Today: Jul 17, 2024

Men’s basketball program on rise after coaching change

Matt Borelli, Staff Writer:

After posting four total wins in the last two seasons, changes were needed for the Men’s Basketball program. After starting 4-0 this season, it was clear that the change was a positive one. 

On May 7, 2010, Southern Connecticut State University hired Michael Donnelly to be the new Head Coach for the men’s basketball team. Donnelly previously spent the last seven season at Post University as head coach, where he amassed 98 wins, the most in school history. 

In his first season at Southern, Donnelly led the Owls to a 12-15 overall record and went 9-13 in conference play, and brought some energy back to the slumping program. 

The Owls started off quickly winning their first four games of the season, and going 8-2 in the first 10 games. 

“I wasn’t surprised at all at the good start,” said Donnelly. “I thought we would play good basketball and we didn’t have a lot of long roadtrips.” 

When Donnelly took control of the team, the Owls had six players returning from the previous season. Chris Harris, a junior guard decided to stay and play for Donnelly and noticed change immediately. 

“The biggest difference between this year and my first two years was that this team had a sense of identity,” said Harris, who led the team with 78 assists. “We had a system that could actually fit our style of play.” 

Harris and the Owls established from the first day that things would be different and it was true. The Owls were in most of the games this season, where in other years they would falter down the stretch. 

“I knew the caliber of my teammates and the talents they possessed,” said Harris. “Our seniors did a great job of setting the tone and an example for us to follow all the way down to the freshman.” 

A large part of the success was the play of Trevon Hamlet. The sophomore forward was named All Northeast-10 Second team and finished second in blocked shots per game (2.4). Hamlet transferred to Southern following Donnelly from Post University where he spent his freshman season under the coach. Hamlet had no problem leaving Post for Southern and following his coach. 

“I never regretted transferring here because I love the school and everyone here,” said the 6’6 Hamlet. “It was a better situation for me on and off the court and it showed this year. It was the perfect fit.” 

Hamlet played well this season averaging a team high 17.7 points per game which was fifth in the conference. He also tallied a team high 6.8 rebounds per game. He led the Owls in scoring 17 times this season and reached double figures in scoring in every game but two this season. Hamlet still feels that he has room for improvement. 

“I feel like I need to keep getting stronger and continue to work on my ball handling,” said Hamlet, a Brooklyn, N.Y native. “I need to work on my attitude when things aren’t going my way and become more of a leader.” 

The Owls also relied heavily on freshman guard Greg Langston, who at times took over games offensively. 

“I was surprised at how he could take over games,” said Donnelly. “His ability to hit the big shot surprised me, he was our go to guy.” 

Langston averaged 12.5 points per game this season and tallied 4.9 rebounds per game in his first season. Langston hit two game winners as time expired this season, first on December 4, 2010 where Langston scored five points in the final 25 seconds and had a lay-up as time expired following a comeback from 22 down with 10 minutes left in the game at St.Rose. Langston struck again on January 25, 2011 at home against Merrimack College when Langston hit a running jumper from just inside the three point line as time expired for a 68-66 win. 

“I feel that Greg (Langston) deserved Freshman of the Year,” said Harris, who stands at 5’9. “There aren’t four other freshman in the conference that are better than him for him not to at least make All-Rookie team.” 

“We knew we were getting a good player,” said Donnelly. “We knew he could step in and play good basketball.” 

Despite a 9-13 record in Northeast-10 conference play, the Owls postitioned the ship in the right direction this season. The fans packed the arena for the games and the team was surrounded by support throughout campus. 

“The fan support was terrific,” said Donnelly, on his way to see a recruit. “I would put our fans up against any other schools in the NE-10 any day. It was really great to see the ton of support from the athletic department and everyone on campus.” 

The Owls will lose five seniors, and have eight players on paper returning to the program next season. This years incoming recruiting class is critical to the growing success within the program. 

“We have to get deeper top to bottom,” said Donnelly. “This is a very big recruiting class, we have been going after most of these kids for a full year now.” 

After the hot start on the season, the Owls hit a couple bumps in the road with a stretch of four straight losses and ending the season on a five game losing streak. Donnelly and company just believe that teams figured them out. 

“Teams took to the scouting reports and took away our options offensively,” said Donnelly, who never had a team shoot below 41 percent except this years Owls who shot 37.5 percent on the season. 

“The first half of the season nobody knew what to expect of us,” said senior Chazz McCarter, who played at Gateway Community College last season. “Teams just adjusted to our style of play.” 

The senior guard McCarter, a New Haven, native leaves averaging 11 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game and really developed a relationship with his head coach. 

“Coach was already recruiting me while he was at Post,” said McCarter. “I really liked his style of coaching.” 

The Owls still have high expectations for the future and look to take it to the next level next season. 

“Our expectations for next season is the NCAA tournament, point blank,” said Harris, who will be a senior. Harris isn’t the only player with high expectations. 

“My goals for next season is to finish as one of the top teams in this conference,” said Hamlet. “But instead of losing, I want to win the conference and make a run in the NCAA tournament.” 

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