A trio of valuable seniors graduated from the Clarkson University Men’s Basketball program last year, leaving plenty of questions for the 2010-11 incarnation of the Golden Knights. While those questions have been answered inside the Green and Gold’s locker room and on the practice floor, it may take a long time for Clarkson’s opponents to find any solutions as the Golden Knights have enviable depth and a wide assortment of scoring options available for the upcoming season.
Last year’s team, led by second-year head coach Mark Gilbride and assistant coach Damian Farley, produced a 14-11 mark, posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the early 1960s. That squad was led by a strong group of seniors that provided leadership and scoring punch. Elson Pickering, Brandon Linton, and Keith Murray, the top three scorers for Clarkson, combined for 733 points, nearly half of the year’s output. While outsiders may believe that the Knights have no go-to scorer, the coaching staff sees this as a positive. Without any type of “alpha dog” that most teams have that requires touches, the Golden Knights are a more cohesive group that is focused on team results rather than whose name receives the headlines.
While there may be no go-to shooter for the Knights to start, there will certainly be some favorites, and the Knights will enjoy taking shots from beyond the 3-point arc if the guards’ early results come through as expected. Senior guard Rey Jefferson (Budd Lake, NJ), the team’s top returning scorer at 8.4 points per game, ranked fourth in the conference in 3-point field goals as a junior and should get more opportunities in his final collegiate campaign. The shooting guard’s stroke is quick, but he is even more impressive from the free throw line when he has more time, as he shot 90.5 percent from the charity stripe, a percentage that would have ranked second in the league had he enough attempts to qualify.
Joining Jefferson as long-range bombers are juniors Felix Llanos (Queens, NY) and Tyler Barron (Burlington, VT). Llanos possesses a diverse game where he can slash to the basket, bury a mid-range jumper, and notch 3-pointers. Llanos averaged 8.0 points per game with 37 3-pointers throughout the campaign, and he is certainly capable of taking over a game offensively when necessary. Barron didn’t see a lot of action as a freshman, but he was immediately inserted into the rotation by coach Gilbride last season. A heady player, Barron was a streaky shooter who often expanded leads with his hot hand as a sophomore last year.
Seniors Shawn Lasalita (San Diego, CA) and Nik Marquis (Irvington, NJ) and sophomore Nigel Mitchell (Bronx, NY) add to the depth of guards for the Knights among the veterans. Lasalita is a deadly shooter from the perimeter and, like Jefferson, is as close to automatic as there is in the league from the free throw line. Both Marquis and Mitchell have quickness that can’t be taught and will be quality guards off the bench for the Knights.
While Clarkson will miss the presence of Elson Pickering in the post, senior forwards George Koduah (Accra, Ghana) and Jonathan Hood (Cortlandt Manor, NY) will pick up the slack with their incredible athleticism. Koduah, a Liberty League All-Star in only his second season of organized basketball, plays within himself well and loves running in transition for easy baskets. The senior forward has shot better than 50 percent from the field for his career, ranking third in the conference as a sophomore when he shot 56.2 percent from the floor. Hood stands 6-foot-4 and his athleticism and strength allow him to body up bigger men while providing him quickness to keep up with smaller forwards. Hood averaged 8.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, a figure that ranked second in the league. Less importantly for the team, but of value to the average fan, the duo of Koduah and Hood will also team to put on a dunking clinic that would rival anyone else in the conference.
Joining Koduah and Hood in the frontcourt is sophomore David Cieri (Oneida, NY). Cieri steadily established himself at the collegiate level and he is probably the most improved player on the roster. While he may not be as athletic as the two seniors, his 6-foot-7 frame makes him a defensive stopper and rebounder that can spell Koduah or Hood.
The coaching staff also brought in five talented freshmen that add to the depth of the squad, and several should see playing time immediately. First-year player Marques Charlton (Deer Park, NY) has a high basketball IQ, sees the floor well, and can score in a variety of ways, while guard Dion Richardson (New York, NY) is a strong and talented competitor who gets to the rim easily. Forwards Nick Grzymala (Lafayette, NY), Pat Mott (Moravia, NY), and Nate Uline (Gansevoort, NY) add to the frontcourt depth for the Knights. Grzymala is long and athletic, while Uline compliments that with a rugged style of play inside. Mott provides the best of both worlds from both players and has the skills to score from both the perimeter and the interior.