kadlubowski sustained a season-ending injury in the second week of the season and received a medical redshirt, meaning he will still have another year of eligibility left after this season. He restructured his class load in order to play the full four years.
“Ryan brings us some size and strength and experience,” Neer said. “His goal now is to get back in shape.”
Four underclassmen round out the front court.
Sophomore forward Andy Larkin led the team in scoring and rebounding last year and was the University Athletic Association Rookie of the Year. He had foot surgery over the summer and now experiences less pain.
Fellow sophomore Brian Jones led the team in blocks last year. He tied the school record for blocks in a game twice last season, but will need to be more consistent this year.
Freshmen Seth Hauben and Matt Conacher will also see significant playing time this season.
“They’re going to be effective as freshmen,” Neer said. “But it’s clear that there are a lot of things they need to learn.”
Hauben is strong, tough around the basket and displays good poise for a freshman.
Conacher ? a 6’7″ Australian who was a member of the national high school champioship team from Virginia last year ? is aggressive, active and has a nose for the ball.
“In playing three big guys, you give up some things,” Neer said. “But I think, at the same time, we’ll be hard for other teams to defend.”
The only senior on last year’s team was guard Jeff Larson, who was a good three-point shooter and defender.
“We certainly will miss [Larson], but that’s college basketball,” Neer said. “We couldn’t afford to sign him to a long-term contract.”
Three juniors will try to fill Larson’s hole. Tim Sweeney, Justin Hughes and Jeff Joss are solid, dependable guards who have played a lot for UR.
“We’re hoping they continue the progression they’ve made since freshman year,” Neer said.
UR also has six underclassmen looking to get some time at the guard position.
“Right now, we need one or two players to jump out of that group,” Neer said. “I think we’re going to need more than three guards.”
UR will play a difficult schedule this season, as there were very few seniors in the UAA last year. The top teams in the league each returned most of their core players, but the Yellowjackets should do well if they can force other teams to play their style of ball.
“I’ll be real disappointed if we don’t start the season with a keen sense of our strengths and how to get at them,” Neer said. “One of the keys to the season will how our players accept and perform in different roles this year.”
UR opens its season with the Chuck Resler Invitational at the Louis Alexander Palestra this weekend. Bowdoin College faces Alfred University at 1 p.m. and UR plays D’Youville College at 8 p.m. Friday. The consolation and championship games are at 1 and 8 p.m., respectively, Saturday.
Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.