By Carlos Toro
Following a 2012-13 season where both the men and women surpassed expectations, Head Coaches Kevin Baggett and Lynn Milligan will look to prove it was no mistake.
The men’s basketball team finished 19-15 overall and 12-6 in the conference last season. Picked to finish seventh in the conference in 2012, the Broncs surprised many and finished second.
Baggett is looking to build on that success.
“Obviously we want to do better than 19-15,” Baggett said. “We want to go in and win the league and get to the NCAA Tournament. That’s our ultimate goal, and to me, anything less and we fail.”
Two of the big stories of this men’s team are senior forward Daniel Stewart and senior guard Anthony Myles being selected to the preseason All-MAAC second team. They are two of the most experienced players on the team. Not only did both of them start every game last year, but they accounted for 36% of the team’s points.
“I expect those guys to be first team All-MAAC,” Baggett said. “I’m certainly leaning toward those guys to help win a lot of games and mentor the new guys.”
One thing that Baggett will have to manage is having eight new players on the squad.
“There are two freshmen that I think our fans will enjoy,” Baggett said. “Guard Jimmy Taylor is from Florida and also forward Kahlil Thomas. Those are two guys I think will have an impact as freshmen.”
Also joining the Broncs this season are three other freshmen, guard Brandon Channer, guard Davis Graham and forward Xavier Lundy, along with three junior transfers, center Matt Lopez from Utah State, guard Teddy Okereafor from VCU and center Skylar Scrivano from Columbia.
The team’s first three games are on the road: Lehigh (Nov. 12), Purdue (Nov. 17) and Central Connecticut (Nov. 23). The Broncs’ first game at home will be against Albany on Nov. 26. One other notable non-conference game is at Villanova on Dec. 21.
Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Rider is looking to build on a season in which it won 15 games. Milligan hopes to keep the program consistent in its winning ways.
“Our expectations are high for the season and we are going to continue to take steps to becoming a consistent winning program,” Milligan said. “We feel like we took a step last season and are excited for the challenges of this season. We have a great senior group who are excited to lead this team.”
The team will look toward senior guard/forward MyNeshia McKenzie, who was named to the MAAC Preseason First Team.
McKenzie was second in the MAAC in rebounding (9.8) and fourth in the conference in scoring (14.2) while compiling 1.9 steals per game, good for eighth in the conference last year.
“MyNeshia is obviously a big part of what we can do as a team,” Milligan said. “She has put herself in a good spot to have a terrific senior year.”
However, McKenzie is not the only veteran on the team. The Broncs have two other players who have been with the team just as long as she has. Senior Alicia Hall and graduate student Shereen Lightbourne, who is ready to play for the first time since 2011, are expected to add veteran leadership for the new players.
“Alicia has been a steady performer for us her entire career,” Milligan said. “I expect her to be ready when her number is called. Shereen is coming off two knee surgeries and has not played in two seasons. She is healthy and ready to go.”
The conference is getting a bit of a makeover now that Quinnipiac and Monmouth are joining the MAAC. This means that the Broncs will play a school-record 20 regular season conference games.
“The MAAC is a terrific and extremely competitive conference,” Milligan said. “With the addition of Quinnipiac and Monmouth, it only adds to the challenge since they are both successful programs. We want to gear our season, and prepare through our non-conference games, to win in the MAAC. The 20 games is new, but will make the season even more challenging.”
The women’s season starts on Nov. 8 on the road against Lafayette, then at Seton Hall two days later. The team plays its first home game in Alumni Gym against LIU Brooklyn on Nov. 14.