NORTHFIELD, Vt. – With a seasoned core of veterans and a deep bench featuring some exciting newcomers, Head Coach Paul Booth and the Norwich University men's basketball team look to take the program to the next level in the 2017-18 season.
Last season saw a younger Cadets team go through a season of ups and downs, as a roster that didn't feature a single senior student-athlete managed an 8-17 overall record with a 5-13 record within the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC).
Out of last year's growing pains came invaluable experience for this year's returners, as the Cadets return four members of last year's starting line-up and twelve veteran members overall, including last year's co-team MVPs; Mike Hogervorst (Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands) and Ryan Booth (Northfield, Vt.).
During the 2016-17 campaign, Hogervorst played in 23 games, averaging 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The 6-11 center also led the team with a .580 field goal percentage, 23 blocks, and 288 points scored overall, which helped him snag a Third Team All-Conference selection. Going into his senior season, Hogervorst is sitting at 29th on the all-time scoring list at Norwich and 30th in career rebounds.
Hogervorst shared last year's team MVP award with classmate Ryan Booth who was the only Cadet to start all 25 games last year and ranked ninth in the conference with an average of 31 minutes played per game. Booth also tallied 11.4 points per game while shooting .371 from the floor. He also added 48 three-point baskets to rank second on the team and finished with a solid .794 free throw percentage. Through three seasons, the senior has averaged 10.3 points per game and is a career .396 shooter. He's also hit 128 three-point baskets, has a free throw percentage of .803, and chipped in an average of 4.4 rebounds per game.
Senior Zygimantas Sirvydas (Silale, Lithuania) also returns to the Cadets starting lineup, after playing in 24 games for Norwich last year, 23 as a starter. The guard from Lithuania ranked fourth in the GNAC last year with 4.1 assists per game and chipped in a solid 6.7 points per game while running the Cadets offense from the point guard position. "Ziggy" also reached a new career high in shooting percentage, going 53-125 from the field for a 42.4 field goal percentage.
Junior Daniel Haimes (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) played in 24 games (22 as a starter) for the Cadets last year and averaged a cool 10.2 points per game on 35% shooting from the field. Always a threat from behind the three-point line, Haimes led the team with 182 attempts from long distance last season and was able to hit a team-leading 67.
Senior Ryan Fitzgerald (Winchester, Mass.) was a key man off the bench for the Cadets a season ago, appearing in all 25 games. Fitzgerald chipped in 8.4 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game on the year.
Other returners for the Cadets include sophomores Caio Teixeira (Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Stephen Norris (Rockland, Mass.), Dan Bertrand (Saugus, Mass.), and Josh Dumay (Framingham, Mass.), as well as seniors Tommy Fitzgerald (Williston, Vt.), Joe Bertrand (Saugus, Mass.), and Ricky Giroux (Colchester, Vt.).
"We have a core of guys who have played a ton of minutes and have contributed in a wide variety of ways," Coach Booth said, "and we're going to look to those guys early in the season to carry the load for us."
The Cadets will welcome five fresh faces to their team this year with the additions of Jesse Davis (Woodinville, Wash.), Devon Harris (Hyannis, Mass.), Kyle Booth (Northfield, Vt.), Christopher Bryant (Crestview, Fla.), and Jacob Bane (Eagle, Wis.).
"I'm excited about the freshmen group," Coach Booth commented. "They've all brought something different…and elevated the overall talent and athleticism of the whole group," Booth continued. Coach finished of his thoughts on the newcomers by saying that "the five of them have a chance to be pretty good players here over the next four years." With a talented and experienced core of returners, it's sure to be an exciting season as these promising freshmen try to carve out playing time for themselves and battle for minutes with their veteran teammates all year long.
The Cadets have once again scheduled games with some of the toughest competition in New England, as well as a full 16-game GNAC schedule. With face-offs against quality out-of-conference opponents including UMass-Boston, Plymouth State, and New England College, among others. Along with that the Cadets will host the annual Hockenbury Classic and take a trip to Florida to compete in the Land of Magic Tournament.
Coach Booth pointed out the Hockenbury Classic as a date that the whole program looks to every year saying "an opportunity to recognize one of the all-time Norwich greats" is circled on the calendar every year. This year's Classic will see both the men and women basketball teams battling things out over the first weekend in December in Andrews Hall Gymnasium at Norwich against some terrific programs from across New England and the Northeast.
The trip to Florida is also something everyone is looking forward to, as it will be the first out-of-region trip for the program in the last few years. "We're all really, really excited about it," Coach Booth said, "for more so than just the games, but the opportunity for these seniors to have one more experience as a group traveling out of the region together."
When asked for his opinion on how the Great Northeast Athletic Conference is stacking up for the 2017—18 season, Coach Booth only needed one word; good. Booth elaborated by saying "In my opinion (the GNAC) is one of the most underrated conferences in New England." "There are some really, really good teams (in the GNAC) and I don't think this year is any exception to that rule," Coach Booth said.
Coach Booth and the Cadets are looking to take a step up in the conference this year and make it back into the GNAC playoffs and host a playoff game this year. "The conference is always good, and never easy," Coach Booth said, "so we have to be at our best every night we play."
To get there, Booth says that patience and trusting the process is key. "Take one step up at a time," Booth explained, "we're trying to take it one day at a time, we're trying to be better today than we were yesterday, and we're trying to continue to improve and embrace the process every day."
The Cadets will open up the season at UMass Boston on November 16th at 7:00 P.M. before opening up their home season on the 18th with a 1:00 P.M. match-up with Plymouth State University. Their GNAC schedule will get going on December 9th with a home contest against Albertus-Magnus College, set to tip off at 1:00 P.M.