The Eastern men’s basketball team is prepping for their season home opener against Rosemont College. The Eagles are coming into their 2015-2016 season with a new head couch, as Nate Stewart was promoted to Athletic Director, leaving the basketball team’s head couch position vacant. Assistant coach, Eric McNelley, was then chosen as the head coach for 2015-2016 season. His coaching resume is quite impressive; he coached two different high school basketball teams and led both programs to Florida state regional finals. But how will coach McNelley transition into DIII college basketball? Although he does have some experience at the DII level, the competition is different, but there is also a difference in the region he will be coaching. Both the northeast and southeast produce players with different styles and understandings of the game. Coach McNelley must know this already, bringing something of the south upon joining the coaching staff. Perhaps the Eagles are looking a little more tropical this season.
On the roster there are a total of seven players who played high school basketball in Miami. Out of the seven, four are freshmen and looking to make a strong impression like the other returning Miami players. Anthony Concepcion, Austin James, and Tarek Hamzeh put up impressive numbers in their first season last year. Concepcion averaged 5.4 points per game with a total of 80 assists last season. He will be a key part of the Eagles offense, as he shares the job of point guard with Austin Carroll. Sophomore Austin James started 23 of the 25 games last season, making it clear that he is a starter to watch. He averaged 9.1 points per game and solidified his presence with 51 three-pointers. Tarek Hamzeh put up fantastic numbers last season, shooting 43.7% of his shots from beyond the arc. He averaged 10.2 points per game and was shooting 77% of his shots from the free throw line. Hamzeh will be looked to for offensive support this season from Junior Shaquan Turk and Senior Malcolm Garrison.
Junior Shaquan Turk led the MAC Freedom last season with 17.6 points. He also led the team with a season high of 404 points. In two consecutive games, Turk scored a season high with 37 points against Manhattanville and Misericordia. The Philly native looks to dominate the court this season with new career highs. Turk comes into his third season with a career total of 710 points; look for him to break the 1,000 point mark.
The lone senior and Baltimore native, Malcolm Garrison will step on the court for the last time. Garrison came into his freshman year hot, earning a spot in the team’s starting rotation. He averaged 9.8 points his first year. His second, Garrison averaged a career high of 13.2 points and started in all 25 games. His third, he averaged 12 points with a career high of 32 assists. In his last season, look for Garrison to come out strong, breaking the 1,000-point mark.
Overall, the Eagles look young and ready to play a physical season. Expect them to be a threat in the Freedom Conference this season, and maybe they will finish in the top five.