Crusaders Set to Open 2018-2019 Season
By Charles Bare
Special to GoHolyCross.com
After advancing to the conference semifinals last year, Holy Cross heads into the 2018-2019 campaign looking to contend for the Patriot League title. The Crusaders return one of the most experienced teams in the league, as they bring back players who scored 88.6 percent of their points and played 89.4 percent of their minutes a year ago.
In 2018-2019, Holy Cross will look to build upon the success it had last year as one of the top defensive teams in the Patriot League. The Crusaders ranked second in the conference in scoring defense (67.7 points per game), field goal percentage defense (43.1 percent) and blocked shots (3.4 blocks per game) last season.
“We have a number of experienced players back, and it important for them to work hard to get better with each game,” said head coach Bill Carmody. “We had some success late last season, and we can build on that by continuing to improve throughout the year.”
Here is a breakdown of how Holy Cross should look in 2018-2019.
EXPERIENCED UPPERCLASSMEN LEAD THE WAY
The Crusaders have a number of experienced upperclassmen on their roster who will be vital to the team’s success this winter. Senior forward Jehyve Floyd looks to lead the way, after being named third team All-Patriot League and earning Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017-2018. Floyd averaged a team-best 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per contest last season, while making 68.8 percent of his field goal attempts (165 of 247). He led the conference and ranked fourth in the nation in field goal percentage, while standing first in the league and 30th in the country in blocked shots.
Senior guard Patrick Benzan should be a big factor in the backcourt, after playing in 28 games with 13 starts last season. He averaged 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per contest, while hitting 79.5 percent of his free throws (58 of 73). Benzan also finished the 2017-2018 campaign ranked eighth in the Patriot League in free throw percentage and 12th in steals.
Senior guard Matt Zignorski and junior guard Clayton Le Sann also look to be important parts of the backcourt rotation. Zignorski put up 3.4 points, 1.1 assists and 1.0 rebounds per game a year ago, while Le Sann added 1.6 points and 0.9 boards per contest.
“We need our upperclassmen to be leaders,” said Carmody. “They know what it takes to be successful in the Patriot League, so they should set a great example for our younger guys and push everyone to be their best.”
SOPHOMORES SET TO PLAY KEY ROLES
After gaining significant experience last season, Holy Cross’ six-man sophomore class will play a huge part in the team’s success this winter. Sophomore guard Austin Butler looks to once again be one of the team’s top players on the wing, after being selected to the Patriot League All-Rookie team last year. Butler averaged 9.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 2017-2018, and led the Crusaders with 39 three-pointers made.
Sophomore guard Jacob Grandison will also play a key role in the backcourt, after playing in all 31 games with 18 starts last season. Grandison averaged 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.8 steals per contest a year ago, while making 74.1 percent of his free throws (40 of 54). Sophomore guard Caleb Green is another returning starter who will play a key role at point guard. Green averaged 8.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 2017-2018, and ranked 12th in the Patriot League with an average of 2.9 assists per contest.
In the frontcourt, sophomore forward Matt Faw and sophomore forward Connor Niego look to push for starting roles. Faw averaged 4.3 points, 1.7 boards and 0.4 blocked shots per game and hit 47.7 percent of his three-pointers (21 of 44) a year ago. Niego added 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest.
Sophomore guard Kyle Copeland will also be in the mix for increased playing time, after averaging 1.7 points and 0.7 rebounds last season.
“Our sophomores gained great experience last year, and now we are looking for them to step up into even bigger roles,” said Carmody. “Their ability to continue improving like they did last season will be vital to the overall development of our team.”
FRESHMEN PREPARED TO MAKE AN IMPACT
A group of five newcomers will have the opportunity to break into the rotation this year, with a number of players who could play key roles.
Freshman guard Marlon Hargis averaged 19.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season while leading St. Augustine Preparatory (N.J.) School to its fourth straight Cape Atlantic League American Conference title. Freshman forward Blake Verbeek joins the Crusaders from Calvin Christian (Mich.) High School, where he averaged 19.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while earning All-State honors as a senior.
Freshman forward D.J. Hart comes from St. Benedict’s Preparatory (N.J.) School, where he helped the team to a 28-2 record and the New Jersey State Prep A Championship as a senior. Freshman forward Chris Lovisolo spent a post-graduate year at Blair Academy in 2017-2018, helping the team to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League title and a state runner-up finish. Freshman guard Lincoln Yeutter joins Holy Cross from the Bullis (Md.) School, where he was a two-time All-Interstate Athletic Conference selection.
“We have brought in a solid freshman class with a good amount of talent,” said Carmody. “We look for them to progress and mature over the course of the season, so they can contribute to the team’s success.”
ANOTHER CHALLENGING SLATE
Once again this season, the Crusaders will face one of the toughest schedules in the Patriot League. Holy Cross will play 10 games against teams which advanced to postseason play last year, and 15 contests against schools which posted winning records in 2017-2018.
The Crusaders’ non-conference slate will be highlighted by an appearance in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Holy Cross will face Michigan and Providence on the road, and will then play two games at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., against Stony Brook and either Norfolk State or Siena. At home, the non-league slate will include visits from reigning Atlantic 10 regular season champion Rhode Island, Canisius, Fairleigh Dickinson, Sacred Heart and Siena.
The Patriot League looks to be solid this season, with Holy Cross playing home-and-home series against each of the nine other teams in the league. The conference schedule will be highlighted by contests against defending Patriot League champion Bucknell, 2018 Patriot League tournament runner-up Colgate and Turnpike Trophy rival Boston University.
“We like to challenge ourselves against tough competition, and we will do that once again with our non-conference schedule,” said Carmody. “The Patriot League looks to be very well balanced from top to bottom, with a combination of talented veterans and skilled young players on almost every team.”