Vermont enters the season with high expectations for a young roster, but they will need to make sure they keep freshman Ernie Duncan healthy.
The back problems that caused the 6’3″ Evansville, Indiana native to miss the team’s five game Canada trip recurred again prior to the team’s second exhibition game against St. Michael’s. As a result, Duncan was held out as a precautionary measure.
“When you’re dealing with a back issue no one really knows for sure what the deal is,” Vermont head coach John Becker said. “I think the main thing is to make sure he doesn’t have pain and he’s comfortable.”
“He’s been feeling good, but you never know. We’ll just have to kind of take it day to day, week to week and just hopefully keep him in there because he is by far our best point guard.”
In just 23 minutes against Concordia in the team’s first exhibition game, Duncan showed off his ability to be a playmaker. He scored 10 points, dished out four assists and grabbed three rebounds.
“He just has a presence about him and that’s what we’re kind of lacking,” Becker said comparing Duncan’s leadership to recent graduate Brian Voelkel. “He makes people better. He gives everyone confidence because he just is a really good player and really understands the game. I think from that standpoint, it’s real important that we have him.”
Duncan is expected to be ready to play for Saturday’s season opener at Canisius. The only player to this point that Becker ruled out is freshman Zach McRoberts, who suffered a knee injury during practice and missed both of the team’s exhibition games, he will likely miss both games on the team’s road trip to Canisius and Siena.
At times Becker said he has compared Duncan and McRoberts to the type of four year leaders he was able to get out of recent graduates Sandro Carrissimo and Voelkel.
“When they’re out on the court, they’re helping you win games and they’re rock solid,” Becker said adding that it has been frustrating to see them battling injuries and losing practice time. “We have to be smart and just make sure that they’re really healthy before we put them on the court, because they’re going to be so vital to everything we do the next four years.”
Entering his fourth season as the Catamounts head coach, Becker said that he does not have any plans to redshirt any of his freshman class yet.
“I think the more bodies we have the better off we’ll be as far as being able to withstand the ups and downs of the season, especially with half the guys being freshmen,” Becker said.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.