Molloy College played its best basketball down the stretch last season, salvaging a 7-11 record against East Coast Conference foes and reaching the tournament semifinals.
The Lions took a little while to find themselves after replacing most of their offensive production from 2016-17 and finished 9-21 overall. This winter, head coach Charles Marquardt returns his top four scorers and has a deeper bench to work with.
“We were playing pretty well towards the end of last season after going through an adjustment period,” Marquardt said. “We’re playing at a faster pace this season and it fits who we are. Everything’s geared toward offense these days, but the games slow down in January and February. Teams aren’t scoring in the 90s in the playoffs.”
Through its first five games, Molloy (2-3) averaged nearly 80 points with junior Nick Corbett leading the way. Corbett, a third-year starting shooting guard and ECC Rookie of the Year two seasons ago, led the Lions in scoring last winter at 17.7 ppg and picked up where he left off and then some. He hit the game-winning hoops against Nyack (81-79 on Nov. 14) and Concordia (88-86 on Nov. 27) and is off to a torrid start (39 of 74) from the floor. He had 31 points against Nyack. “Nick is pretty skilled and we expected him to be the lead guy last season and he didn’t disappoint,” Marquardt said. “He became more and more comfortable in the role and continues to step up.”
Senior Curtis Jenkins, a product of Farmingdale High School, popped for 15.8 points per game a season ago after averaging a dozen as a sophomore. He’s also a two-time ECC Defensive Player of the Year. Heading into December he was averaging 12.2 points and 6.6 rebounds. He was the team’s top rebounder in 2017-18 at a shade under seven per game. “There’s always a real talented scoring guard on any team we face,” Marquardt said. “Curtis gets those assignments and most of the time he can cut 10 points off. He’s a good decision-maker and brings a lot of energy.”
Senior Mike Torre stepped up as a consistent No. 3 scorer behind Corbett and Jenkins, averaging 13.2 points from a forward spot. Torre scored 16 in a 92-88 season-opening defeat to St. Michaels. “He’s a stop and pop shooter with nice range to 15 feet,” Marquardt said. “He has a great work ethic.”
With freshman point guard Frank Phelan, a Floral Park grad, sidelined with a hamstring injury, Marquardt has employed junior Josh Dennis, a former Valley Stream North standout, as a point-forward to utilize his handle and dribbling ability. The 6-foot-4 Dennis is one of the team’s better defenders, runs the floor and attacks the rim. Dennis averaged 7.1 points and 5.0 rebounds a season ago.
At center, 6-5 freshman Billy Muller has made his presence felt in the early going and posted a double-double (16 points, 12 boards) in the victory over Concordia. “He has great footwork and hands,” Marquardt said. “He’s showing he can handle things physically.”
Seniors Chris O’Reilly and Derrick Okunpolor as well as sophomore Steven Torre have provided quality minutes and will be counted on to do so throughout the season. O’Reilly has chipped in six points per game.
“We’re going to use our depth to our advantage,” Marquardt said.
Molloy was picked fourth in the ECC preseason poll behind Daemen, Bridgeport and St. Thomas Aquinas. Bridgeport knocked off the Lions three times last season, including in the tournament semifinals.
Molloy opens conference play Dec. 5 at LIU Post in a rematch of last year’s tourney opener won by the Lions, 71-66, behind Mike Torre’s 20 points and 16 apiece from Corbett and Jenkins. Additional conference rivals include New York Tech, Mercy, Roberts Wesleyan, District of Columbia, and Queens.