Just 10 days after one season ends, they’re preparing for the next one.
Ten days after falling to Stony Brook in the America East quarterfinals in a highly contested, heartbreaker of a loss that elicited all the wrong feelings out of freshman forwards Romello Walker and Willie Rodriguez, and the Binghamton men’s basketball team is heading back into the grind.
For this team, that short break probably can’t end soon enough.
Directly following their season-ending, 64-57 loss, Walker and Rodriguez were already talking about their plans for the offseason. The ups and downs, the injuries and departures, the losses and occasional wins of their debut seasons were trying, they said, but it was beneficial in at least one regard.
“It’s definitely going to help us prepare in the offseason,” Rodriguez said. “I know, myself, I’m going to get better. I know my teammates are going to get better as well.”
“I’m trying to grow and trying to capitalize on that in the offseason so I won’t make mistakes like [the ones I made] during the game,” Walker said.
With the 2014-15 season now in the books and the 6-25 record carved in stone, all those growing pains will have paid off.
“Since we fought through everything, basically, this year, we’re going to come back prepared next year,” Walker said.
Not only Walker and Rodriguez, but sophomore guard Marlon Beck II, freshman guard Justin McFadden and freshman center Bobby Ahearn gained crucial experience through the year, experience that only came at a price.
“In some ways, the injuries were a blessing for the development of the program,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “Everybody had to give more, and a lot of guys had an opportunity to play more, and I just think it has us poised to be a really deep team next year.”
With the returns of 6-foot-9 big men Nick Madray and Dusan Perovic, who were lost to injury midseason, and the eligibility of redshirted freshman John Schurman and Jordan McRae, Dempsey will have his perimeter shooting threats back. For the team that finished on the bottom of the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage, that shooting ability will be as crucial as the depth that will allow Dempsey’s press and run style of play to thrive.
For the first time in the past two seasons, most of that depth will come from the existing roster. Whereas Dempsey brought in seven freshmen this year and five in the previous season, this summer, the new blood will be scarce. Six-foot-8 forward Thomas Bruce, who will provide Binghamton a rim protector and an extra big man, is the only member of the class of 2019 who has inked his letter of intent, which he did during the November signing period. But following former star Jordan Reed’s impromptu departure in December, Binghamton has one more scholarship to fill next season.
While nothing has been settled yet, some Binghamton connections may come to Dempsey’s aid. Women’s basketball star and 2015 AE Rookie of the Year Jasmine Sina has a brother, none other than former Seton Hall shooting guard Jaren Sina. The older Sina was on an official visit to campus on March 7, when he spent the early afternoon in the Events Center stands watching his sister’s quarterfinal bout with top-seeded Maine.
Jaren Sina — who started 23 of his 24 games played at Seton Hall during the 2014-15 season before he was granted a transfer waiver — averaged 7.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 32.2 minutes a contest this season. Named to the Big East All-Rookie team his freshman season, the sophomore guard is also drawing interest from programs like Rutgers, South Carolina and Michigan. Even if Sina signs elsewhere, BU will likely look to add another guard to the program in Reed’s stead.
But for Dempsey, the core of the program’s future is already here. And beginning Monday, it’ll be all about preparing for 2015-16.
“Now everybody knows what the expectations are in the program so they’re all comfortable with the style and we get eight, nine months with them in the weight room and training on the court,” Dempsey said. “So I just think we’ll be much more physically and mentally ready for November next year, than let’s say we were for November and December these last two years.”
—E.Jay Zarett contributed reporting to this article.