2001-02 Patriot League Preview
by Dave Sheridan
If you’re looking for McDonald’s High School All-Americans, players with
entourages, coaches with seven figure sneaker deals and the Memphis Show
Girls this is not your conference. If you’re searching for one of the last
outposts true to the ideal of college athletics, where the players are
student-athletes, then the Patriot League is yours to discover because it is truly
Showing early season signs of a team that is ready to contend for another
Patriot League championship, including an early season upset of UMass, the
Crusaders of Holy Cross are the early season pick to repeat as conference
champions. In his third season at The Cross, Patriot League Coach of the
Year Ralph Willard appears to have brought in a promising freshman class
to replace the loss of 7-footer Josh Sankes, Jared Curry and Juan Pegues.
Bolstering Holy Cross’s conference title aspirations is the return of
forward, Tim Szatko, who was named the Patriot League’s Player of the Year
for the 2000-01 season.
Looking to unseat the Crusaders is a new addition to the league, American
University. After enduring a record of 3-13 in the Colonial Athletic
Association last year under former UVA Coach Jeff Jones, American is
looking to make a strong first impression in its inaugural campaign. Unlike
Holy Cross’s Ralph Willard, who returned to his alma mater to achieve
success, Jeff Jones is searching for success away from the familiar
confines of Charlottesville. In his second year at American, Jones will try
to duplicate Willard’s feat of a conference title in Year Two. (I know
the former Soviet Union had a couple of five-year plans, but Willard had a two-year plan?
Both school’s title hopes will be tested by the Colgate Red Raiders, led by Pat
Campolieta, a two-time all-league selection, and Fran O’Hanlon’s Lafayette
Leopards, who are looking to rebound from last year’s 4-8 conference record.
1. Holy Cross Crusaders: Looking to defend last year’s Patriot League crown,
Holy Cross will rely on Player of the Year Tim Szatko, and Ralph Willard’s
emphasis on coaching in-your-face defense. The Crusaders held opponents to a field
goal percentage of .382 last year, placing them second in the nation. With
the loss of Josh Sankes in the middle and the ability of Curry and Pegues to
disrupt, the Crusaders will be hard pressed to match last year’s tenacious
Aiding last year’s leading scorer and rebounder, 6-8 forward Tim Szatko,
will be returning guard Ryan Serravalle, who has a predilection for the
three. Sharing the load in the backcourt will be Jave Meade, who loves to
loot (fourth in the league in steals in 00-01) and shoot. Quickly becoming
an offensive force for the Crusaders is 6-11 freshman Nate Lufkin, who
poured in 24 points against Brown. If Lufkin, from the Lone Star State, can
become a steady offensive performer and a defensive presence in the paint,
look for the Crusaders to play for the conference championship in early
March on ESPN at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Team Motto: It’s either shovel snow or play Tenacious D in Worcester,
2. Colgate Red Raiders: Coach Emmett Davis returns all five starters
to a team that finished third in the Patriot League last year.
Colgate will be led into the fray by 6-6 senior forward Pat Campolieta, an
all-league first team pick the last two seasons, and super sophs Howard Blue
(6-7, forward) and Mark Linebaugh (6-2, guard), who were third team
all-league performers last year. Adding to the scoring balance on the
perimeter are junior guards Tim Sullivan and Dave Hardy. And from the land
of the Velvet Revolution (the Czech Republic), 6-9, 240 pound junior Martin
Marek will anchor the paint.
Emmett Davis’s squad will need to knock off Holy Cross to usurp the title
from the Crusaders. Last year the Raiders were unable to beat the league’s
top two teams: Holy Cross and Navy. Colgate’s conference championship dreams
will depend on their ability to reverse this trend.
Team Motto: Ya gotta beat that big ol’ nasty junkyard dog to become the
3. Lafayette Leopards: Has Coach Fran O’Hanlon revived the magic in Easton,
Pennsylvania? Based on early season results, this year’s squad is ready
to battle for conference honors. Lafayette will rely on strong guard play
anchored by 6-5 senior Brian Burke, and aided on the perimeter by sophomore
guards Ben Saxton and Justin DeBerry. The 6-5 Saxton showcased his talents
with a 22 point effort against Bruiser Flint’s Drexel Dragons early this
year. Look for O’Hanlon to go with the hot hand in his backcourt rotation.
Up front, Lafayette is paced by 6-10 senior Mick Kuberka and 6-8
sophomore Mike Farrell. Don’t be surprised to see O’Hanlon have four guards
on the floor this season. Lafayette will win or lose based on its guard
play. Lafayette has brought in some young big men and 6-1 freshman point
guard Kenny Grant, but playing time will be scarce for the freshmen.
Team Motto: Chuck It From The Cheap Seats!
4. Navy Midshipmen: A difficult early season non-conference schedule (7 out
of the first 10 games on the road) has shown that Coach Don DeVoe’s Midshipmen
will once again make life tough on their conference brethren in the Patriot
League. Navy lost five seniors from last year’s 19-12 squad, which went
9-3 within the conference, but expect senior guard and captain Demond
Shepard to provide leadership and minutes at the point.
Navy will look for steady offense from 6-8 junior forward Francis Ebong
and 6-7 junior forward Kyle Barker, who torched Davidson for 31 in an 81-79
loss for Navy. Bursting upon the scene and providing instant
offense for the Middies has been senior sensation Jehiel Lewis, the returning
scorer from last year’s team. Look for Lewis to be a key
factor in Navy’s success this season.
Once again, DeVoe will go deep into his bench and throw a wave of players at
the opposition. Bring some extra oxygen tanks when you play the Midshipmen.
Team Motto: I wouldn’t want to be the team manager who has to wash all of
the towels. Does Don Devoe have an endorsement deal with a local
dry cleaner? Hangers or folded?
5. American University Eagles: Look for “The Doctor” to be making house calls
this year in the Patriot League. Patrick Doctor (16.1 points per game),
last year a second-team selection in the Colonial Athletic Association, is
ready to do some residency work in the Patriot League. The 6-8 Doctor missed
the first eleven games of last year’s campaign because of a suspension, but
look for the good Doctor to visit a Patriot League gym near you.
Jeff Jones managed to attract three walk-on transfers to his program, with
the most notable being junior guard Steven Miles, who transferred from
Coastal Carolina. The 6-2 Miles has shown he is not shy about launching
trey’s from international territory, and will have Vladimir Buscaglia from
Switzerland to help him shoot the rock. In an early season win against
North Carolina A+T, Buscaglia showed his proficiency with the three by
hitting 6-of-9 from behind the arc in a 20 point effort. Junior college
transfers Glenn Stokes and Nick Boyd will improve American’s backcourt play.
Team Motto: With eight newcomers and a roster filled with international
players, the International House of Pancakes might be a good pre-game stop. In any language, it’s still IHOP.
6. Lehigh Mountain Hawks: With four returning starters, Coach Sal Mentesana
will look to improve upon last year’s third place finish. Lehigh will be led
by the sharp shooting of 6-5 guard/forward Matt Logie. Last year, Logie led
the Patriot League in three-point shooting and will be the focal point of
the Mountain Hawks’ offense.
Returning 6-10 junior center Matt Crawford will love the help 6-8 freshman
forward Eric Heil will provide. Heil showed some offensive flash with a
19 point performance against Vermont in an 83-75 loss to the Catamounts in
Burlington. Expect significant contributions from 6-2 sophomore guard Alex
Jensen and 6-4 junior guard/forward Alan Goff. Look for Mentesana’s Mountain Hawks to fall back to the pack this year.
Team Motto: The Mountain Hawks? Can we return to the Engineers? Yeah, I
know the campus is hilly, but Mountain Hawks? Bring back the Engineers!
7. Bucknell Bison: Coach Pat Flannery will have five starters returning
to this year’s Bison squad. Bucknell will be led by first-team all-Patriot
Leaguer Bryan Bailey. Bailey, a 6-0 senior guard, will share the scoring
load with 6-6 junior forward Boakai Lalugba. Bailey, sidelined with an early
season ankle injury, will look to rebound and set the pace offensively.
Lalugba has been a scoring and rebounding machine in the early going
this season. Dropping 20 points on Rider in a 13 point loss, Lulagba has
already garnered a Patriot League Player of the Week title. The problem
facing Pat Flannery’s ball club will be finding another offensive threat.
Can 6-5 sophomore guard Matt Quinn become that threat? Lulagba will get
some assistance on the glass from 6-6 sophomore forward Ben Slater.
Will Bucknell find a triple threat? The bench is deep for the Bison, but
can they find another consistent scorer? If not, the Bison will find a
rough road through the Patriot League.
Team Motto: Boakai and Bailey and pray for hail?
8. Army Black Knights: Army celebrates its 100th anniversary of
basketball on the Hudson this year and Coach Pat Harris will look to lead
the Black Knights out of the cellar. Harris, a guard for Coach K during his
coaching tenure at West Point, will ride the shooter’s touch of senior
guard Chris Spatola. The 6-1 Spatola led the Patriot League in scoring last
year (18.5 points per game) and has not missed a game for the Black Knights
in his previous three seasons (72 consecutive starts).
His younger brother, 6-0 sophomore point guard J.P. Spatola, will join
Chris in the backcourt. The Spatola brothers will provide much needed
offense for Army, and will look for help up front with 6-5 senior forward
Charles Woodruff. If Woodruff can be another source of offense for the Black
Knights, as witnessed by his 25 point explosion against Albany earlier this
year, defenses in the Patriot League will have to respect Army’s inside
Freshman guard Joey Payton might provide some assistance and 6-6
sophomore forward Kenny Doleac, younger brother of Cavaliers’ big man
Michael Doleac, could be in the mix.
Team Motto: In Spatola We Trust
1st Team All-Patriot League:
Chris Spatola, Army
Bryan Bailey, Bucknell
Tim Szatko, Holy Cross
Pat Campolieta, Colgate
Patrick Doctor, American
2nd Team All-Patriot League:
Boakai Laluga, Bucknell
Ryan Serravalle, Holy Cross
Kyle Barker, Navy
Brian Burke, Lafayette
Matt Logie, Lehigh
Player of the Year: Pat Campioleta
Other Players To Watch:
Nate Lufkin , Holy Cross
Vladimir Buscaglia, American
Alex Jensen, Lehigh
Mark Linebaugh, Colgate