Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bobcat backcourt emerges from roster turnover deeper and hungrier

With graduations of Giovanni McLean and James Ford, Daniel Harris enters his senior season as face of Quinnipiac's ever-changing backcourt, which has gained depth for 2016-17. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

As Quinnipiac struggled to an uncharacteristic 9-21 season last year, one thing was clear to head coach Tom Moore: The need for more bodies in a backcourt that endured peaks and valleys in its first season without four-year mainstays Zaid Hearst and Evan Conti.

"I think a year ago, a lot of our offensive problems could be traced to some inconsistency in the backcourt," Moore revealed when assessing exactly what it was that went wrong for the Bobcats last season. "We do need depth, obviously. I think we're doing a really good job right now of securing depth, and we're hoping that with some of the new faces, we'll emphasize some of those problems."

Gone are James Ford Jr. and Giovanni McLean, the former after four years in Hamden as a vital cog in the guard stable and the latter a one-year addition before receiving a waiver to use his final year of eligibility elsewhere, as are Dimitri Floras and Ayron Hutton after transferring. In their place stand a trio of incumbents that should see the majority of minutes in a unit that may enter the year underrated, but has room to not only grow, but stand among its contemporaries.

"Danny Harris had a fantastic season for us last year," said Moore of his newly minted senior, who becomes the backcourt leader with Ford and McLean having departed. "He just really impressed us with his consistency and how he shot the ball, how he competed and grew as a player last season. I think he went from being a one-dimensional kid to being multi-dimensional at the end of the season, and he was growing in leaps and bounds."

Twins Aaron and Andrew Robinson were not always the first names called off the bench a year ago, but as sophomores, both will see mounds of playing time, and not just because of their potential on game night.

"The twins didn't get a lot of opportunities last year on the court during games, but they grew a lot in practice," Moore admitted. "They are the two hardest-working kids that we have in our program, and they've remained that. With James Ford graduating, I think there's going to be a lot of opportunities for them just because of their work ethic."

Together with Harris, the Robinson twins form an experienced three-headed monster that welcomes two new members into the fold, freshmen Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss, both of whom have unique skill sets that bring a different aspect to the table.

"Mikey's very talented, very quick," said Moore. "He was the Delaware State Player of the Year and his team won the state championship. He can really score, he can play on the ball or off the ball, he can really shoot from deep and get in the lane. He's really good in transition and has a real good handle."

Kiss, a New York product by way of the powerful Notre Dame Prep program, comes heralded by Moore as an "interesting" player.

"Pete is going to be an interesting player, because he could play the three, two, or one for us," Moore intimated. "I'm excited to see which way his game takes him. He's a very competitive kid who has a lot of ability, he can shoot it, he can pass it well. I just like how he competes."

The quintet will certainly not be sneaking up on its competition this season, especially after the rave reviews they have earned for their offseason demeanor, which has their coach optimistic for what lies ahead.

"They're going to out-sweat and outwork a lot of people in our league and just continue to get better," said Moore. "The rest of the improvement is going to come from our new faces, and I think what I'm really excited about is the depth we're going to have next year."

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