The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team looks to defend it's NCAA East Regional Championship as the 2017-18 season approaches with much anticipation. Even before the opening tipoff, there's a lot on tap that promises to make this yet another season to remember in Sparkill.
Last Season - continuing the trend of each of his first four seasons, Coach of the Year Tobin Anderson's crew set new heights in 2016-17. The Spartans were nationally ranked and finished with a 28-7 overall record, capturing their second consecutive East Coast Conference Tournament Championship. They made their second straight trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament and swept a trio of games to win the programs first East Regional Championship title, and advanced to the Division II Elite Eight in South Dakota, falling to eventual National Champ Northwest Missouri State.
Tipoff Dinner, October 26 - Continuing their tradition, the Spartans will host their annual Tipoff Dinner at Rockland Country Club on Thursday, October 26. The featured speaker of the evening is CBS Basketball Analyst Pete Gillen, who held Division I head coaching positions at Xavier, Providence, and Virginia.
The Squad - Coach Anderson and his staff once again have ample reason for high expectations this season.
Justin Reyes returns for his redshirt-senior season, accompanied by the trophy-case full of awards he has amassed over his three years with the team. Joining the All-American in the frontcourt is Jules de Courtenay, who was recognized for his combined athletic and academic excellence as an NCAA Elite 90 recipient last season. James Mitchell and Shaq McFarlan add to the continuity as returning starters in the backcourt, while Dan Wilson, Ross Greenfield, and Peter Alkins will all contribute in the team-oriented system.
Leading the impressive group of newcomers is a pair of Division I transfers. Kameron Murrell transfers in after playing his first two seasons with a talented George Mason University program, while Chris Atkinson played in all 55 games over two seasons at Canisius. Irwane Connell, Jr., Kevin Lynch and Jamar Sudan will add some bulk to the forward position as freshmen, while Malik Parker, Zachary Rzwenicki and Joshua Leak will also see time among a very impressive rookie class.
Hall of Fame Classic - The Spartans will travel to Kansas to start the season against other nationally-ranked squads Ferris State and Findlay at the Small College Hall of Fame Classic on November 3rd and 4th.
ESPN Showcase - Just announced this week, the Spartans are included in this year's Division II Basketball Showcase. The ECC double-header featuring STAC at Queens College will be streamed via ESPN3 on Wednesday, January 24, starting with the women's contest at 5:30 pm followed by the mens teams. This is currently the only ECC featured matchup on the nationial schedule.
Challenging Schedule - In addition to their tough contests at the Hall of Fame Classic and their usual ECC foes, the Spartans face arguably the toughest schedule in the region. Included on this year's dance card are the likes of prennial regional powers such as LeMoyne, Stonehill, New Haven, Bloomfield, Holy Family, Adelphi, Jefferson (formerly Philadelphia U), and more. Their home opener will be against the University of New Haven at the Spartan Tipoff Classic on Saturday, November 11, at 8:00 pm.