November 14, 2010

Lyndon cagers to feature a balance of youth and experience

LYNDON CENTER, Vt. — Behind an experienced lineup which features four returning starters, and a deep bench filled with several talented, athletic freshmen, Lyndon is looking to finally make its mark in the always-competitive North Atlantic Conference.

A year ago, the Hornets finished the regular season with a record of 8-16 overall and a mark of 4-10 in the NAC. Having given up the most points in conference play for two straight seasons, head coach Joe Krupinski is looking to reverse the Lyndon's fortunes and feels he has the right balance of youth and experience to do so.

"To have the component of youth to rely on is a good thing because we won't have to put as much on our returning players as we did last year," said Krupinski. "We should be more athletic this season and tougher to guard. The new guys bring a number of different things to our team and that should take us away from being strictly a jump-shooting team.

"We'll be average size-wise, but more versatile," he continued. "Our sophomores and juniors played a lot last season and hopefully they will step up this season and make us a better team."

Lyndon returns the backcourt trio of juniors Jose Fortunato, Logan Calkins and Ben Sackett. The three accounted for more than 33 points, nine assists and three steals per-game in the 2009-10 season.

"Jose made great strides last season and has developed into one of the better guards in our league," said Krupinski. "Logan came into his own as well in terms of playing with a lot more confidence and Ben is our top returning scorer. Like last season, we're going to count on those guys quite a bit."

Up front, the Hornets will feature sophomores Jason Gray, D.J. Campbell and O'Bee Byrd along with the team's lone senior Mike Norcross. Al four saw significant playing time last year and Krupinski has high hopes that their respective games will reach a new level in the season ahead.

"Jason is our most complete returning player," he said. "He's our best rebounder and has the ability to guard people inside. Mike and O'Bee give us a presence in the middle, but it's my hope that D.J. makes the biggest jump from last year. He never seemed comfortable after joining us in January, but we did see some flashes of brilliance from him. If he can show us that he can consistently compete and play hard, I think he stands to make the biggest leap in terms of production."

Joining the core of veteran players are several freshmen who lack size, but more than make up for it in terms of talent, speed and athleticism. Krupinski believes this group brings an added dimension to the Hornet program – both offensively and defensively – as well as some much-needed depth.

"All of our freshmen are perimeter guys of some sort, but there are two guys right now that will be in the mix," he said. "Phil Warrick can play either guard and is very fast and athletic. He can do a lot of things including score the basketball, find people and play great defense on the ball.

"Offensively, D.J. Santos is solid and he is capable of being a factor for us early on," he went on. "He can play both guard spots, but he's more of a distributor. The biggest adjustment he'll need to make is getting accustomed to playing defense at the college level."

Also scheduled to see minutes this season for Lyndon are freshmen Vaughn Johnson, Pat Thomas, Antonio Mena, Rob Alers and Emmitt Simpson, a recent graduate of nearby Lake Region Union High School.

"Vaughn and Pat are good athletes who are very active," said Krupinski. "Both have a good nose for the ball, but need to develop their offensive games further. Antonio is our 'energy guy.' He'll give us minutes at the forward spot, despite the fact he's undersized and Rob is a good, solid guard who knows how to play. Emmitt had a good career at Lake Region and he is simply a pure point guard. He has shown the ability to run the team and can knock down the open jumper."

Rounding out the Lyndon squad is freshman Brendan Corriveau, a Burlington High grad, sophomore George Carle who transferred in from the University of Rhode Island and Taylor Burke, another sophomore who returns to the team after a one-semester absence.

In recent years, the NAC has been making a name for itself in NCAA post-season play and Krupinski believes this season will be no different. With their added depth and athleticism, coupled with an experience backcourt and frontline, the Hornets are quickly taking on the look of a contender for the conference crown.

"The conference is getting more competitive each year and I thought things were pretty balanced last season," said Krupinski. "Farmington won a game in the NCAA tournament and played well against Williams (in the second round), so that shows the level of play in the league continues to improve.

"In general, we have to play a lot better in conference that last season," he continued. "We didn't respond well after dropping a couple games early on. We will simply need to guard people better. If we can improve in that area and (now with the increased depth) play better on back-to-back nights, it will hopefully lead to more wins and a better standing in the league."