Guard play crucial for Lakers

For a team that lost two guards who each posted more than 1,000 career points and accounted for 34 points a night in 2008-09, it was expected that last season’s Oswego State men’s basketball team would experience a natural drop-off at the position.

The loss of Tommy Downing and Kyle Reuter in the backcourt hurt the Lakers as they struggled to find a rhythm offensively. The team that moved the ball at a frantic pace and averaged nearly 82 points per game fell to just 70 points per game in 2009-10.

It was coach Adam Stockwell’s first season as head coach of the Lakers and he brought in a new attitude based on defense, conditioning and rebounding. Stockwell previously served as head coach at Clarkson University.

"Last year, everything was just new for them and we spent a lot of time trying to assess things," Stockwell said.

"It was a learning experience," senior captain Jose Uribe said. "We took a lot of lumps. "It was a shift in style of play."

Oswego finished 13-13 overall and was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the SUNYAC tournament by SUNY Oneonta.

In Stockwell’s second season, he has much higher aspirations for the group. He said that, offensively, the team will be better and that the guards on the roster will be a big reason why. He said fans should expect the Lakers to play a faster tempo this season and wants the team to average 80 points per game, as they did in 2008-09.

The Lakers, blessed with four players taller than 6-foot-5 this season, have a chance to dominate opposing teams because of their ability to rebound and score inside. Junior forward Chad Burridge returns to the team, coming off a year in which he averaged 17.2 points per game and made second-team All-SUNYAC.

Do not look for the Lakers to just simply try to pound it inside to Burridge. Stockwell is encouraging the guards to look for their shots and not defer so much to the Lakers’ star.

"We’re giving guards more avenues to relieve pressure," Stockwell said. "We want them to make plays off the bounce. We’re in a better position to be balanced this year."

"Sean (Michele) can drive by guys and Brian Gebhardt, off the bench, can score the ball," Uribe said. "And you can’t leave me open for too long."

The Lakers will count on Michele, Gebhardt and Uribe at the guard or small forward positions. Add in returners Conor Monaghan, Alex Mirabito and Ryan Sheridan and Stockwell likes the group he has at the position.

"Last season, guys were young and inexperienced," he said. "This year, they are comfortable with the roles they have."

Stockwell said players like Mirabito have improved greatly in just a year’s time but that he is really expecting big things from Michele.

Michele, a 5-foot-9 junior out of Rochester, N.Y., saw sparse minutes in the first semester last season, but came on to start a number of games late. Boasting a 2.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, he showed himself as a pass-first guard looking to set others up.

While he is still looking to distribute the ball, Michele said he is also looking to "get the ball and push it" to create more transition baskets.

"Sean is going to have a big jump," Stockwell said. "I thought he played great down the stretch [last season]. He is unselfish, he can shoot and he has separated himself as a guy who is a leader for us."

Defensively, the guards will be key as well for the Lakers, as they look to pressure opponents more often this season. The Lakers held opponents to 66 points per game last season. Stockwell would like to keep teams under 70 points again this season.

The Lakers tip off their season on Friday, Nov. 19, when they host York College at Max Ziel Gymnasium.