Wagner reloads with three talented newcomers

Wagner Seahawks — 25-6 (15-3 NEC) lost to Robert Morris in NEC semifinals

Players Lost:
Tyler Murray (30.7 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 2.1 APG, 79.5% FT%, 49.0% 3PT%)
Chris Martin (20.9 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 82.3% FT%, 31.0% 3PT%)
Ryan Schrotenboer (12 GP, 2.6 MPG, 0.3 PPG, 0.4 RPG)

Incoming Players:
Jay Harris, 6’2″ PG — Aurora, IL
Dwaun Anderson, 6’3″ G — Suttons Bay, MI
Eric Fanning, 6’4″ G/F — Trenton, NJ

Wagner had it’s most successful season ever last season and first 20-win season since 2007-08, but it ended in disappointing fashion when the Seahawks failed to get invited to the NIT. Head coach Dan Hurley is off to Rhode Island, but Bashir Mason takes over and brings back almost the entire core of last season’s team.

“That was something that was appealing about this job,” Mason said. “I had the luxury of knowing that we return 10 out of our 13 scholarship players. And even after the first year we’ll only lose two players. That gives me good confidence in knowing that I don’t have to go out and rush and find impact players. We need to find the right players. Guys that will fit well with our system.”

While transfer Jay Harris isn’t going to make an impact for another season, the former Valparaiso point guard has found a home with the Seahawks. He needs to work on his strength, but during summer workouts Mason has been impressed by Harris’ shooting ability. In 2013-14 Harris should slide right into what will be a very crowded guard rotation.

Wagner though needs shooters now to help replace the dynamic shooting of the departed Tyler Murray, who shot an insane 49.0% from beyond the arc last season. Two newcomers, Dwaun Anderson and Eric Fanning, will get the chance to fill that void. Anderson has been practicing with the team since January, so he knows the lay of the land.

“He’s used to our style of play. He’s used to the tempo,” Mason said about the former Michigan Mr. Basketball. “He knows the drills and he knows the physicality of the college game. It’ll be smooth for him to go from being a practice player to playing in the games.”

The one true newcomer on the roster is Fanning, who is a “gifted scorer” according to Mason. Fanning scored 1,000 points at two schools, including 1,163 points in just two seasons at Perkiomen in Pennsylvania. He was also named the MVP of the 2012 Mary Kline Classic.

The additions are going to have to fight for playing time. They’ll be competing not only with each other, but all the talented returnees. That’s why even though the Seahawks have one scholarship remaining it’s unlikely the spot will be filled.

It’s going to get even harder to crack the rotation if players continue to improve over the summer. Mason is taking advantage of the NCAA’s new rules allowing teams to work together during the summer and has players practicing on Monday and Tuesday. One of the players that has impressed since returning to campus is point guard Marcus Burton.

“He came back with about eight pounds of muscle added to his body,” Mason said. “I think he’s looking to have a breakout sophomore season.”

If Burton does improve on his solid freshman season, during which he averaged 3.5 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.6 steals per game in just 12.6 minutes, it should make Wagner even more difficult to play against.

All of it adds up to once making Wagner one of the top contenders in a loaded NEC and a force in the conference for seasons to come.

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