Last Season: 17-14 (10-8, 5th in CAA)
Projected Finish: 8
Preseason Honorable Mentions: G David Cohn and F Nathan Knight
- Jihar Williams, G (Friends School of Baltimore/Baltimore, Md.)
- Luke Loewe, G (Fond du Lac/Fond du Lac, Wis.)
- Cole Harrison, F (Montrose Christian (Md.)/Brentwood, Tenn.)
- Daniel Dixon, G (19.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, CAA All-First Team)
- Omar Prewitt, G/F (15.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, CAA All-Second Team)
- Jack Whitman, F (10.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
- Michael Schlotman, G
- Greg Malinowsky, G/F
by Mack Krell
In his 14th season as the head coach of William and Mary, Coach Tony Shaver led the Tribe to the semifinals of the CAA men’s basketball tournament. Following a 17-14 regular season record, WM’s 2016-17 season ultimately came to a close with a shootout loss to CAA Champion and clear CAA top dog, UNCW.
Despite shooting 56 percent from the field, the Tribe couldn’t overcome the dominance of UNCW and lost the semi-final matchup 105-94. The Tribe look to rebound this season despite losing their three leading scorers in Omar Prewitt, Daniel Dixon, and Jack Whitman. Dixon and Prewitt graduated following the season while Whitman transferred to play at Kansas before deciding to retire from college basketball all together.
As the two leading scorers on the Tribe and two of the top ten scorers in the CAA, Prewitt and Dixon lead the fast paced offense to over 81 points per game and over 17 assists per game. With 19.2 ppg, Dixon lead the Tribe in scoring and finished the season number two in scoring in the CAA; only Northeastern’s TJ Williams scored more points than Dixon.
Coach Shaver has not shied away from the effect losing players like Dixon and Prewitt will have on the Tribe.
“I’m not sure people realize how good they’ve been at times,” he said at the end of last season.
“I hope we don’t realize that next year when we’re playing without them.”
However, that’s exactly what the Tribe will be doing as they head into the 2017-18 season, relying on David Cohn to be a veteran leader.
Cohn, a redshirt senior point guard from Elmhurst, Illinois, will look to build off his 6.2 ppg and 4.5 apg 2016-17 season. He is a quick guard who likes to push the ball in transition and find his teammates for open shots. Without Prewitt, Dixon, or Malinowsky (a 40& 3-point shooter last season) Cohn will have to rely on other guys to knock down big shots.
One of those guys is fellow senior Connor Burchfield. Last season Burchfield shot 47 percent from three by knocking down 40 of 84 threes. Although only seeing 14.4 minutes per game last year, the Tribe will likely have to rely on Burchfield playing more minutes heading into this season. During the Tribe’s recent exhibition trip to Jamaica, Burchfield tallied three double digit games including a 4-6 effort from 3-point rage in their final contest. The Tribe will hope for more of that from Burchfield this season.
William and Mary will likely round out their starting guard play with true freshman Jihar Williams. Williams, a 6-5 guard from Baltimore, is a player who likes to get up and down the court and is a knock-down shooter. He believes he will fit in perfectly with the Tribe’s style of play, saying “They play a game style like mine, so I fit in perfectly. They get up and down, they shoot a lot of 3’s. They move the ball.”
Last season, the Tribe struggle in rebounding offensively when they finished ninth in the CAA in offensive rebounds at just 8.7 per game. The Tribe will rely on a pair of sophomores in the front court to improve on this important aspect of the game for a team that likes to push the ball and take quick shots.
Nathan Knight, a member of the CAA All-Freshman team a year ago, will be look to improve on his 8.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg season last year. He will be joined by Justin Pierce who the Tribe will hope can play even bigger than his 6’6’’, 205-pound frame would suggest. During one of the team’s recent exhibition games, the two combined for 25 total rebounds. With a lack of veteran talent in the front court, the Tribe will hope for more efforts like that throughout the season.
Bottom Line: Despite losing their two star seniors from last season, expect the Tribe to play a similar style of basketball as in recent years under Coach Shaver. They tend to struggle defensively, giving up the second most points in the CAA last season. However, they make up for that my pushing the ball off defensive rebounds and hitting open shots in transition. This strategy worked well for them last season when they led the CAA in 3-point percentage at 38.4 percent. With David Cohn controlling the tempo, he will get to the basketball early in the shot clock and kick out for open shots from Jihar Williams and Connor Burchfield. William and Mary will need strong shooting performances each game and an increase in their number of offensive rebounds from their sophomore forwards to make a consistent run in the CAA. However, because of their offensive fire-power and the ability to shoot from deep they could beat any team in the conference on any given night.