One year after making a return trip to the Centennial Conference playoffs, the 2010-11 version of the Ursinus College men's basketball team will look to reach that point again and go farther.
Despite losing three strong players in guards Keith Page, Remy Cousart and Mike McGarvey, the team returns a core nucleus of talent that helped lead the Bears to a 15-11 mark last season and an 11-7 finish in the extremely tough Centennial Conference.
"We have a really good group of guys this year," said head coach Kevin Small, the all-time leader in wins at Ursinus. "Though we lost three talented seniors, we had a great recruiting class, and with our returning players, we are hoping to compete at a pretty high level in our conference."
Headlining those returners is senior guard Matt Hilton (Lewistown, Pa./Lewistown Area). Hilton, who missed most of 2008-09 with a foot injury, led the team in points by averaging 16 per game. In addition to his team-best 44.9 percent from the three point line, he led all of Division III in foul shooting percentage at 93.2 percent. Hilton, a honorable mention All-Centennial selection last season, was the only player along with sophomore forward Kevin Janowski (New Egypt, N.J./New Egypt) to start and play in all 26 games.
Another all-conference returnee is second-team All-Centennial selection sophomore forward Jon Ward (Allentown, Pa./Parkland). Ward, who missed one game due to illness, had a fine freshman campaign as he averaged 13.7 points per game (shooting 65.7 percent from the field) and 5.2 rebounds per contest. Ward will tag team down low with Janowski. Janowski averaged 8.1 points per game and 4.5 rebounds in his freshman campaign.
Sophomore guard Matt Donahue (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) appeared in all 26 games last season, averaging 6.3 points and throwing out 69 assists in his first year.
While youth might be a mainstay of the Bears this winter, the hallmark of a Kevin Small team has always been the leadership of his juniors and seniors.
Senior forward TJ Jones (Verona, N.J./Verona) provides key minutes for Ursinus in the paint. Last season, he saw time in 26 games averaging just over three points per game in around 11 minutes of action. Jones, along with Hilton, are the only two members of the team who were on the squad when Ursinus advanced to the NCAA Division III Final Four back in 2008.
Looking at the juniors, guards JJ Rapczynski (Chadds Ford, Pa./Garnet Valley), Lou Meindl (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) and forward Scott Niewiadomski (Brick, N.J./Monsignor Donovan) will also figure into the mix in the rotation. Rapczynski and Niewiadomski each played in all 26 games, while Meindl played in 11 games.
The newcomers feature a great batch of recruits in freshman point guard Jesse Krasna (Fairless Hills, Pa./Pennsbury), and freshman guards Pat Vasturia (Medford, N.J./Bishop Eustace) and Ryan Adams (White Plains, N.Y./The Hun School). All three were highly touted high school recruits. Krasna was a first-team All-Bucks County selection and led Pennsbury to the PIAA tournament in all four of his high school seasons. Adams led his team to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League finals, while Vasturia was a first-team All-New Jersey non-public selection.
As always, the schedule is a big factor for the Bears. In addition to the slate of Centennial Conference games, the Bears will be opening up with the College of Staten Island in the Wesleyan College Tip-off Tourney, heading to the Hampden-Sydney Winter Classic where the Bears play Medaille, and will then take on Albright on January 2 at the DeSales Holiday Tournament. Albright and DeSales both were a NCAA qualifiers last season.