WBB & MBB: Basketball programs prepare for 2019-2020 season

Ben Mandell, Co-Sports Editor

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Women’s Basketball

A lot can change in 18 months. Wilkes football went from 0-10 to 6-4 and is currently 7-1 this season. Wilkes women’s basketball, under the leadership of Tara Macciocco for a second season, is looking to make the same jump.

“We have a very young group this year which includes six freshman,” Macciocco said. “They are all working very hard and it has helped raise the competition level.”

The Colonels posted a 4-10 conference record last season after two straight seasons without a conference win.

“We are much more athletic this year and we are much bigger,” Macciocco noted. “We have seven post players who we are splitting opposed to last year splitting guards in the post.”

Wilkes returns all but one starter from last season after Ashley Caster graduated. Gianna Roberts, Maddie Kelley, Alyssa Alfano, Kenda Smith and Gabby Smicherko all played significant minutes for the Colonels last season. In addition to returning those minutes, Wilkes introduced six new freshmen to the program.

“The energy level has been outstanding,” Macciocco said. “The returners have done a great job of keeping everybody on the same page.”

Roberts, Alfano, Sierra Smith and Amber Grohowski are the program’s four seniors on the team this season. The group went their first two seasons without winning a conference game before winning four their junior year. They will look to continue improving and increase that number in their final season.

“Expect to see a much tougher defensive team and a stronger group on offense,” Macciocco said.

The incoming freshman class is also expected to have an impact. Macciocco has high praise for the newcomers.

“They are going to play significant minutes for us, but with freshmen, you have to expect the learning curve and the ups and downs,” Macciocco said. “Brianna Horton, a freshman point guard from Verona, N.J., has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the league. Katelyn Kinczel, from Cleveland, and Macy Berryman from Pocono Mountain East are both shooters that will have an impact.”

Men’s Basketball

The Wilkes men’s basketball team has some big shoes to fill for the upcoming season. Last season the Colonels almost pulled off a dramatic comeback in the MAC Freedom Championship game, but they ultimately fell short.

The team this year will have a significantly different look. Marcus Robinson, one of the best defensive players in the conference over his four years at Wilkes has graduated. The team also lost point guard Connor Evans, who proved to be a key cog in the Colonels offense and defense, and forward Tommy Bowen, who graduated and joined the coaching staff for this season.

“The transition from player to coach has been hard but I am very happy to be back at Wilkes, the school I played at for the last four years,” Bowen said. “It was an adjustment with the team as well. The relationship between them shifted from teammate to coach and I had to make sure they respected me the way they respect a coach. It was also a tremendous feeling to see the respect the coaching staff had towards me as well when they added me to the staff.”

The Colonels will have to fill the three starting spots vacated by the three seniors. 

“We are excited about the group we have coming in,” head coach Izzi Metz said. “Last year’s seniors established a culture here and hopefully that filtered down to the younger players.”

Landon Henry has racked up a good chunk of minutes in his first two years, filling in for Evans when he was injured. He will likely take a majority of the minutes Evans had.

Jack Bova has also proved to be a good player for Wilkes coming off the bench. He could be another candidate to take some of the vacated minutes. Sophomores Drake Marshall, Sean Coller and Donovan Breeding are also players in the mix for more minutes this season.

Wilkes does return Rob Pecorelli and Mark Mullins, the leading scorers in terms of points per game from last year’s team. 

“We are fortunate to have Pecorelli and Mullins returning,” Metz said. “They have both established themselves as dependable scorers and playmakers, but more importantly great leaders.”

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