2019 NCAA rebound champ Kevin Marfo and last year’s QU scoring leader Jacob Rigoni set to return for 2021-22 men’s basketball season


Morgan Tencza

All-time Quinnipiac 3-point leader Jacob Rigoni is returning to the Bobcats as a graduate student.

Ethan Hurwitz, Staff Writer

It is not even March yet, but the madness is just getting started for the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team. The return of the Bobcats will bring along championship hopes, as well as the return of two familiar faces: Kevin Marfo and Jacob Rigoni.

The graduate student forwards found their way back to Hamden this offseason, and both were voted onto the Preseason All-MAAC Team before the season.

Marfo, who led the nation in rebounds (13.3 per game) back in 2019, left to join the Texas A&M Aggies last season. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted seniors the ability to play one more season and Marfo did just that.

Marfo said that returning to a familiar situation was important and vital for himself as a player and as a program.

“I’m definitely excited to return,” Marfo said. “I needed something familiar, and coming back to Quinnipiac gives me a chance to have the most success both on and off the court. I want to finish this out the right way – with the right opportunity. I’m really glad to be returning to something familiar. It’s a great fit.”

Marfo, a dominant 6-foot-9-inch forward who made eight starts during his stint in College Station, said that this team has a chance to win now and is excited to rejoin his old teammates.

Quinnipiac’s head coach Baker Dunleavy, now in his fifth season coaching the Bobcats, is excited to have Marfo return and contribute immediately.

“We’re thrilled to have Kevin and his family return to our program,” Dunleavy said. “He is a tireless worker and competitor who will bring a veteran presence to our group next season.”

The other player who took advantage of the NCAA’s new eligibility rule was the Australian-born Rigoni, who played in all 22 games last season. The forward led the Bobcats in points, 3-pointers made and total minutes last year.

The Bobcats need a strong forward presence going into this season, as teams like Iona and Manhattan have run the MAAC in the past. Marfo and Rigoni bring the size that will help limit some of the other stars in the conference, such as Iona’s sophomore forward Nelly Junior Joseph, who was recently named to the Lou Henson Award Preseason Watch List, a nationally recognized award that is presented annually to the top mid-major player in Division I college basketball.

When asked about Rigoni’s return, Dunleavy mentioned his on and off-court strength. He also said how unusual the 2020-21 season unfolded and how conversations with Rigoni went during the offseason.

“Jake’s toughness, work ethic and character impact our program every day,” Dunleavy said. “We’re very proud of the man that he has become, and we’re lucky to have him help represent our Quinnipiac basketball family. Jake has battled through adversity during his time at Quinnipiac, and his leadership and commitment will serve our team well as we continue to grow toward our ultimate goal of winning a MAAC championship.”

Rigoni leads the program all time in 3-pointers made (259) and will certainly be the favorite to lead the team in that category this season. He also owns the Bobcats’ record for most career free throws made, going 175-207 (84.5%) so far in his career.

Graduate student forward Kevin Marfo led the NCAA in total rebounds (399) as a Bobcat in the 2019-20 season. Photo from Morgan Tencza (2020)

Other than the top two in Marfo and Rigoni, this team has one of the deepest rotations of guards in the entire MAAC, led by sophomore Tymu Chenery, senior Tyrese Williams and sophomore Luis Kortright. All three guards all contributed on the court from the previous year, playing the second, sixth and seventh total amount of minutes last season, respectively. All three of them could see more scoring chances and have improvements statistically with a lot of the defensive attention focused on Marfo and Rigoni.

This new group of incoming freshmen also provides speed to the squad. Forward Brody Limric and guards Bernie Blunt and Quinn Guth all have a chance to make their marks early on. Both Limric and Blunt hail from Connecticut, so playing in their home state will make their transitions to collegiate play a little easier.

Their 2021 campaign starts off on the national stage, making the trek to Maryland to face off against the nationally ranked Terrapins. As the No. 21 team in the country, Maryland is expected to be a force in the Big Ten. It enters this season following an 89-40 drubbing in an exhibition against Fayetteville State on Nov. 5 and looks to take that into its season opener against the Bobcats.

After Quinnipiac’s game at College Park, they face off against a few more non-conference opponents, including Holy Cross, New Hampshire and Brown. These matchups will provide a good introduction into what will be a competitive MAAC season in December.

Looking forward to conference play, many look past the Bobcats, as the MAAC chose the Iona Gaels to defend their championship from last season. These same rankings have the Bobcats ranked No. 9 out of 11 teams. These same Gaels will face off against Quinnipiac twice this year on Jan. 23, and March 5, the latter being the season finale. All time, Iona owns a 10-6 record against Quinnipiac, with its most recent matchup coming in last year’s MAAC tournament in which the Gaels dominated the Bobcats 72-48.

While many insiders within the conference do not have faith in this Quinnipiac team to compete for a title, that is not getting under the skin of the Bobcats. Dunleavy has been able to build the identity of this team, something he had learned from his time in Villanova as an associate head coach.

“Regardless of circumstance, we’re going to keep bringing it our way and that’s the biggest thing,” Dunleavy said. “Coming off a bad practice, what’s the next practice gonna be like?”

The coaching staff, while led by Dunleavy, can help bring out the potential in the entire team. The assistant coaches in this program bring a combined 10 seasons of tutelage in this Bobcats program and will help mentor the roster they have in front of them. Tom Pecora, Shaun Morris and Dwayne Lee round out Dunleavy’s staff and can help lead this team.

Quinnipiac may not get the recognition it thinks it deserves, both from within the MAAC and the country, but it has the depth and ability to compete for a conference title. The Bobcats may struggle due to some lack of joint playing time between some upperclassmen and underclassmen, but this team is built for the long run with the pieces to contribute immediately.