“The big question is how quickly the current players can replace the players who graduated,” suggested Gordon coach Mike Schauer in his office on Monday. “I don’t have the answer to that question.”
Asked about highlights from the 18-9, 2007-08 season the coach mentioned defeating nationally ranked Plattsburgh State in the Union College Tournament. “That was the first time, as far as I know, that a Gordon team has ever done that,” explained the 7th year coach.
As much as I liked seeing the team win the Union Tournament in Schenectady in January, my personal favorite highlight was a month later at Endicott when Jon Marstaller drained a late three from the corner to down the Gulls, 56-55. That win put to an end a long history of discouraging losses to Endicott at their building.
The epitome of tough losses had been the previous year when Endicott rode an amazing 4-point play at the buzzer to steal one from Gordon at Beverly. The excitement of that final play was the centerpiece of Endicott’s sports webpage for all of last season. I doubt that we will see any evidence of the 56-55 loss anywhere this time around.
The 2008-09 team is almost entirely made up of underclassmen. Junior starters Aaron Trigg and Brady Bajema headline the returnees. Besides supplying scoring, they’ll also have turns playing point guard. That’ll be a change to watch after admiring Justin Kaufman handle that position for four seasons.
Aaron returns from a Commonwealth Coast Conference All-Star season in which he averaged 16 points per game. “I think that he’s capable of being Player-of-the-Year in this conference,” said Coach Schauer.
Another starter will be junior Jeff Derr (6-8). As his minutes increase, his scoring opportunities will as well. Last season we saw him score most of his points from long range. This year we will probably see him planted in close to the basket where his size and strength and post moves will be on display. One thing an opponent does not want to do is foul Jeff. Last year, I’m not making this up, he was a remarkable 38-for-40 from the free throw line.
Despite having excellent perimeter players such as Aaron and Brady, Coach Schauer expects his team will be more of an inside-out team. And why not when you have players the size of 6-7 Greg Walker, 6-8 Jeff Derr, 6-9 Ben Gaskill, and 6-9 newcomer Jon Himottu to choose from. “I think that for the first time since I’ve been here we have a legitimate post game available. Jon (Marstaller) could post some for us last sesaon but he was 6-4. Now we have players whose strength is their post game.”
This year’s schedule has 11 games at home and 14 away. Last year there were 11 road games and the Scots were a disappointing 4-7 away from the Bennett Center. “If we’re going to get anywhere near our goals we’ll have to do much better than that,” said Coach Schauer.
In some ways, however, the schedule may benefit Gordon. How? Three teams (Colby-Sawyer, UNE, Roger Williams) were picked to finish ahead of the Scots in the CCC coaches preseason poll. All three will be facing Gordon at the Bennett Center. The Scots were 13-1 at the Bennett Center, before the best home crowd in the CCC, with the only loss being to nonleague Husson.
The fact that only three of the fifteen all-conference players are returning, and Gordon has one of them in Aaron Trigg, is another reason for optimism. “The team that wins the conference will have to have role players step up to elite role status,” explained Coach Schauer. “I think that we have players who can do that and that’s why I think that we have as good a chance as anybody to win the conference.”
As I mentioned earlier the season gets underway Saturday night (7PM) at Eastern Nazarene in a nonconference game. The Scots were embarrassed 82-69 in Quincy last year. The Crusaders hit 9 of 13 three’s and shot 59% for the game and Coach Schauer must have left that game wondering where his defense had gone.
Gordon’s ability to defend is probably the biggest concern going into this season. We know that stingy defenses have been a significant reason for this team’s successes in the past. We’ve seen Aaron and Brady defend within this pattern in the past; however, questions remain about everyone else.
Early on, I envision the stingy defense we’re used to seeing from the Scots being a little more “generous” than we used to but I also see a team capable of scoring more points to offset things. If Gordon can get its defensive act together this could well turn into a very special season.