English: TCNJ Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ewing, NJ … The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team will open its regular season schedule on Tuesday, November 20 when they visit William Paterson University for an 8 p.m. tip-off.
The Lions will square off against the Pioneers in the first of 18 New Jersey Athletic Conference games this season. The past few years the NJAC has fielded both a North and South Division with teams playing each institution in their own division twice and crossing over to the teams in the other once. This season, the conference has 10 teams in one division with each team playing everybody twice. The top six teams in the standings will qualify for the post-season conference tournament.
The home opener for TCNJ is set for Monday, November 26 against Centenary College at 7 p.m. in Packer Hall. That will be followed by a conference match-up against Richard Stockton College on Wednesday, November 28 at 8 p.m. The Lions will look to improve upon last season’s overall finish of 9-16.
Head coach Kelly Williams fields a young squad that includes 10 returning players led by two seniors in William Lester (Middlesex, NJ/Middlesex) and Zach Friedrich (Berlin, NJ/East Stroudsburg South). Lester enters his third season with 40 appearances under his belt and is only one of three players that have suited up for the Lions for multiple seasons. Friedrich, who recently completed his football career at TCNJ, played during the 2010-11 season. Junior forward Jason Chalmers (Oakland, NJ/Indian Hills) is injured and likely out for the season.
Sophomore Emmanuel Matlock (Trenton, NJ/Solebury Prep) will engineer the offense for the Lions. He is coming off a terrific rookie season in which he was named NJAC Rookie of the Week on two occasions. Sophomore guard Matthew Rista (Point Pleasant, NJ/St. Anthony’s) is the leading returning scorer after averaging 7.3 points in 2011-12. Rista got off to a strong start last season before injuries hampered his time on the floor.
Williams will also look to the trio of juniors Skyelar Ettin (Princeton, NJ/Princeton), Alex Fox (Washington, NJ/Westwood), and sophomore Ryan Keegan (Farmingdale, NJ/Howell). Ettin and Fox displayed flashes of offensive prowess in their first seasons last winter. Etttin netted 21 points against Centenary College last season and drained 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting against Drew University. Fox hit double digits in scoring five times last year, including a 14-point performance in a win over Colby College. Keegan possesses quickness and vision on the floor when he is running the point.
The Lions will encounter stiff competition in the NJAC as they were picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll. Ramapo College was the top choice, receiving seven of the ten first-place votes. They were followed by William Paterson and Rowan University. Rutgers University-Camden was picked to finish last.
Also pounding the hardwood in preseason practices for the Lions have been junior Joe Kane (Cinnaminson, NJ/Holy Cross), sophomore DJ Griffin (Piscataway, NJ/Bishop George), sophomore Tyler Miller (Absecon, NJ/Holy Spirit), and sophomore Jayson Johnson (Bordentown, NJ/Life Center Academy). Freshmen Tim Mindnich (Lavallette, NJ/Monsignor Donovan) and Mitch Miller (Ringoes, NJ/Hunterdon Central) will cut their teeth at the collegiate level this season.
Junior Drew Grapstul (Bayonne, NJ/Hudson Catholic), who stands at 6’ 8”, will join the team in the second semester as he is studying abroad.
TCNJ will travel to Division I foe Princeton University for the third straight year. The Lions take on the Tigers on Sunday, January 27 at 2 p.m. in Jadwyn Gym.
Joining Williams on the coaching staff will be Miles Smith Jr., Jason Carter, and former Lions’ player Mark Aziz. Aziz played from 2004 through 2008 and is among the all-time program leaders in blocked shots with 77 in his career. Chris Poznick will serve as the team’s strength and conditioning coach.