The men’s basketball team opened official practice on Sept. 26 amidst Robins Center renovations.
As construction workers continue to install seats, entertainment platforms and LED lighting, the players are preparing for the season with high expectations.
“Our goals this year are to win 20 games, win the Atlantic 10 (conference) tournament and get back to the NCAA tournament,” junior guard Kendall Anthony said. “But first we have to focus on coming together as a team and working hard every day.”
Anthony, 2012 A-10 Rookie of the Year, came off the bench for the Spiders in his first two seasons, in which he averaged 12.3 points per game. That role could change this season.
“Kendall leads by example in a great way,” coach Chris Mooney said. “He’s the hardest working guy on the team. He needs to be more of a vocal leader, and I think he’s willing to do that.”
Two former leaders, Darien Brothers and Greg Robbins, graduated last spring.
Brothers and Robbins were four-year contributors.
“Those are guys that did everything right their whole careers,” Mooney said.
Brothers was the team’s leading scorer last season, averaging 14.1 points per game. He recently signed a contract to play with Melilla Baloncesto in the Spanish LEB league, according to Eurobasket.com.
“I’m just trying to be more of a leader this year,” Anthony said. “I know there’s more pressure on me to score now that Darien’s gone, and also to be a better leader.”
Despite the loss of Brothers and Robbins, eight of the Spiders’ top 10 scorers from last season are returning. It’s clear that the torch has been passed to senior point guard Cedrick Lindsay. As a junior, Lindsay was the team’s second-leading scorer and leading assist man. The ball will be in his hands a considerable amount this season.
“Cedrick is clearly the leader of the team,” Mooney said. “When you have a guard of his abilities, you certainly want him to make a lot of the decisions for your team. We really trust him.”
The Spiders will open their season on Nov. 8 against Delaware in the fully refurbished Robins Center. In fact, the team’s first four games will be at home.
“We’re really excited about the renovations,” Lindsay said. “Ultimately, everybody on the team wants to get back to the (NCAA) tournament.”
Lindsay and the rest of the seniors are the last remaining class that was part of the team’s run to the Sweet 16 in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
“I like the guys that we have,” Mooney said. “I think we have a good blend of young guys and experienced guys. Our expectations are to be a good team and see where that takes us.”
Last season, the team went 19-15 with an 8-8 record in the A-10. The Spiders qualified for the A-10 tournament but took a loss to Charlotte in the first round.
The Spiders led by 3 points with 5.9 seconds left in the game, and after a series of Richmond technical fouls, the 49ers made eight consecutive free throws to win 68-63.
“There’s definitely a bad taste in our mouth from it,” Lindsay said. “I think the game itself and everybody that played in it is motivation enough, so we don’t really talk about it.”
The Spiders add four newcomers to its roster this season. Freshmen Josh Jones, ShawnDre’ Jones (no relation) and Tim Singleton will fight for playing time in a program that’s had much success developing young players. The team also welcomes sophomore T.J. Cline, who will redshirt this season after transferring from Niagra University.
“They definitely have a chance to make an impact,” Lindsay said of the team’s freshmen. “It’s going to be interesting to see them out there when they first learn the offense. But it really comes down to that first college game and how they deal with it.”
As is usual, the Spiders will play a difficult nonconference schedule. The schedule includes matchups with North Carolina, Wake Forest, Florida and the possibility of facing last year’s national champion Louisville in November’s Hall of Fame Tipoff in Montville, Conn.
“The history of Richmond basketball is to play the best teams you can possibly play,” Mooney said. “I think it’s really important to our fans, students and alumni. Not to mention we’ve had success against these big teams.”
Contact staff writer Oliver Murphy at email@example.com