WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — High expectations greet Mike Maker and his Williams College men's basketball team each year and each year it seems the Ephs rise to meet them.
But don't expect Maker to make championships — be them Little 3, NESCAC or national — part of his team's goals for the upcoming season.
"We really talk about enjoying the journey, playing to the best of our abilities, putting the team first," Maker explained. "I tell them all the time, 'if you do those things, the results will take care of themselves.'"
The results over the past two years have taken Williams to the NCAA Div. III Final Four — the only men's team to accomplish that feat. The Ephs are 59-5 in that span.
|Nate Robertson '13|
And Maker's cupboard is not bare; he retains all-everything guard James Wang as well as fellow senior tri-captains Brian Emerson, a center and Jordan Mickens, a guard.
The junior class is stacked as well, starting with cerebral point guard Nate Robertson, sharp-shooting guard James Klemm, athletic big man Sean Hoffmann, and forward Parker McClelland.
"I do think we have the best backcourt in the country with Wang and Robertson," Maker said. "On top of that, we have our senior tri-captains, who I have so much confidence in. I think Brian is one of the best centers in the NESCAC and Jordan gives us great leadership and versatility."
Sophomores Taylor Epley and Hayden Rooke-Ley return after playing key roles as first-years. Big things are also expected from skilled center Michael Mayer and lightning-quick forward John Weinheimer.
And then there is the first-year class, which Maker holds high hopes for. Daniel Wohl (6-6, La Canada, CA) looks to make an immediate impact at the guard position, while power forward Parker Semin (6-5, Littleton, Co.) and center Edward Flynn (6-10, Miami, Fla.) will work for playing time in the frontcourt. Sophomore transfer Matt McCreary (6-5, Joplin, Mo.) also adds depth at guard.
Wang led the Ephs with 18.4 points per game last season and also topped the team in assists with 105. Klemm averaged 11.1 ppg and led the team in three-pointers made with 92. Robertson scored 8.2 ppg and handed out 95 assists.
In addition, Rooke-Ley and Epley, who played 19.3 and 17.8 minutes per game as first-years and contributed both offensively (6.5 and 6.1 ppg. respectively) and defensively (Rooke-Ley averaged 4.2 rebounds per game), are expected to improve on those numbers.
"We have six of our top seven scorers coming back," Maker said. "I look for Wang and Robertson to highlight a deep and balanced basketball team. In addition, Klemm, Rooke-Ley, Epley, and Emerson are all capable of putting up big numbers. I believe we'll be more difficult to guard this season because we'll have more options."
The Ephs were very successful offensively last season, scoring 81.4 points per game, but where Maker thinks the team stands out is on defense, where its 37.3 percent defensive field goal percentage ranked second in the nation last season.
"Our challenge on the defensive end will be collective rebounding; we'll need to hit the glass with intensity if we want to be successful. More importantly, this team has to form its own identity. There is nothing more important than team chemistry."
The conference will be strong as usual; one needs to look no further than the D3hoops.com preseason Top 25 which slotted Williams third, Amherst fourth and Middlebury fifth in the nation, to understand just how strong the NESCAC is.
"We look forward to competing in what we consider the best conference in the country. We simply want our team to reach its full potential and bring pride to our institution and community."
Williams opens its season Friday night at 8 p.m vs. Southern Vermont as part of the Williams Tip-Off Tournament.