As we continue to look ahead to the upcoming college basketball season in America East, we make a stop in Smithfield, RI, home of the Bryant University Bulldogs. In the fall they will be starting year two in the league. A season ago, the team finished with a 17-13 overall and 8-8 in conference play. Their season ended with a three-game losing streak. On December 16, the team will head to UBS Arena in Belmont Park to take part in the 2023 Holiday Hoopfest. Their opponent on that day will be the Towson Tigers, a team that the Bulldogs defeated last season by a 69-58 score. At the time of that game, the Tigers were ranked #18 in the College Insider Mid-Major Poll. The other two teams in this event will be St. Joseph and Iona.
The Tigers, out of the Colonial Athletic Association, are led by head coach Pat Skerry. He has guided this program to back-to-back twenty-win seasons. In 2021-22, Towson ended their year in first place and received a postseason bid to the NIT. This team features two-time All-CAA forward Charles Thompson who a season ago averaged 12.2 points and eight rebounds a game. Bryant will be looking to improve on their first season in America East and will bring back the leading scorer in the league in Sherif Gross-Bullock. In his first year in the league, he averaged 17.1 points per game. In last year’s meeting, it was the Bulldogs bench that was the margin of victory as they got a combined 25 points from Tyler Bradford and Chauncey Hawkins IV.
The other two teams that will meet in this one-day event will lead off the day. The Hawks of St. Joseph, out of the Atlantic-10 coached by Billy Lange, went 16-17 a year ago. They have a terrific All-Conference guard by the name of Erik Reynolds who led the team in three-point makes with 99 and points per game at 19.6. He ranked as one of the top 15 returning scorers for 2023-24. Iona, out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has a new coach after Rick Pinto left to take the St. John’s job in early spring. His name is Tobin Anderson. You may have heard of him. He took a Fairleigh Dickinson squad to the NCAA Tournament and became the second-ever #16 seed to defeat a #1 seed when his FDU team knocked off Purdue. He has restocked the Gales roster by bringing in 11 newcomers to the program. The lone holdover from last year’s team is Osborn Sherna who will be looking for help from his new teammates this season.
Bryant brings in three freshman and two graduate students to this year’s team. The freshmen are two guards, Aaron Davis 6-6 out of Bay Shore NY, and First Love Christian Academy in PA. and Greg Cantwell (6-3) from St. Andrews School in Mineola, NY. Forward Keyshawn Mitchell (6-11) from Brooklyn NY and the same school as Davis rounds out the class of 2023-24. The graduate players are Connor Withers a 6-7 forward who transfers in from UMass Lowell and 6-6 guard Miles Latimer who arrives in Smithfield after stints at Stony Brook and Bucknell.
A member of last year’s team is continuing his basketball career overseas. Antwan Walker has signed a pro deal with BC Siauliai in the Lithuanian basketball league. He is the second member of last season’s team to sign a pro deal, the other being Chauncey Hawkins IV. Last season Walker set career-highs in points at 12.7 per game and in rebounds per game at 7.2. He had eight double-double games AND ranked seventh in rebounds and second in field goal percentages in America East.
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