By Danny Priest
It could be a record-breaking season in Blake Arena this winter for one member of the Springfield College men’s basketball team.
Senior Jake Ross finds himself sitting 195 points away from the school record for all-time points scored in a career that was set by Derek Yvon between 2002-2006.
Ross currently sits at 1,906 points for his career, looking up at Yvon’s 2,101 points. Barring anything unforeseen health or circumstance wise, Ross should easily eclipse that record this season.
While he chases an individual goal, the Pride as a unit are looking to get back on track after going 11-15 last season following their Cinderella run to the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four two years before.
With nine returning players on the roster (four seniors) and five newcomers, Springfield is adjusting on the fly as they gear up for their opener Friday night in Blake Arena when they host cross town rival Western New England.
The Pride feature a new style both offensively and defensively. The team has adapted their offensive style of play to embrace more of a positionless style of basketball, while on defense they are moving into a full-court, man-to-man press.
“Going into the year I anticipated being small and I do not want to get in to a trench fight with big, strong teams,” said Pride Head Coach Charlie Brock of the schematic changes.
“So I feel like we need to run a little bit more, get up and down a little bit more, having said that I don’t want to get out of control and have it be helter skelter,” he added.
The Pride have reengineered their offense to make it more difficult for teams to load up and focus on stopping Ross.
“Offensively we have done some things, again because we don’t have really an inside presence as such. So all the guys are kind of in all five positions. All the things we’re doing, basically put: everybody’s got to be capable of playing all positions and know what kind of cuts to make and screens to make out of them,” Brock said.
His hope is that by making everyone on the court a threat to score, teams will not be able to simply neutralize Ross and win games. Due to the lack of size, the Pride will need to be more dynamic in their attack to score the ball.
The same line of thinking went on the other side of the ball when switching from half-court defense to picking teams up the length of the court.
“The idea with the picking up full it’s just to see if we can wear teams down a little bit over the course of the 40 minutes. We’re not trying to do it where we trap or get into passing lanes even, just to put a little bit of pressure on people so that maybe we can wear them down and we can pick up a couple of possessions maybe in the second half, last 10 minutes, who knows,” Brock said.
Springfield’s roster features Heath Post, Joe Fontanella, and Harper Niven who are all listed at 6 feet 6 inches, but after them there is a rather steep drop off in size. Brock is banking on speed and athleticism to carry his team, rather than brute force and size.
With a lot of new faces on the team, Springfield is adjusting on the fly, but their hope is that these tweaks to the offense and defense will pay dividends down the road.
Players to Watch
Of course when it comes to this season all eyes will be on Jake Ross as already mentioned. However, beyond becoming the all-time leading scorer, Ross will need to do the little things to help his team win.
“I don’t worry about him getting points. I worry about the team being able to, everybody being in a position to do things, and I think we’ve asked him to do some things that are not even including scoring because it’s going to happen anyway,” Brock said of Ross.
“From a rebounding and passing the ball point of view, we need to focus on those things and he’s buying into it which will help him score too,” Brock added.
Ross will undoubtedly be the engine that drives the team. While his scoring matters, it will be the little things that can carry the team further.
Heath Post is going to be the number two option for the Pride and is right there with Ross as a leader of the team. Last season, Post averaged 14.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for Springfield.
In his career, he has already amassed 1,039 points and 707 rebounds. Post is able to score both inside and out for Springfield and he serves as the backbone of their defense. His feathery touch from the mid-range and beyond should serve as a steady source of production for the Pride on offense.
Beyond Ross and Post, the Pride have numerous players fighting to make an impact, and Brock alluded to the fact that the team may be deeper than they have been in year’s past.
In their scrimmage against Brandeis, the Pride rolled out a starting lineup of Jake Jacobson, Trey Witter, Jake Ross, Harper Niven, and Heath Post. While that lineup is not set in stone, they could very well be the starter’s for Friday’s opener.
“(It) could be although we haven’t decided how best to utilize Colin Lindsey. Whether he’s a starter or not, he’s going to be immediately coming in off the bench,” Brock said of that lineup.
“As will Daryl (Costa) and Sam Dion and Peter Kapanides is going to play once he gets whole. We’re going to play more guys than we have in the past. We usually played 8 or 9, we’ll probably play 10 or 11 guys,” Brock added.
Harper Niven is one player to look out for this season. Niven walked onto the team as a junior and has immediately found himself in the mix of things.
“He’s been a blessing. He’s been good, he’s a great kid and he brings some really good, solid talent,” Brock said of Niven.
“He fills a void that allows us to move guys around a little bit to the point where we can get, not big, but we can get bigger because we can insert him and then move Heath and Jake down notch, Colin down a notch, to be a three man instead of a four man. So that’s been really good and he’s a quick learner and he plays hard,” Brock added.
Listed at 6 foot 6 inches and with freakish athleticism, Niven adds an element to the Pride lineup in terms of size and athleticism that they lacked beforehand.
This winter will mark the final chapter in the Ross and Post era of Springfield College basketball. There’s clear talent around those two, but to be successful, Springfield will have to gain chemistry quickly and commit to their new system.
It all starts this Friday in Blake Arena: Ross’s road to the all-time record and the team’s quest to bounce back from last season’s performance. If all things break right and the new system does what it’s supposed to, the Birthplace Boys might be ready to make a deep run again.
Photo courtesy of Mark McKenna