Men’s Basketball: Ready for a New Challenge
by Adam Alexander


With a brand new season ready to tip-off and a lot of new faces around The Murray Center, the Rhode Island College men’s basketball team is preparing for the start of the 2009-10 season. Expectations are high for the Anchormen, who have made three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, have won three Little East Conference Regular Season Championships in the last five years and captured back-to-back LEC Tournament titles in 2007 and ’08.


Similar to after the 2006-07 season, the coaching staff was tasked with replacing five seniors during a busy off-season of recruiting. “We have nine new faces this year,” Head Coach Bob Walsh said. “We lost players like Bobby Bailey, Tirrell Hill and Cam Stewart, who could make shots. We brought in new guys who can shoot, but they are all new to the program.” The newcomers are hoping to carry on the winning tradition that has become synonymous with the program and expected by the Anchor Faithful.


Head Coach Bob Walsh


The Anchormen loved to shoot from behind the three-point arc over the past few years. This year’s team is more athletic, so we may see the squad attack the basket more so than in the past. However, the team will still take plenty of outside shots.


“Leading the team is going to come down to Antone Gray (Providence, RI) and Mason Choice (Newport, RI),” Walsh said about is top two returnees. “These are the two veteran guys who have the most experience, even though Gray is a junior and Choice is just a sophomore. Both of them have natural leadership ability.”


Junior guard Antone Gray


“I learned a lot about leadership from the 2009 senior class,” Gray said. “We have a lot of young guys, so I am going to have to show them the ropes and guide the new players in practices. We are all out there learning a new thing each and every day. I have to make sure that I am on top of them all to make sure they are doing the right thing.” Gray certainly has the credentials to lead, having been named First Team All-Little East as just a sophomore a year ago.


“It means a lot to me that Coach Walsh looks to me as a leader as only a sophomore,” Choice said with a smile. “Antone Gray and I are going to have to lead both on and off the court, so I definitely have a big role this year.” Choice had a breakout season as a freshman in ’08-09, earning All-LEC Rookie Team honors, while averaging 9.5 points per game and shooting an amazing 63 percent from the floor.


Sophomore forward Mason Choice


Derek Libbey (Lincoln, ME), a freshman guard out of Maine Central Institute, is excited about the start of his Anchorman career. “I came in expecting to play on a great basketball team,” Libbey stated. “We have a good coach and a good group of guys coming back. With the addition of the new players, I think we’ll complement each other well.” In addition to Libbey, junior forward Carl Lee (Warwick, RI) out of the Community College of Rhode Island and senior guard Jake Grimes (Providence, RI), who also played for CCRI and logged a one-year stint at URI, will be players to watch.


“We know who we need to get the ball to in order score, but we are going to have to work on our defenses,” Choice added. “As long as we play well on defense, we will be a tough team to beat.” Coach Walsh has preached the value of defense in his time at RIC and it has paid off. The Anchormen have perennially have been among the Little East Conference leaders in fewest points per game allowed and field goal percentage defense.


“We will compete really hard,” Walsh said about his team. “We have enough talent on this team to be successful, it is just a matter of bringing it all together. Losing that core group from last year, with almost 5,000 points and 2,000 rebounds gone, is tough. We will have to develop a new security blanket and show up to play.”


One familiar face who will be on the bench this year is new assistant coach John Weir, who is a 2007 graduate from Rhode Island College who played for Coach Walsh during the team’s storied run to the Elite Eight. “John Weir is going to be great for us,” Walsh said about the former center rejoining the program. “He has a great knowledge of the game and playing for me and has a feel for what is going on.”


One thing is sure, the 2009-10 men’s basketball team will be ready to play when the season starts. Come watch the Anchormen battle in-state rival URI when they face the Rams in exhibition action at the Ryan Center on Tuesday, November 10 at 7 p.m.