By Pete Chiodo
One thing the Allegheny College men’s basketball team was good at last season was shooting the ball, averaging .465 percent from the field for the year.
On the other hand, when the Gators would miss the other .535 percent of the time, it was often the other team that collected the carom.
The Gators were out-rebounded by an average of 38.2 to 30.8 per game last season. And among those statistics were just 202 offensive rebounds for the Gators — an average of 8.1 per game.
Improving on those rebound numbers is one of the big things on the to-do list for the Allegheny men as they head into the 2013-14 season.
The campaign begins this evening when the Gators take on Alma College at 6 p.m. during opening-day action at the Greg Richards Memorial Tip-off Tournament.
“I’m pretty confident we’re going to score enough points to win every night,” said Allegheny head coach Jim Driggs, who guides the Gators for the fourth straight season.
“We’ve really got to make sure we close out and finish possessions,” he continued. “We led the conference in field goal percentage and we were worst in rebounding. We were minus-10 on the glass (against conference opponents).”
Part of the problem for Allegheny — which went 9-16 last season and 3-13 in the North Coast Athletic Conference — was height. The Gators lacked the kind of big man it had in the past, like James Ness or George Raftis.
“We were on the smaller side, especially for the NCAC,” said Driggs. “We do get bigger this year. Brandon Smith is back. He’s 6-5, real strong, he’s a junior. Andrew Sestina was a freshman last year and was hurt for most of the year. He’s 6-7. He’ll be back. Chris Milon (6-7) and Marco Corona (6-3) will provide some more size down there as well. We’ll have a little more depth in that position than we’ve had in the past couple of years.”
That’s going to help, especially with most of the Gators’ offensive weapons returning from last year.
There was one key graduation in Devone McLeod. A second-team All-NCAC pick last season, McLeod led the Gators with 17.0 points per game, tied for the team lead in 3-pointers (50) and led the team in steals (30) and assists (109).
Allegheny still has some scorers in the stable, though. Senior Ryan Stanko and junior Josh Valentic both averaged in the double-digits last year. Stanko scored 13.8 points per game, matched McLeod’s 3-point output with 50 and was second in rebounds with 5.2 per game, although he will likely miss out on this weekend’s action as he recovers from a sprained ankle. And Valentic scored 10.5 points per game and knocked down 34 treys last season.
Other returning scoring leaders include senior forward Clark Tritto, who averaged 9.5 points a game and led the team in rebounds with 7.5 per night; and the aforementioned Milon, who scored 6.7 points per game a year ago.
For tonight’s game, the starting lineup will be solidified by senior guards D’Andre Corbin and John O’Donnell. Corbin is the more experienced of the two, playing in all 25 games last season and scoring 3.4 points a game, recording 24 steals and finishing second in assists with 67.
“I think they’re excited,” Driggs said about his team. “The effort and the attitude have been good. And they’re ready to play against somebody else.”