Following a lackluster 2016-17 season plagued by injuries among multiple top players, Binghamton men’s basketball coach Tommy Dempsey and his team are ready to put the past aside and focus on the future success of the upcoming season.
“We don’t ever talk about last year,” Dempsey said. “We made a conscious decision that everything was going to be about moving forward and being positive.”
Last season, after starting solidly in nonconference play, the squad fell apart midway through the year, ending on a nine-game losing streak. They were left eighth in the conference standings with an America East (AE) record of 3-13 and their overall record at 12-20.
“We had a good mojo for much of the year, and then losing can beat you down,” Dempsey said. “We lost our way emotionally, I thought, in the second half. In some ways, we stopped believing we would be successful.”
This season, the team looks to change that. With the return of junior guard J.C. Show, the squad is feeling optimistic about its chances at a championship. Show played the first 12 games of last season, but a tricep tear in his left arm forced him off the court due to the escalation of the injury.
“[Show’s return] means everything,” Dempsey said. “He’s our rock. We have a lot of great pieces but he makes it work. He’s our guy … the [other] players have a boost and a pep in their step now that he’s back.”
Binghamton also has a unique advantage of being one of the only schools in the league with a roster comprised almost entirely of veteran players. Freshman guard Albert Odero, redshirt freshman forward Tyler Stewart and redshirt junior forward Caleb Stewart did not play last season, but were with the team, practicing and bonding, and are comfortable on the court. Having already overcome this learning curve, the Bearcats do not have to worry quite as much about the chemistry of the team.
“It’s a special group to be around,” Dempsey said. “It’s a group that deserves success, it’s a group that believes success is right around the corner and we just have to go out and play and prove it.”
Dempsey has refused to even let Binghamton’s sixth-place seed in the AE Preseason Coaches’ Poll affect the team’s morale, choosing instead to take the season game-by-game and see how the team progresses from there.
“We didn’t address it as a team,” Dempsey said. “I wouldn’t even have addressed it if we were picked first. I don’t think there’s a lot of value in the preseason poll.”
Dempsey’s sentiments ring true. In the 2016-17 AE Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Bearcats were seeded fourth, but ended the season eighth in the standings, proving that even an optimistic ranking can have little effect on the outcome of the season. However, this year, with a veteran squad, an overwhelming amount of positive energy and a team that has the skills necessary to succeed, the Bearcats are more than ready to tackle the season.
“We think that the combination of our veteran core of players, with our health and a fresh start, has us poised to be a really competitive team,” Dempsey said.
Although they have already completed a number of scrimmage games, the men’s basketball team is set to take the court in its first regular-season nonconference match on Friday, Nov. 10 against Morgan State University. Tipoff is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.