Husson University of Bangor lost a huge chunk of its offensive production and leadership with the graduation of four key seniors of its men’s basketball team.
That means 17th-year coach Warren Caruso’s squad must build around a couple of key seniors and several up-and-coming players as Husson tries to re-establish itself in the North Atlantic Conference.
The Eagles (2-1) are coming off a 16-12 campaign during which they were upset by Green Mountain in the first round of the NAC tournament last winter. They went on to play in the ECAC tournament.
Husson’s returning starters are senior forward Josh Jones of Jefferson and senior Jay Uhrin of Winterport, who provide a potent inside-outside tandem.
Uhrin is averaging 21 points on 58 percent shooting and five rebounds thus far, while Jones checks in at 10.3 points and a team-leading 12.3 rebounds per contest.
“The leadership Jay’s providing has really allowed him to have such a great start,” Caruso said. “We’re counting on Josh to do more in a leadership role and perform in an impactful way every day.”
The Eagles must fill the roles filled by departed seniors in guard Brock Bradford and forwards Matt MacKenzie, Matt Cummings and Phil Leighton, who combined to average 39.5 points (53 percent of the offense) and 12.1 rebounds.
Sophomore Eric Modica of Kittery has excelled as a starter thus far, providing 13.7 points and four rebounds. The rugged forward is shooting 79 percent from the field.
“Eric had a terrific offseason physically and has come back ready to play,” Caruso said. “He’s reaping the benefits from his hard work.”
Inside, 6-foot-10 sophomore Marc Zaharchuk of Richmond is expected to have a significant impact in the starting rotation. He is averaging nine points and six rebounds.
“We’re learning to play with a new big guy,” Caruso said. “Our players are gaining trust in him so we can move forward.”
Rounding out the starting unit is sophomore point guard Daeshawn McMorrin (3 ppg, 3 apg), who will run the offense after having two offseason thumb surgeries.
A handful of players are ready to increase their contributions. That group includes junior guard Brad Libby of Brewer (5.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 spg), sophomore forwards Tim Hughes of Brewer (4.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg) and Wes Murphy (2.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg). Freshman Luis Medina (2.7 ppg, 2.3 apg) is sharing time at point guard.
“We’ve blended this group together and we’re ahead of where I thought we might be at this point,” Caruso said. “The credit goes to our seniors to really trust some young players to do their job and push them to do more.”
Sophomore forward Jon Klages of Freeport, junior guard Chris Byron of East Millinocket, sophomore guard Brooks Spaulding of Fairfield, freshman center Dan Fleming of Fairfield and freshman guard Demetrius Cook all are working to earn playing time.
Husson hopes to set a tone with hard-nosed defense and capitalize by creating turnovers and running the floor effectively. The Eagles have rebounded well early.
The Eagles are expected to battle with preseason pick Thomas College of Waterville and the University of Maine-Farmington for NAC honors.
“We have the pieces of the puzzle are in place for us to have a successful season,” Caruso said. “The biggest question mark was how our inexperience would react when we got into games and I’ve been very pleased so far.”