The men’s basketball team has not stepped on the court for official competition since March 7, 2020. They will finally return in just over two weeks to compete for their first Ivy League men’s basketball tournament bid. On Nov. 9, the team is set to host Salve Regina University to tip off the 2021-22 season.
The Bears were ranked fifth in the Ivy League preseason rankings, but they hope to outperform these projections and finish top four in the conference to earn a spot in the Ivy League Tournament. In his ninth season as head coach, Mike Martin ’04 is confident his team can achieve its goals. “Our players have been preparing for this season since we last played,” Martin said. “They have worked hard on their individual skills, their strength and conditioning, and have all grown as young men. Since September, when our group first came back together, they have been working really hard together to continue individual improvement and to come together as a team. I’m very excited to see how we continue to grow.”
Forward and co-captain Tamenang Choh GS will be one of the veteran captains leading the Bears’ squad. The Brown offense will lean on Choh, a two time all-Ivy selection who averaged 13.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 2019-20. Choh returned to Brown for his fifth and final year, taking advantage of the COVID-19 waiver awarded by the Ivy League allowing graduate students to compete if they lost a year of playing eligibility to the pandemic. “A lot went into the decision, but I’m here to get a banner,” Choh said. “We’re on the right track so far, getting better and knowing our systems everyday. I’m confident in this team and this coaching staff to do just that.”
Alongside Choh is co-captain and guard David Mitchell ’22, who is also heading into his last season at Brown. The senior is optimistic and ready to make an impact for the Bears. “We expect to be a winning team, especially with our depth,” Mitchell said. “We want to be the best team that’s ever put on a Brown uniform and I think we have the people to do it. We just gotta go out there and continue to execute and put the pieces together.” Mitchell was a key contributor on the glass in 2019-20, posting 5.2 rebounds per game in just 20.1 minutes per contest, and he will look to continue those efforts in an expanded role this season.
Reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Jaylan Gainey ’22 will complement Choh and Mitchell with his experience, size and impact. The 6’9” forward led the Ivy League with 2.1 blocks per game in 2019-20 and showed offensive prowess, with 69% shooting accuracy.
Rounding out the expected key contributors for Brown this season will be Dan Friday ’24, Perry Cowan ’23 and Paxton Wojcik ’23. Friday and Cowan saw limited playing time as first-years for the Bears in 2019-20 but aim to emerge as team leaders on and off the court.
Wojcik, a guard transferring in from Loyola University Chicago, will bring critical postseason experience to the Bears’ front court. In 2020-21, he saw action in 15 games for the Ramblers, who advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, upending first-seeded University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign along the way. Wojcik shot 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc in the 2020-21 campaign.
The Bears played an intrasquad scrimmage open to the public Saturday Oct. 16, the first time the team played in front of fans in the Pizzitola Sports Center court since the 2019-20 season. Associate Head Coach T.J. Sorrentine explained just how excited the team is for the opportunity to return. “They only have a certain time as players, and it brings a smile to my face just to see the guys back out there enjoying themselves,” Sorrentine said. “It’s been so long and we are so excited for this group.”
Starting with Salve Regina, Brown faces a challenging non-conference schedule this season. Bruno will face powerhouses such as No. 19 University of North Carolina and No. 21 University of Maryland. Additionally, Brown will be competing in the prestigious Paradise Jam Tournament at the University of the Virgin Islands in November.
Martin is excited for the demanding non-conference schedule and the opportunity to take on some of the top teams in the nation. “Our non-conference schedule is very challenging but also will be key in our team’s development as we ready for Ivy play in January,” Martin said. “The team appreciates the opportunity they have in front of them and are looking to continue to advance our program forward." In order to have the most success possible this season, Coach Martin leaves his team with one simple goal: “Leave the Brown jersey better than they found it.”