Five games into the season and the men’s basketball team is off and running with a 4-1 record. Ranked 12th in the country by D3Hoops.com, UR is winning games by out-rebounding opponents and playing solid defense.

With a roster that includes four freshmen and six sophomores, youth and inexperience were big question marks coming into the season. However, head coach Mike Neer has battle tested his young players by playing a deep bench. So far, each has shown flashes of potential, working hard to catch Neer’s eye.

Senior Joe Canty is back for his final year with the Yellowjackets. The lone team captain is focused on guiding the young players to learn the system as well as to provide leadership on and off the court. Assistant coach and former standout player Tim Sweeney seemed optimistic about Canty taking the forefront.

“Now, as a senior, Joe has been asked to step forward into a leadership position,” Sweeny said. “We don’t expect him to lead on his own, but rather by example, through his everyday habits of working hard and focusing on what the collective group is trying to accomplish.”

Transfer Mike Goia is back after redshirting last year with a wrist injury. The versatile guard has played well in his first few games as a Yellowjacket with great shooting and passing ability. Returning sophomore starters Jeff Juron and Jon Onyiriuka bring big-game experience and a wealth of talent.

Sophomores Uche Ndubizu and Dan Milbrand have emerged as low-post scorers and rebounders. Junior Eric Snider brings length and mobility to complete the Yellowjackets’ frontcourt.

Junior Tim Brackney has picked up where he left off last year – ripping the nets from deep. Brackney’s ability to handle the ball and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates has made him a major scoring threat.

Sophomore Rob Dominiak is another outside threat for Coach Neer. Dominiak spent the majority of his freshman year sidelined with an ankle injury. This year, Dominiak has come off the bench and knocked down shots from behind the arc to complement the Yellowjacket’s big men.

Sophomore Will Thorne has played well early. The tall, athletic shooter can post up down low, as well as hit shots from downtown. His size and length allow him to play multiple positions.

UR’s freshmen include Max Kaplan, Brian Baudinet, Mike Chiemlowiec and Dmitry Razin. Guards Kaplan and Chiemlowiec have seen significant time this season thus far. Baudinet and Razin have also contributed in UR’s early success.

So far in the season, the Yellowjackets have played up and down. UR’s only loss came to Wittenberg College, 52-50, in the championship game of the Chuck Resler Invitational held at the Palestra. Wittenberg entered the game ranked 10th in Division III, and they battled UR for 40 minutes. The Yellowjackets effort fell short when Brackney’s shot at the buzzer rimmed out.

In the first round of the Resler tournament, the Yellowjackets easily handled Alfred University, 80-43. Juron and Milbrand were named to the All-Tournament team for UR.

UR then headed across town to play Nazareth College. Ndubizu scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to lead the team to a 64-58 victory. Canty and Brackney combined for six free throws in the last 54 seconds to secure the victory.

While most students were home enjoying leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner, the Yellowjackets took on Eastern Connecticut College in the first round of the Holiday Inn Tournament last Saturday.

The Yellowjackets’ defense was swarming, holding Eastern Connecticut to 29 percent shooting in the first half. UR cruised to a 79-54 victory in which all 14 players scored.

On Sunday, UR took on John Carroll – ranked 16th going into the contest. The game was expected to be a battle between two top-25 teams. However, it was more of a thrashing than a battle. The Yellowjackets rolled to a 91-61 win, and Onyiriuka was named MVP of the tournament.

Nduzibu – 12 points, six rebounds – and Canty – nine points, three assists, three blocks and two steals – joined Onyiriuka on the All-Tournament Team. Brackney scored 12 points in 10 minutes for UR and Kaplan added 10 points and eight assists off the bench.

UR plays its University Athletic Association conference opener against Carnegie Mellon University at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Palestra.

Rovinsky can be reached at mrovinsky@campustimes.org.



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