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NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Without a single senior student-athlete on the roster, Head Coach Paul Booth of the Norwich University men's basketball team has a loud and clear message to his sophomore and junior classes heading into the 2016-17 season – "It's your time to shine."
Three seasons ago, Booth and his coaching staff retooled and rebuilt the program's roster with the goal of making progress in the ensuing years. With some predicted growing pains in 2014-15, the team's core of players was more competitive in the last season of competition but, according to Booth, their time to shine is now.
"Now is the time for our upperclassmen to step up and lead, not only statistically, but also in terms of leadership – they've done a good job at trying to teach and educate our large class of newcomers as to how things are done and what effort needs to be put in to become a successful collegiate basketball player," remarked Booth.
The Cadets return to action in 2016-17 with many of its key offensive weapons, led by junior Mike Hogervorst (Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands) and his team-leading 12.2 points per game. Ranking within the top 100 in NCAA Division III with a .550 field goal percentage, Hogervorst was the only Norwich player to crack 300 points last year.
Juniors Ryan Booth (Northfield, Vt.) and Zygimantas Sirvydas (Silale, Lithuania) scored over 200 points each for Norwich as the former connected on a team-leading 47 three-point baskets while Sirvydas dished out a team-leading 95 assists while committing only 62 turnovers (1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio). Both players were workhorses for the Cadets on the court with Booth leading the way with 735 minutes played and Sirvydas ranking second with 653 minutes of action on the court.
Outside of the five aforementioned student-athletes, the remaining returners have an excellent opportunity to make their mark on the team's success in 2016-17. Juniors Ricky Giroux (Colchester, Vt.), Steven Scott-Lopez (Youngtown, Ariz.), Darius Bryant (Calhoun Falls, S.C.) and sophomore Daniel Haimes (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) will vie for an increased role with the departure of 444 points scored from last year's squad.
Eight newcomers have also joined the roster, including sophomore Moe Niang (Bellville, Neb.) and freshmen Stephen Norris (Rockland, Mass.), George Allen (Miramar, Fla.), Felipe Weisheimer (Raleigh, N.C.), Dan Bertrand (Saugus, Mass.), Josh Dumay (Framingham, Mass.) and Jude Guerrier (Everett, Mass.).
"Each of the freshmen brings a different skill set to the table," remarked Booth. "All of them have the opportunity to be successful before graduation but they need to make adjustments to the college game. Each of them are progressing at different rates but, by the end of the year, I expect them to all have an impact on our season."
Per usual, Norwich will play an extremely competitive schedule of opponents. In addition to its games in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, the Cadets will play non-league teams from Colby-Sawyer College, Plymouth State University, New England College, the University of Maine at Augusta, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Bridgewater State University, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Lesley University.
"We've picked up Colby-Sawyer, who joins the GNAC in two years, and they're always a competitive program. Plymouth State, a difficult opponent for us from the Little East Conference, and the teams we've invited to the Ed Hockenbury Classic (RPI, Me.-Augusta) will give us quite the challenge," said Booth.
Booth also sang the praises of the GNAC, a league where the Cadets have won two conference championships to date.
"It's going to be interesting this year because the conference lost a lot of seniors who were named to the All-Conference team. Someone is going to have to step up and fill that void – we hope that's us because we feel we can compete not only in the league but also to win the right to host a home postseason game," said Booth.