Beneath the signature maroon ‘U’ that gained its prominence in Western Massachusetts during the Calipari era of the 90s, the Springfield College men’s basketball team’s 2017-18 season commenced under the Division I lights of the Mullins Center.
A familiar starting core of Andy McNulty, Jake Ross, Heath Post and Brandon Eckles along with freshman guard Charlie Clay, walked to center court.
The path to redeem a 67-62 NEWMAC semi-finals loss to Babson had begun. But in an 82-60 defeat to the UMass Minutemen, it would not be the Springfield starters alone who showed their promise. For the first time in the contest, the wheels began to loosen for the Pride with 15:47 to go in the second half. Three scoreless Springfield possessions and a 9-0 UMass run put the Minutemen ahead 49-40.
With the Pride in need of a basket to keep their deficit under double digits, sophomore guard Richard Jacobson drove past the high post before kicking it out to one of the Springfield shooters. Upon receiving the chest pass, the 6’4 guard rose from beyond the three point corner arch and buried a long range field goal. “Cam Earle” mumbled the PA announcer. UMass quickly advanced the ball to Luwane Pipkins, but McNulty stole possession from the sophomore and rifled a pass up to Post. A missed dunk by Post hung in air briefly before a trailing Earle ripped down a rebound and put it home for the Pride. Although it wouldn’t last, Springfield whittled the deficit down to four points, 49-45.
It was a brief scoring outburst, but it would prove to be two of five field goals on the night converted by Earle, who finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
Springfield head coach Charlie Brock believes the junior’s ability to shoot will be utilized significantly off the bench and is impressed with the transfer’s scoring prowess.
“He’s very quick on his release,” said Brock. “If anyone was to learn how to shoot, he’s a guy who you’d want to watch the tapes on, and that comes from his high school, and earlier years.”
Though it was his first time competing on a Division I court against Division I talent, Earle has been a lead, high volume scorer for his team before. Back in his senior year of high school for the South Hadley Tigers, he was an absolute terror during the 2015 Western Massachusetts Division II Tournament. Earle notched a career high 45 points on nine three pointers in a 77-73 come from behind quarterfinal win over No. 2 Shepherd Hill, and proceeded to drop seven threes on Pittsfield in the semifinals, finishing with 38 points and leading his team to a 62-50 win en route to the Division II finals.
Prior to breaking onto the Springfield roster, Earle spent his freshman and sophomore year with Westfield State. In his first season with the Owls he averaged five minutes in 11 games. His second season yielded an average of nine minutes in 19 contests, where he averaged 2.8 points on .258 shooting. Now, as he looks to gain more minutes towards assisting the Pride to a NEWMAC title, Earle is searching for that South Hadley Tiger stroke that lifted his high school team to the championship stage.
Earle may be doing the majority of his scoring from off the bench this year, but it will be worth tracking his progression with meshing into the system. After dropping 14 points on a DIvision I UMass team, he may have already done so. Look for Earle to be that three point shooting weapon off the bench come opening tip-off against Western New England on Nov. 15.