Nucleus in place

 Young roster hopes to guide Lafayette to first championship since 2000

Young roster hopes to guide Lafayette to first championship since 2000

Michael Kelley

Photo by Aaron Levenson ‘15

Gone is the do-it-all playmaker in Tony Johnson and the much-heralded shot blocker in Levi Giese. Losses, no doubt, but the Lafayette men’s basketball team is in a unique position as it approaches its season opener tonight against Villanova – it can feature the same starting lineup for the next two seasons.

Past years have featured senior-dominated rosters packed with the likes of Jared Mintz ‘11, Jim Mower ‘12, Ryan Willen ‘12, Rob Delaney ‘12 and Johnson and Giese. Now though, that has all changed. Juniors Seth Hinrichs, Dan Trist, Joey Ptasinski and Alan Flannigan will all fill significant roles this season.

“Last year as sophomores, they were called on early to be the man,” Head Coach Fran O’Hanlon said speaking of junior class. “It was not something that they had done before. They kind of evolved. They got rid of the jitters in the first eight to ten games and then we started to establish ourselves.”

Asked if he was confident about relying so heavily on non-seniors for the first time in years, O’Hanlon replied immediately, “I am very confident.”

“I definitely realize there is a lot of pressure,” said Trist, an Australian native. “I love that though. That’s the reason why I came to this country and this college to do this type of thing.”

As to who will be in the starting lineup will boil down to a rotation of seven: Hinrichs, Trist, Ptasinski, Flannigan, Bryce Scott ‘16, Zach Rufer ‘16 and Nick Linder ‘17.

Linder is the probable starter at point guard but will share time with Rufer who O’Hanlon mentioned “has stepped it up and is playing with a lot more confidence.” Flannigan is probable to start at power forward but is day-to-day with a dislocated thumb.

O’Hanlon mentioned his desire for more versatility throughout his roster. Hinrichs can be featured at either small or power forward. According to O’Hanlon, if he plays as small forward, “you are probably seeing more of Alan.” If he moves to power forward, “you are seeing more of Joey and Bryce and Zach as the wings.”

It doesn’t matter to Hinrichs.

“I will be whatever role the team needs me to be,” the Clara City, Minn. native said.

Hinrichs along with senior Jack Detmer will serve as co-captains this season. Part of his responsibility as captain was to check in with teammates throughout the summer.

“You want to check in with your teammates and make sure they are enjoying being home and what not,” Hinrichs said. “But you also want them to know that we want to come back and we want to win a championship this year.”

Remember back to last season and Lafayette was within grasp of the league title and automatic NCAA Tournament berth. But again it was Bucknell who proved to be too much. The Bison defeated the Leopards 64-56 in last season’s championship game to mark the third straight season they have ended the Leopards’ season in Lewisburg, Pa.

Lafayette was recently picked to finish second in the Patriot League Preseason Poll behind new league member Boston University. BU was the unanimous pick to finish first and is the “clear cut favorite” according to O’Hanlon. Army was picked to finish third while Bucknell was picked fourth.

“All that stuff doesn’t matter,” O’Hanlon said. “You have to play the games.”

The games for O’Hanlon and company start tonight against Villanova in the ever-rowdy Pavilion. Villanova is the alma mater of O’Hanlon ‘70 and his players are well aware.

“I think it gives us extra incentive to do well,” Trist said. “In a bigger way, this is for Coach O.”

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. tonight and can be seen on Fox Sports 2.