When one thinks of the America East conference, the teams that usually come to mind are the Albany Great Danes, the Stony Brook Seawolves, and the Vermont Catamounts. More often than not, these teams find themselves either at or near the top of the conference standings.
As is the case for seemingly every conference in the NCAA, talent can be found in the lower ranks of the conference standings. The America East is no different.
Last season, the Hartford Hawks finished 5th in the conference, square in the middle of the 9-team America East with a 7 – 9 record in conference play (14 – 16 overall). There’s room to improve for the Hawks, and they are hoping that 2015-16 will lead to another jump up in the standings.
The Hawks face a tough road this season, as some key players have graduated. What can we expect from the Hawks this season, and who will step up in the absence of their stars?
Below, we take a look at what one can expect from the 2015-16 edition of the Hartford Hawks.
Last season, the Hawks averaged 61.9 points per game as a team, which was good for 303rd in the NCAA. This season, points may be a bit harder to come by, as the Hawks bid adieu to their top three scorers from last year’s team.
Arguably the biggest loss for Hartford is leading scorer Mark Nwakamma. The 6’6” big man averaged team highs in both points per game (12.1) and rebounds per game (5.6) as a senior in 2014-15. He appeared in 28 games for the Hawks last season, starting all of them. Nwakamma recorded three double-doubles in conference play, highlighted by a 22 point, 11 rebound performance against Maine.
Corban Wroe and Yolonzo Moore II are also gone from last year’s team, leaving more holes in the roster. Wroe started in 29 games for the Hawks, and appeared in all 30 games as a senior. He averaged 9.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. The departure of the 6’2” guard from Australia will be a tough pair of shoes to fill.
Moore II, a 6’2” guard out of Austin, TX, started all 30 games last season for Hartford as a senior. He was the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 8.6 points per game to go along with a team-high 2.7 assists per. Both Wroe and Moore averaged 33 minutes or more per contest, so the Hawks will need to find reliable players who can replace both the offensive production and the floor time these two provided last season.
In losing Nwakamma, Wroe, and Moore II, the Hawks lose 49.4% of their offensive production from 2014-15. That’s a tall order for any team to have to replace, but it’s up to the group of experienced returnees to pick up the slack, so to speak.
The key returnee is none other than senior shooting guard Taylor Dyson. The 6’4” guard out of Sassafras, Victoria, Australia is the team’s top returning scorer from a season ago, where he averaged 8.2 points per contest. He started in 23 games, and appeared in all 30, where he also averaged 2.8 rebounds per game and shot 36.6% from three point range.
He has a quick release on his jump shot, and has shown he has a strong shooting range with his ability to make shots from all over the floor. On the catch-and-shoot, Dyson is able to get into a shooting position and get the shot off in one seamless transition, making him effective from the outside. This season, Dyson should slide into the starting lineup on a nightly basis, and see an increase in production due to it.
Also back to help shoulder the load are point guard Justin Graham and forward John Carroll. Both players appeared in all 30 games last season, and should find themselves in the starting lineup on a consistent basis this season.
Graham averaged 6.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game last season, while Carroll averaged 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest. The trio of Dyson, Graham and Carroll will provide some much-needed leadership and guidance for the newcomers on the Hawks’ roster this season.
Incoming transfer players will also have a big impact on the outcome this year. Fordham-transfer Jake Fay should step in and contribute from the outset of the season, while New Mexico-transfer Cleveland Thomas and Eastern Michigan-transfer Jalen Ross will both provide some much-needed depth on the bench.
The 2015-16 edition of the Hartford Hawks have the talent, it’s just a matter of who will step up, and how will the newcomers fit into the puzzle.
Projected Starting Five
Guard: Justin Graham (SR)
Guard: Taylor Dyson (SR)
Guard: Jake Fay (JR)
Forward: John Carroll (SO)
Forward: Dougal Weir (JR)
The Hawks have an intriguing non-conference slate, as they seem to alternate road trips and home stands over the course of the opening month and a half.
To open the season, the Hawks have four road games four road games in seven days. Two of those games are part of the Brooklyn Hoops Classic, and Hartford will go on the road to take on Saint Louis and Louisville just two days later.
Their home opener in on November 24th, when they take on the Niagara Purple Eagles to open up a three-game home-stand. The last two games are regional contests in the Brooklyn Hoops Classic, where they welcome both North Florida and St. Francis (NY) to town.
The opening two weeks of the season will pose a tough task for the Hawks, as they have a handful of top-tier opponents to take on to kickstart the 2015-16 season.
A four game home swing from December 9th – 22nd may be just what the Hawks need to get on a roll before America East play starts. They will welcome Quinnipiac, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart, and Widener to West Hartford, CT and Chase Arena. If they can come away with a .500 record or better on this home-stand, it will give them the momentum they need as they approach conference action.
Losing their top three scorers from a season ago will be a tough pill to swallow, and a tough hill to climb, but this year’s bunch will give it everything they have.
Don’t expect a conference title this year for the Hawks, as the teams above them in the conference are some of the best mid-major programs in the country. With that said, this season should be another positive step for the Hawks as they push for their inaugural berth in the NCAA Tournament.