On the path back to the NCAA Division III Tournament, Farmingdale State’s mens basketball team is taking the high road. Or, maybe more appropriately, the tall road. The Rams have 10 players 6-4 or taller – a relative rarity at the Division III level, coach Brendan Twomey said.
“…At our level, you don’t really see that,” Twomey said. “So, we have some good size. I think we can score and shoot the ball really well. I think offensively, we’re going to be OK. It’s all going to come down to how quickly we jell on defense.”
Farmingdale State, who was 20-8 and won the Skyline Conference Tournament last year, earned a bid into the NCAA D-III Tournament, where it fell to Rochester in the first round, 85-68.
To get back there, the Rams will have to replace a lot of offense. They graduated their three top scorers from last season, two of whom — Ali Mableton and George Riefenstahl — are now assistants on Twomey’s coaching staff.
The bulk of the scoring, at least at the outset, will fall to senior Ryan Kennedy. The 5-11 guard averaged 11.2 points per game last season, fourth on the team, and shot 85.2 percent from the field, the second highest percentage of any player who played more than six games.
“Over the summer I really tried to improve myself athletically and work on my conditioning,” Kennedy said. “I want to play at a very high pace this year and be able to play big minutes…I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m looking forward to showing everyone what that work was for.”
For Kennedy, getting to the NCAA Tournament wasn’t enough. The 17-point loss to Rochester wasn’t something he was proud of.
“I was a little disappointed with the way we held up against Rochester, but they played a hell of a game and are a very tough team,” Kennedy said. “Just being there and playing against that competition makes you hungry to get back there and improve on the performance once we get there. It would be nice to get there and maybe get a win or be in a close game down the stretch.”
A tough non-conference schedule, which begins with an exhibition game against Division I Stony Brook on Nov.11 and continues with the regular season opener against New Paltz on Nov. 13, is a staple of the program under Twomey.
“We are kind of known for playing in one of the weaker conferences, so to get that tough non-conference schedule and get that exhibition game against Stony Brook is really good,” Kennedy said. “I’m really going to cherish playing in those tough games.”
“I feel like, even if we don’t win those games against those tougher opponents, it definitely helps us and gets us ready for our conference play,” Twomey said.
The Skyline Conference is full of Long Island teams. SUNY – Old Westbury finished 16-11 and lost to Yeshiva University in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Pedro Marquez, who was the team’s second leading scorer with 17.2 points per game, returns. Justin Alleyne-Washington, who was the team’s second leading rebounder with 7.3 per game, also returns.
The United States Merchant Marine Academy finished 9-15. Junior guard James Walsh, who played at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, led the team in scoring last year with 11.2 points per game. St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue was 5-20.
In Division II, Adelphi finished 19-10 last season and lost to Merrimack in the quarterfinals of the Northeast – 10 tournament, 83-81. Sophomore Ronnie Silva, who led the Panthers with 15.1 points per game, and senior Austin Beech, who averaged seven points per game, both return. NYIT finished 3-24 last season.
Suffolk Community College was the top-ranked team in the country entering the NJCAA Division III tournament last year, but failed to reach the championship gaSme. They beat Nassau Community College in the Region XV Championship Game. Nassau Community College returns sophomore Patrick Gardner, who played at Calhoun High School. Gardner took a redshirt year last season after a knee injury, but averaged 13 points and 7.8 rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season.