Plenty of the dynamics of Vermont’s roster will change next season.
Not only will the team lose six seniors and add six freshmen, but with the transfer of Harrison Taggart, the Catamounts will not have one scholarship player on their roster from the state of Vermont for the first time in head coach John Becker’s tenure.
“I think it speaks to where our program is, when we’re able to stretch our recruiting base a little bit because Vermont basketball resonates throughout the country,” Becker said. “We’ve got, I think, some pretty good players and I think that all speaks to the opportunity to come in and play right away.”
The Catamounts recruiting class hails from places as far off as the west coast of Canada as well as added talented incoming freshmen from Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky – not exactly the hotbed of America East’s geographic footprint.
Becker said he believes guards Ernie Duncan and Brandon Hatton are “physically ready to play right away,” but said that all of his incoming freshmen will have a chance to crack the rotation next season. Hatton is one of just 31 players in Kentucky high school basketball history to score over 3,000 points. He has played varsity basketball since the seventh grade.
“They’re going to be thrown right into the fire,” Becker said. “Hopefully, by conference play, their head stops spinning a little bit and things slow down for them. As conference play moves along and we get towards the end of the year they get really comfortable with what we’re doing and we can play our best basketball at the end of the year.”
A talented core of young players will surround the freshman class, which includes sophomore Ethan O’Day who broke out in the second half of conference play as well as Kurt Steidl who showed off his shooting ability in spurts throughout the season. Becker said he would like Steidl to improve his ball handling so he can be a more capable shooting guard and that Brendan Kilpatrick, who redshirted this past season, will have a chance to claim a starting spot.
“He looks like a choir boy, but he’s a killer,” Becker said of O’Day who averaged 8.8 points per game over the final 14 games of the season. “He’s got that knack. He’s not afraid, which is important.”
“We’re definitely experienced up front, so that is reassuring. If it was the other way, where we had experienced guards and young bigs, you worry a little bit about that because it takes bigs a little while to get their just to get used to the physicality of the game, but I think these guards are experienced enough. They played at the highest level of AAU, they’re still going to be freshmen, they’ll have their ups and downs, but physically I think they’re ready.”
Last season, behind a six man senior class, Vermont ran away from the league with a 15-1 record in conference play before falling in the America East semifinals against Albany.
Ryan Restivo covers the America East conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.