CAA Preview: William & Mary Tribe

By Kyle Williams

Head Coach – Tony Shaver (12th season)

Last Season – 20-12 (10-6, Colonial Athletic Conference)

Losses – F Tim Rusthoven, G Brandon Britt, G Kyle Gaillard, G Julian Boatner, F Sean Sheldon, G Ben Whitlatch, F Fred Heldring

Newcomers – G Connor Burchfield, G David Cohn, G Daniel Dixon, G Glover Jamison, G/F Greg Malinowski, F Paul Rowly, G Oliver Tot

A year removed from their heartbreaking exit in the CAA tournament final, William & Mary is coming into this season looking to finally get over the hump and reach their first ever NCAA tournament. The Tribe will have high expectations after being picked to finish second in the CAA; armed with arguably the best backcourt in the conference, they are in a position to not only meet those expectations, but to pass them as well.

Any and all conversations about William & Mary basketball has to start with their star player, Marcus Thorton. A preseason first team all-CAA pick, he’s coming off his best season that ended with a first team all-CAA spot, averaging 18.7 points per game with .435/.403/.779 splits, along with 2.8 assists per game. He can spot up or take defenders off the dribble, and is a legitimate threat from anywhere on the court. Playing along side him is last year’s CAA rookie of the year Omar Prewitt, who averaged 11.4 ppg while doubling as a three-point threat and the team’s second leading rebounder at 4.6 per game. Together, they’re a nightmare for opposing defenses, and should be able to get any shot they want on most nights.

Beyond Thorton and Prewitt, the Tribe will bring back Terry Tarpey, a forward guard combo who was a contributor last season averaging 5.4 points and over six rebounds a game. They also bring back Sean Sheldon, a serviceable defensive big man who will give them at least some presence in the low post.

Looking at the losses for this team, the one that sticks out is Tim Rusthoven. Even though he battled through injuries at times last year, he still averaged 12.1 points and 4.8 rebounds with 59% shooting, and was one of the only guys in the conference able to take Scott Eatherton one on one in the post. His loss will hurt, especially in the paint; the aforementioned Sean Spence might be able to clean the defensive glass, but he’s not an offensive threat at all.

The other big loss for this team is the trio of Brandon Britt, Kyle Gaillard, and Julian Boatner. These three combined to average almost twenty-three points last year, and all shot better than 37% from three, with Boatner in particular shooting 42.7% from beyond the arc on over three attempts per game. The team will be hoping to offset this loss partially with the play of David Cohn, a sophomore transfer from Colorado State. However, his stats (3.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg) are less than eye opening, and he’ll have to earn his place in this lineup. After him, unproven freshmen Connor Burchfield and Jamison Glover fill out the bench.

Bottom Line – This team has the feel of tournament-or-bust this year. The loss of Rusthoven will hurt, but in a year when only Northeastern and College of Charleston look like they will be dominant on the boards, it won’t be as serious as it could be. The lack of scoring will be a question mark, and one of the new guards will have to step up to replace some of what the Boatner-Gaillard-Britt trio gave the Tribe last season. However, this team still has arguably the best player in the conference in Marcus Thorton, and another dynamic scorer in Omar Prewitt. Those two will always give this team a chance to win, and they will push the Tribe deep into the CAA tournament this March.