OSWEGO — Following its second appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament, the coaching staff of the Oswego State men’s basketball team was pleased with last season’s efforts.
The 2018-2019 season was highlighted by the team’s sixth national tournament appearance, its seventh SUNY Athletic Conference championship title, the league’s regular-season title and even winning its annual Max Ziel Tournament at the beginning of the season. Oswego State finished with a 24-6 record and a 15-3 SUNYAC record.
After a 2018-19 campaign that included a slew of accolades, the Lakers are looking for more this season.
“After the season was over, we gave the guys a chance to recuperate both mentally and physically for a couple of weeks. Then, you start talking about the training model for next season,” Oswego State head coach Jason Leone said. “When they got back on campus this fall, it was all about having the most committed fall training we could have and incorporating all of our new players into our systematic approach of how we do things.”
This season, the Lakers returned three of their five starters — Brandon Gartland, Liam Sanborn and Joe Sullivan — and brought in a solid group of freshmen and transfers. Colby Moultrie transferred from Division I University at Buffalo. He was a walk-on with the Bulls and played 12 games his freshman year.
Leone also brought in five freshmen, including a couple of local players. Kaleb Cook, from Auburn, holds the career record for points for the Maroons, and Jeremiah Sparks played for Jordan-Elbridge.
“We’ve been impressed as a coaching staff with their attitude. It’s really hard, in a program like ours, where freshmen typically haven’t gotten a ton of opportunity,” Leone said. “(For Moultrie), being around that program where they were nationally-ranked and had a lot of national attention in the media with their performance over the last two years, it was a really good thing for us to add him to our program.”
Gartland and Sanborn were second and third in total points with 390 (13.0 per game) and 379 (12.6 per game), respectively. Sullivan led the team in free throws made with 87 and had a 69.6 free-throw percentage.
Leone added that all three players “look like they’re improved players,” heading into this season.
“The three of them have all dedicated a lot of their time to doing one or two things each, that we felt collaboratively, they needed to do to get better,” he said. “That’s a very comforting thing knowing those three guys are coming back.”
Two starters the Lakers lost were Quinn Carey and Tyler Pierre. Carey was with the program for only his senior season, after transferring from Geneseo. He led the team with 93 three-pointers and was fourth in scoring. Pierre led the team with 401 points (13.4 average) and 113 offensive rebounds.
Oswego State also lost Allen Durutovic, who played in all 30 games but only started one of them.
“Quinn, relative to the transfers we’ve had in the past, was a little bit accelerated with his transition because he knew the league. From a talent perspective, he was a very quick study,” Leone said. “We’re certainly going to miss all three of those guys.”
With the recent success of the program, DIII News ranked Oswego State No. 23 in the nation for the preseason and selected the Lakers to finish at the top of the SUNYAC standings.
In the NCAA’s rankings, Oswego State received 83 points toward the rankings. Leone mentioned the program “is at the point where (they) don’t really mention (the rankings) too much.”
“One of the things I try to tell our players is that it’s really good if you achieve rankings because the more it happens, the more you don’t recognize it,” he said. “Two of the last four years, having achieved a Sweet 16, I think people around the country have taken notice of some of the good things that have been going on in our program.”
The Lakers begin their season today at the Elmira Tip Off Tournament against Ithaca College. The team’s first SUNYAC matchup is against Brockport Dec. 6, but they won’t play a home game at the Max Ziel Gymnasium until Jan. 10 against SUNY Fredonia.
Leone said “it’s not ideal,” but the schedule allows for a tougher strength of schedule when it comes time to the NCAA selections if Oswego State doesn’t receive an automatic bid to the national tournament.
He also mentioned that there are no “tangible goals” for the team this season, especially with different things that are out of the team’s control, such as injuries or progression of different players.
“I’ve never been the type of coach that has spent a lot of time basing our team goals on a win-loss record or a postseason expectation,” he said. “Where we are this week should be, and hopefully will be, significantly different in a positive way of where we’re going to be in two months from now.”