Rebounding from 2021-22: How MBB can rebuild and retool after hot-and-cold season

Ethan Hurwitz and Seth Fromowitz

After Quinnipiac’s Cinderella-esque run in the 2022 MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City, the Bobcats are expected to experience some serious roster turnover come next winter.

Four Bobcats have entered the transfer portal as of publication, including freshman guard Bernie Blunt, freshman forward Brody Limric and junior forwards Brendan McGuire and Elias King.

The biggest potential departure so far has been McGuire, who entered the portal on March 21. He averaged 4.6 points per game, 2.6 assists per game and 3.0 rebounds per game in 21 games last season. McGuire also missed time last season with a face injury and COVID-19, which limited his playing time in-season.

Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy spoke to The Chronicle about McGuire’s departure and the conversations around his decision to enter the portal.

“He never asked me if he was going to start … I knew he would compete,” Dunleavy said. “We really love Brendan and wish him well, but he would have had the opportunity to contribute.”

Now looking at the other big man, King struggled getting time on the court, seeing the floor in only 13 games and averaging 5.8 minutes per game. He transferred to Quinnipiac after his freshman season at Santa Monica (junior college) and was only used as an end-of-rotation big-man, averaging 2.7 points per game in his two seasons as a Bobcat.

Blunt, who was expected to see a lot of time after a late-season injury to senior guard Tyrese Williams, was barely utilized by Dunleavy. He only played 11 games and averaged just under 10 minutes per game.

“Bernie worked really hard, really good player, could really shoot the ball,” Dunleavy said. “Especially at the point guard position, it’s hard to go back and forth. It’s really hard for a guy to get better and I thought Dezi (Jones) … had to earn that privilege to play and I thought he did a good enough job.”

Blunt’s transfer may be due to Williams’ return. A source confirmed to The Chronicle in early April that the Beacon, New York, native will return for his graduate season. Williams will likely see his way into the starting rotation and be

thrust into a leadership role, with starting graduate forwards Kevin Marfo and Jacob Rigoni leaving. Both Marfo and Rigoni were staples for the Bobcats and bonafide leaders in the locker room, so replacing them will be a tough task for Dunleavy and his staff.

Limric redshirted his freshman season and thus entered the transfer portal on March 24. The six-foot-nine-inch center had high hopes to take over in the offensive paint in future seasons, but with a blurry outlook on future playing time, he now is in the open market for another collegiate program.

“Every discussion in the off-season, we try to have a theme of honesty,” Dunleavy said. “We have a log jam of minutes, especially at the forward position. Bernie and Brody were more honest with me.”

The roster did gain a couple of forwards through the portal. Columbia rising senior Ike Nweke verbally committed to the Bobcats on April 15, and will be a solid big man that Dunleavy can utilize in the front court. Nweke averaged 16 points per game in his final season with the Lions and has already been vocal on Twitter about joining the Quinnipiac program.

“Ike is a versatile forward that will make an immediate impact with our group,” Dunleavy said. “Our entire group is looking forward to seeing what Ike can accomplish at Quinnipiac.”

The Bobcats also added Kenya native Paul Otieno, who played at the JUCO level with Kilgore College for the past two seasons. Otieno tweeted about the Bobcats’ interest in him a few months back and verbally committed on April 20. He brings the ability to contribute on both ends of the floor, as Otieno was a National Junior College Athletic Association Honorable Mention All-American in 2021-22, as well as an NJCAA All-Star.

Junior forward Brendan McGuire scored a career-high 19 points against Niagara on January 23, 2021. (Connor Lawless)

As Dunleavy enters his sixth season at the helm, many are wondering if this is a win-now year for the coach, who led his team to the MAAC semifinals in March.

“I’d be lying to you if it wasn’t win now,” Dunleavy said. “I think every year (is) win now. Every year is retooling and looking at your current roster and say what we got to do to be the best team we can be.”

Now what does this mean for the future of Quinnipiac basketball? The team had three freshmen on the roster last season and now only one of them remains. Quinn Guth, a guard who was a preferred walk-on, is now the sole freshman on the squad.

There has been no reported interest between incoming guards and Quinnipiac as of publication. This leaves Guth, the only backup point guard, in line for a big jump from year one to year two. Guth, a Brookfield, Connecticut, native, saw limited playing time, only stepping on the court in six games. He did have one basket in his debut against Western New England and heads into his sophomore campaign as more of an unknown.Although the four players find themselves in the transfer portal, a return to Quinnipiac can’t be completely ruled out. Several players that put on the blue and gold have entered the transfer portal and found themselves back at Quinnipiac, most notably Marfo. After leading the nation in RPG, he transferred to Texas A&M after the 2019-2020 season, returning to Quinnipiac for his graduate year during the 2021-22 season.

“It’s hard in this industry to predict the future,” Dunleavy said. “I do know that none of those guys are leaving on bad terms, all excellent students. Those guys have been really good guys in the program.”

The team is certain that they will add proven collegiate talent through the transfer portal and compete for a MAAC championship come next season. After last year, where Saint Peter’s won the conference title and then went on a deep March Mad- ness run, having the distinction of “MAAC Champion” certainly has more weight to it now.

Quinnipiac men’s basketball entered the MAAC Tournament as the lowest ranked team. (Aidan Sheedy)

“That was amazing for our league,” Dunleavy said. “In terms of the exposure it gave our league, to say ‘Hey, if you’re a good team in the MAAC, this is what’s possible.’”

The Bobcats will be on the bubble of the MAAC rankings entering next season, but the roster has enough new blood and veteran leadership to make another special run in Atlantic City in March of 2023.