NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University men's basketball has used the last three weeks of the preseason to gear up for the 2019-20 season which kicks off on Tuesday, November 12 when the Cadets travel to take on intrastate rival Northern Vermont University-Lyndon.
The Cadets will be led into action by veteran Head Coach Paul Booth who enters his 27th season at the helm of the men's basketball program. Booth boasts 282 career wins which include two Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship victories. The Cadets have trekked through the GNAC postseason 12 times since entering the league in the 1999-00 season and will look to return there this year with a revamped roster.
There was a conscious effort in 2018-19 to start building a championship-caliber roster from the beginning after having graduated seven seniors at the conclusion of the 2017-18 campaign. Last year's squad finished with a 7-18 overall record and a 1-10 mark in the GNAC. The stark contrast between the two teams signaled a changing of the guard and a need to re-establish a foundation upon which to construct future success.
"[Last year] we brought in a group of young freshmen and threw them right into the arena, so to speak," recalled Coach Booth. "The hope was to get the players the requisite experience needed to compete at this level. We had some freshmen and sophomores inserted into the starting lineup. It was a challenging year, but we knew that was going to be the case and we knew we would be better for it going forward."
By the end of the season, that was apparent as the team established its identity. By the end of the season the play became much better, the team played with pace and was able to effectively operate with good spacing and movement.
"The hardest thing for a first-year player is learning how to make the adjustments to the college game," said Coach Booth. "There's a noticeable difference in the speed and the physicality, but our freshmen last year made those necessary adjustments."
The preseason has shown that last year's returners in combination with this year's incoming class have created a team of high-character individuals who have a desire to be successful and get better.
"Our goal is to be better every single day and with that philosophy, everything else naturally takes care of itself," said Coach Booth. "One of the challenges we need to overcome moving forward is to become more consistent in everything we do so that we know what to expect on a night-to-night basis."
The 2019-20 version will feature nine returners along with seven newcomers. Last year's leading scorer, junior guard Jesse Davis (Woodinville, Wash.), will be the marked man for the Cadets. He is a prolific scorer who can score in a variety of ways. Davis averaged 15.7 points per game last year hitting on 2.5 three-pointers per game. Junior guard Kyle Booth (Northfield, Vt.) has made himself into a jack-of-all-trades ranking second in scoring (10.5 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and assists (2.1 apg) while defensively handling the opposing team's best offensive player on most nights. Sophomore guard Caleb Casinas (Aiea, Hawaii) was handed the keys to the offense last season as a freshman and made the most of his opportunity. He nearly doubled his scoring output once conference play started and became proficient running the point. Sophomore forward Donovan Lewis Jr. (Savannah, Ga.) hopes to take a step forward with his game this coming season. Lewis is a tremendous athlete who plays above the rim. He averaged 9.6 points per game as a freshman. Senior forward Dan Bertrand (Saugus, Mass.) offers a great steadying presence on the floor for the Cadets facilitating the offense, grabbing rebounds and taking care of the ball.
Depth looks to be improved this year with some incoming players knocking on the door of the rotation. Freshmen Jaydon Cousin (Savannah, Ga.), Benjamin Mitchell (Pooler, Ga.) and Dale Green (Jacksonville, Fla.) will be players to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
The conference schedule represents a stout challenge again this year. The GNAC is one of the top leagues in the region with no easy games on the schedule. The Cadets will quickly have to prove they can consistently compete night in and night out to give them a shot at postseason play.
In a release by the conference this week, Norwich was predicted to finish in 11th spot with the first games of the season starting later today.
The conference slate will commence on January 11th with a road game against the preseason's 10th-ranked Anna Maria. The Cadets will travel to face the preseason favorite Albertus Magnus Falcons on January 15th.
Norwich will host the annual Ed Hockenbury Classic on December 7th and 8th as it hosts Dean, University of Maine-Augusta and Trinity.