Two years ago, when Quinnipiac made the jump from the NEC to the MAAC, head coach Tom Moore was asked what the biggest difference between the leagues was.
“The athleticism and size,” Moore responded.
It took two years, but the Bobcats have officially sized up to the competition. As it turns out, it happened as just one part in a wave of changes that struck Hamden this summer.
Longtime athletic director Jack McDonald retired after 20 years at the University, his shoes filled by former Duquesne AD Greg Amodio. Various other changes, from Sports Information and Basketball Operations, to two members of the coaching staff, to seven new additions to the program, marked a sudden, sweeping reform at Quinnipiac.
“No, never,” Moore said when asked if he had ever seen this much turnover in a staff during one off-season. “It gets you thinking that you’ve got to do stuff better and differently, and explore new ideas.”
The Bobcats graduated their top four scorers from last season in Zaid Hearst, Ousmane Drame, Evan Conti and Justin Harris. Their most productive returner is James Ford Jr., a senior guard who averaged 5.3 ppg in 2014-15.
However, Moore’s seven newcomers bring a wealth of young talent to help fill that void.
Lose a 6’4” Hearst and 6’3” Conti? Here come the Robinson twins, Aaron and Andrew, hitting the court at 6’6” apiece. Add the sharpshooting Gio McLean, eligible to play after last year’s scandal, and junior college transfer Daniel Harris to the returning group of guards, and suddenly Moore has one of his deepest perimeter groups in eight years.
Lose the 6’9” Drame, the MAAC’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, and the 6’8 Harris? The Bobcats’ frontcourt adds the towering 6’9” junior college transfer Donovan Smith and 6’10” grad transfer Will Simonton to complement returning 6’9” sophomore Chaise Daniels and 6’8” incoming freshman Abdulai Bundu among others.
Suddenly the Bobcats, number one in the nation in rebounds per game each of the last three seasons, can crash the boards with height Hamden has never before seen.
“I like this team’s size,” Moore said. “I think this could be our biggest team that we’ve had from 1 to 5 across the board. We could be big at the rim again, but I like that we can be big at the wings as well.”
Moore’s newfound willingness to dive into transfer and junior college pools has allowed the Bobcats to bring in talent to finally match the size of their new league. Four of his new additions come via transfers or junior college products.
It seems Quinnipiac has bought into the history of the MAAC as a guard-driven league, but they haven’t yet lost sight of the frontcourt prowess which has powered them over the last half decade. After all, size does matter.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.