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Bear cubs ready to begin Bruno careers

Brown is green — not the color or the environmental movement, but in terms of experience on the basketball court.

"We are probably one of the youngest teams in the country," said men's basketball Head Coach Jesse Agel. "We have no returning seniors in our program, and probably no other program in the country can say that."

The Bears' roster is split evenly between seven players who recorded minutes last season and seven who did not. It features five first-years — Christian Gore '15, Rafael Maia '15, Jon Schmidt '15, Joe Sharkey '15 and Longi Yiljep '15. The team also welcomes Stephen Albrecht '13, who sat out the 2010-11 season after transferring from the University of Toledo, and Jean Harris '12, who took a year-and-a-half hiatus from basketball after playing his freshman and part of his sophomore year.

"We have guys with a mix of a lot of energy, skill and talent," said co-captain Tucker Halpern '13. "I expect a lot of heart and a lot of want."

The team returns four sophomores and three juniors, many of whom gained valuable experience early in their careers.

"Although we are young, we have guys who have played a lot of minutes since their freshman year," said co-captain Matt Sullivan '13. "So I think we are actually a relatively experienced team."

Halpern, Sullivan, Andrew McCarthy '13 and Tyler Ponticelli '13 are the squad's only returning upperclassmen. Halpern, the team's leading returning scorer, averaged 12.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game last season. Sullivan made a transition from point guard to shooting guard last year and averaged 5.7 points, including a career-high 22 points against Princeton. McCarthy has been an imposing defensive presence, and his 63 career blocks rank eighth-best in school history. Ponticelli, who sat out his freshman year due to injury, returned last season to play in 23 games for the Bears.

Sean McGonagill '14, who stepped in as the team's starting point guard last season, will be expected to help lead the team this season after being unanimously named Ivy Rookie of the Year last season. McGonagill was the team's ironman and started all 28 games, during which he racked up 11.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists on average. His 39-point performance against Columbia tied the Brown first-year scoring record. He also set a new freshman record with 147 assists on the season.

McGonagill shared some words of wisdom for the incoming first-years who will be forced to contribute early on.

"The biggest thing is just keeping your head and going step-by-step," he said. "Don't let the pressure get to you. Have a short term memory, but also look back on your mistakes and learn from them."

The Bears will be dealing with the loss of a strong senior class, which included Peter Sullivan '11, Matt Sullivan's brother. Peter Sullivan, who ranks fourth on the school's all-time scoring list, was sidelined for five league matchups last season, which Agel said helped prepare the team for his departure.

Bruno's schedule this year includes a program-record 15 home games, with five of the team's first six league matchups slated to be played in the Pizzitola Center. The squad will also be traveling to New York for the National Invitation Tournament Season Tip-Off and will face two early tests — against Iowa on the road and Providence College at home.

"We've had more home games here in the past few years than they've had in ages, so that's obviously a positive," Agel said. "You want to play at home to be able to build momentum going into the Ivy League season."

The Bears face a difficult conference schedule, with many Ivy opponents boasting veteran squads. Harvard — led by reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Keith Wright — was the unanimous preseason pick to take home the league title.  

The Bears will open their season at the Pizzitola Center Friday night at 5 p.m. against Johnson and Wales.

Though its first matchup comes against a Division III opponent, McGonagill said the team is treating this game no differently than an Ivy League one.

"Either way, every game is competitive," he said. "No matter who (we are) facing, we are playing our hardest."


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