A preseason trip to North Carolina that included a couple of scrimmages and a practice session at Duke University’s famous Cameron Indoor Stadium provided Molloy’s men’s basketball team with an opportunity to bond on and off the court.
So far, there’s no been shortage of positives for the Lions. They won for the fifth time in as many home games Dec. 12, beating American International, 67-47, behind 17 points apiece from captains Jimmy Nolan and John Petrucelli.
“We’ve got a pretty good rotation going, and we’ve played well,” Molloy head coach Charles Marquardt said. “We’re on a roll at home. We’ve had good crowds, and it’s been fun.”
The Lions (5-3 overall, 1-1 East Coast Conference) shot 27 of 59 (45.8 percent) from the field while the visitors struggled to the tune of 16 of 52 (30.8 percent.) Petrucelli, a junior forward off to a hot start, added five assists, three rebounds and three blocks, and freshman point guard Brandon Williams, out of Baldwin High School, added 11 points.
Marquardt said he’s encouraged by the team’s start as well as its potential following last season’s injury plagued 8-19 campaign. “I want to see us stay healthy,” he said. “Injuries really hurt last year.”
Of the keys for the Lions is junior 7-foot center Tyler Hammett, who has been slowed by injuries in the past. Hammett started each of the first eight games and contributed averages of 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 points and 1.2 blocks. “He’s playing aggressively and is a major paint presence,” Marquardt said. “He can score inside and take pressure off the guards.”
Nolan, a senior, has moved to shooting guard and running the point much of last season. He averaged 12.4 points over the first eight games and led the Lions in three-pointers (17) and free-throw percentage at 81.8 (18 of 22.) “Jimmy’s such a good shooter, and we want to take advantage of it,” Marquardt said. “He and John set the tone for us in practice.”
Petrucelli, one of the ECC’s leading rebounders a year ago, has been “as active as ever,” Marquardt said, on the boards and the offense as a whole. He’s poured in 15.8 points, ripped down 6.1 rebounds, and dished out 4.0 assists per game so far, leading Molloy in all three categories.
Sophomore Miles Prendergast has started every game at power forward and brings a solid skill set and athleticism to the floor. He’s one of a number of newcomers to be making an impact.
Williams, a tenacious defender and tremendous ball-handler, controls the tempo for the Lions. He’s chipped in more than eight points per game and hit for a career-high 18 in a big 70-67 victory over ECC rival St. Thomas Aquinas on Dec. 8. “He’s a great leader and a great kid,” Marquardt said.
Both Williams and freshman swingman Kevin Bowles have earned ECC Rookie of the Week honors already, and last season’s runner-up for ECC Rookie of the Year, sophomore guard Matt McLeod, has had a hot hand off the bench averaging 11 points on 48.3 percent (29 of 60) shooting.
Finishing in the top six in the ECC and qualifying for the conference tournament, Marquardt said, is one of the Lions’ goals. “I think we’ve settled in pretty nicely so far,” he noted.