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"We had one of the best classes to ever attend UVM in my opinion.
We all worked very hard and played the best we could every day.
-Taylor Coppenrath, Former Univ. of Vermont Basketball Star
 VTSN Partner:
Vermont Catamounts Men's Basketball Preview PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Jamele   
Thursday, 25 September 2008

trimbolicelebratesbcwin.jpgThe University of Vermont men's basketball team last year showed tantalizing display of potential. This year that potential could be tapped. Marqus Blakely exploded onto the college basketball scene with one of the most impressive sophomore seasons that UVM or even the America East have ever seen, winning the America East player of year and defensive player of the year awards. Mike

Trimboli saw his scoring averages improve for the third straight year. Kyle Cieplicki showed everyone what a quality 5th year senior can mean to a program. But in the end it was injuries and inexperience that derailed the team from achieving the ultimate goal of playing in the NCAA tournament. This year, armed with talented newcomers to add to an experienced roster, the Catamounts are poised to achieve their goal for the first time under head coach Mike Lonergan.

This season marks the first time that Lonergan will have a team consisting completely of players that he has recruited to the school.  As his first recruiting class enters their senior years, he reflected on the challenges and development taken place for those players. “I think our senior class has had a lot of success. I am hoping they all have the best year of their careers this year. I didn't start here until April of 2005 so it was very difficult putting together a recruiting class so late. Most of the Division I caliber high school seniors in the class of 2005, that could meet UVM admission requirements, were already signed. I am very proud of the class we were able to sign that spring.”

After being the focal point of the offense for most of his career senior point guard Mike Trimboli will have considerably less pressure put on him to score due to the emergence of junior forward Marqus Blakely. Trimboli will have different responsibilities this year according to Lonergan. “We need him to get his assists up and his turnovers down for us to compete for the America East Championship and I expect that to happen this year.”

As a four year starter at point guard, Trimboli will be counted on to bring needed experience and toughness. “He is a very experienced, battle tested player and we hope he can lead this team back to the championship game. I expect a lot out of Mike and I truly believe he is going to have a tremendous senior year.”

blakelyforpresident.jpgAfter taking the league by storm last year Marqus Blakely looks to continue his rapid development. Using his astounding athleticism for highlight real dunks and blocked shots and surprising strong low post skills, Blakely was able to establish himself as the best player in the conference. Blakely was able to top the America East with 19 points a game and even though he measures in at only 6'5”, he was able to lead the league in rebounding as well. Blakely was able to do all this while not being able to practice with the team during the season due to injuries. Needless to say, Lonergan has high hopes for Blakely for this season as well. “Marqus was always a tremendous talent but now I think he has become a tremendous basketball player. I think he is going to have a phenomenal year. His free throw shooting must improve for our team to reach our goals but there aren't many other areas where I have any complaints about Marqus. He is a joy to coach. He is unselfish and team oriented which isn't always the case with your best players. I am excited about coaching Marqus this season-in practice hopefully too! If he stays healthy he will have another great year.”

One weakness on the team last year was finding another low post player to complement Blakely. Injuries to Tim McCrory and Even Fjeld ended up hurting the team. This year Fjeld could break out and become the player needed to play alongside the team's star. “I really think Evan Fjeld will make the biggest improvement statistically this season if he can stay healthy. Evan is a very talented young man that just had to get stronger. Having mono and then a broken hand last year really set his development back. I think he will double his stats and be a key to our success.”

Another exciting aspect to this team is the potential of the newcomers to the squad. After losing three year captain Kyle Cieplicki at shooting guard. Michigan St. transfer Maurice Joseph looks to pick where Cieplicki left off. He already is off to a good start after being voted a co-captain of the team by his teammates. Lonergan is excited to see what he has in his hyped transfer. “Maurice Joseph has been voted a co-captain (along with Mike Trimboli) by his teammates which shows you the respect they have for him. He is a quality young man who is hungry to get back on the court. We expect him to be our starting 2 guard and to provide some scoring power from the wing. More importantly we need him to make up for the leadership and strong defensive play that we lost with Kyle graduating. I am excited to see Maurice play because I really haven't seen much of him on the court because of his shoulder surgery. His energy and enthusiasm for the game and for life are infectious! I think our fans will love Maurice.”

The freshman class is also highly touted. The player who could have the most immediate impact may be forward Jordan Clarke. During high school he played for Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Maryland where he faced some of the best high school competition in the country. Clarke is built like a tank. He is around 6'7” and weighs in at 245 pounds but has only 8% body fat. He could be a load for other teams to stop. “Jordan is a very talented player. He is a scorer. He needs to understand the importance of defense and playing hard on every possession but that will happen. I think Jordan will be playing quality minutes immediately. He has had a great pre-season.”

Garvey Young is also expected to contribute this season. He is a 6'4” guard who can do a little bit of everything. He will be counted on for his defense to help ease the loss of Cieplicki.

The Cats also have a variety of tested bench players who have the ability to step up big if needed. Senior Colin McIntosh is versatile and can be counted on to play a variety of positions while adding a nice scoring touch. Nick Vier gained valuable experience last year as the primary backup to Trimboli at the point guard spot. His development is important if they want to be successful when Trimboli is out of the game. Guard Joey Accaoui could be the best outside shooter on the team and should be able to provide an offensive spark off the bench.

A challenging schedule should allow the team to develop against some of the better teams in the country. As an added bonus, many of these games will be at Patrick Gym. Teams such as George Mason, North Carolina-Wilmington and Loyola (Md.) will all make their way to Burlington, VT this winter. Vermont will also face Maryland and Pittsburgh on the road. The team will also make an appearance in Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic tournament. They will match up against George Washington in the first round.

This may be the deepest team that Lonergan has assembled in his four year stay so far. Even with all the added talent, the team's success this year will most likely come down to how well Blakely and Trimboli can lead them. In a deeper, more talented America East this year look for the Catamounts to finish in the top three of the conference with a legitimate chance of winning and getting to the NCAA tournament.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 September 2008 )
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