Men’s Basketball: Ready for 2009-10 campaign

Lenny Neslin

Tough luck with injuries last season and an alleged NCAA recruiting violation in the offseason left Quinnipiac men’s basketball head coach Tom Moore in the deepest of holes. But a rejuvenated team and a strong recruiting class have helped ease Moore’s pain.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Moore said. “We’re healthy now. Last year was a challenge. You just hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Moore is entering his third year as head coach of the Bobcats after coaching under Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun of the University of Connecticut, where Moore was allegedly involved in a recruiting scandal in 2006.

The defending NEC Coach of the Year, Moore coached Quinnipiac to the semifinals before losing to the eventual NEC representative in the NCAA Tournament, Robert Morris. Though, now he is more familiar with his team.

“You feel like you have guys that you were able to see and sort of believed in before they got to you,” Moore said. “I think our overall talent level is stronger than it’s been in the first two years by far.”

Junior Justin Rutty, a preseason All-NEC selection by the coaches, and senior James Feldeine, Quinnipiac’s scoring leader, make up the core of the 2009-10 Bobcats, but Moore believes this team runs much deeper than just those two upperclassmen.

“I’m probably most excited with the quality of our depth, all the way from the first guy to the 13th guy,” Moore said. “I’m hopeful that our top guys are not playing the number of minutes they played a year ago. Those guys can be better players and we can be a better team with them playing less minutes.

Two other returning players are the Baker brothers. Senior Jeremy Baker missed 18 of Quinnipiac’s 31 games last season with a shoulder injury, but was a key cog when healthy. Red-shirt sophomore Evann Baker missed all of last season with a possible career-ending knee injury, but Moore said he was very effective in 15 minutes of a scrimmage against the University of Pennsylvania two Saturdays ago.

“The improved depth has such a trickle-down effect where we’ve had 12, 13, 14 practices that have been some of the best practices since I’ve been here,” Moore said. “The team’s competition for jerseys and playing time is refreshing to have. That’s a benefit from improved depth.”

Four freshmen and a highly-touted transfer student out of Ball State and Polk Community College, Deontay Twyman, join the Bobcats for a season in which Moore has his sights set on the NEC championship game.

Moore called Twyman an “immediate contributor” and a combo guard who can pass better than expected, but thinks Twyman is still too tentative in practice and wants him to throw up more shots.

“I’m trying to get him to be more aggressive,” Moore said. “He’s such a good kid, that he’s a little caught up right now. He led his team in scoring last year. We’re expecting pretty big things out of him right away.”

Jamee Jackson, the 6-foot-7-inch freshman recruit and product of St. Anthony High School’s renowned coach Bob Hurley, will play a significant chunk of minutes in the frontcourt this season, according to Moore.

“Physically, he is college-ready to play,” Moore said. “He’s a lefty with really long arms, and he’s got some touch with a little bit of mid-range. He’s a strong upgrade over the talent that we’ve had in the past at the four and the five.”

The team lost graduates Louis Brookins and Bryan Geffen. Geffen led Quinnipiac’s three-point shooting last year and Brookins played the sixth-most minutes on the team, but Moore is confident in his replacements.

“With improved health and a good recruiting class, we can certainly replace those two guys,” Moore said.