After a long, eventful offseason, the Binghamton men’s basketball team will be returning to the hardwood for a brand new season, and its roster will look quite different. Following an offseason that saw many departures, the 2019-20 Bearcats will consist of many new faces surrounding the centerpiece of the team, sophomore guard Sam Sessoms.
Six BU players left the team with eligibility remaining prior to the start of this season. The result is that many players who have joined the team recently will be playing big roles for the Bearcats throughout the season. While the offseason was hard and the team contains many new faces in prominent roles, Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey is confident that the Bearcats will pull through, starting with their season opener on Tuesday at Cornell.
“We have losses for a variety of reasons,” Dempsey said. “Some are graduation, we’ve had injuries, we had that one unfortunate incident this summer. It’s been a tough offseason in many ways, but it’s also been one that’s been a bonding experience. What you do realize, and they’ll realize quickly, is that when you get up there on Tuesday night, you only have each other. And I think that’s something that will get this team to grow together.”
In addition to the departures, the team also suffered the loss of rising sophomore forward Calistus Anyichie in a July drowning accident. Dempsey referenced the tragedy as a potential motivating factor for the team this season.
One important player that does return for the Bearcats is Sessoms, who led the team in scoring a year ago as a freshman and was named America East Rookie of the Year for his high level of play. With the graduation of guard J.C. Show, Sessoms becomes the undisputed leader of this year’s basketball team. He also figures to be one of the best players in the conference this season, having been named to the AE’s preseason all-conference team.
Sessoms has a supporting cast consisting of freshman forward George Tinsley, freshman guard Brenton Mills and senior forward Pierre Sarr, who transferred to BU after three seasons playing for Monmouth. All of them are expected to play significant minutes for the Bearcats in their upcoming campaign. Dempsey predicts it will take time for all of these new pieces to fit into place, but is sure that the team will gel together nicely this season.
“That’s gonna take time, and we talk a lot about that it just needs time, to go through experiences together,” Dempsey said. “Wins, losses, runs, being up and a team coming from behind, being down and you coming from behind. All of these experiences that you have to have together and that they’ll be going through for the first time.”
Many of those who follow AE men’s basketball expect this season to be a rebuilding year for the Bearcats, and don’t expect success to come right away for them. The coaches of the AE ranked the Bearcats in a tie for sixth in the AE preseason coaches’ poll. Dempsey, however, seems to think that the opportunity to find success on the court is still in front of them.
“The time is now,” Dempsey said. “It’s right in front of us and its certainly exciting. We’re ready to play hard, we’re ready to play for our fallen teammate. I think our guys understand the magnitude of what it’s like to play for a great university, play in a great community. Everybody gets excited with the start of the season, and we’ve been preparing really hard to deliver a good season.”
Binghamton opens its season with the same opponent it faced in last year’s season opener — the Cornell Big Red. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5 from Newman Arena in Ithaca, New York.