Last season was a special one for Molloy College’s men’s basketball program.
The Lions, who struggled to a 9-21 mark in the 2017-18 campaign, enjoyed a major turnaround capped by their first-ever East Coast Conference Tournament title. The postseason run including one-point victories over the District of Columbia and St. Thomas Aquinas, and a thrilling 90-86 overtime win over Bridgeport in the championship game.
“We played solid basketball throughout the whole season and had outstanding leadership,” said head coach Charlie Marquardt, who guided the Lions to a 21-10 finish. “It’s a six-month process and you have to be consistent across the board,” he said. “There are no easy nights in the ECC, that’s for sure. The Region just keeps getting better.”
Marquardt purposely built a difficult non-conference schedule to get the Lions prepared for the conference grind. “It’s my philosophy you have to play quality opponents as much as you can,” he said. “We want to play fast like we always do and that starts with defense. You can’t run if you’re taking the ball out of the net.”
Senior guard Nick Corbett, a two-time All-ECC First Team selection who reached the 1,000-point plateau early last season, is back to lead Molloy’s hopes to repeat. He averaged better than 18 points per game as a junior and hit for 20-plus on 14 occasions. “Nick had five game-winning baskets last season and he’s really a tremendous scorer,” Marquardt said of Corbett, a career 82-percent free throw shooter who entered the campaign needing 413 points to reach the 2,000 mark. “He’s a highly skilled guard who plays well in big moments,” Marquardt added.
Through four games, Corbett showed no signs of slowing down despite being the focal point of opponents. He’s averaging 24.8 points per game and led four in double figures in the Lions’ first win of 2019-20, 89-77 over Concordia on Nov. 20.
Senior Josh Dennis, a fourth-year starter after graduating from Valley Stream North High School, has developed into a sound point guard, Marquardt said. “We moved Josh onto the ball a few years ago and we like having size [6-foot-6] at the point,” he said. “He’s playing well and if we can get somewhere between 14 and 18 points from him, that’s going to be a big help.”
According to Marquardt, the writing was on the wall for sophomore Pano Pavlidis to make a huge leap after seeing limited court time a season ago. The 6-8 forward averaged 27 minutes over the first four games, shot 53 percent from the floor and nearly posted a double-double on average at 10.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. “I knew it was going to happen,” Marquardt said of Pavlidis’ emergence.
Junior center Justin Caldwell, a product of Baldwin, is 6-7 and a returning starter who chipped in 5.5 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. “He’s one of our better defenders and is a physical presence in the paint,” Marquardt noted.
True freshman James Montgomery, who helped lead Lynbrook to the Nassau Class A finals last winter, has started each of the last three games and also brings good size [6-6] and the ability to run the floor. “He’s been nothing but a positive addition,” Marquardt said. “He works hard and plays with energy. Whether he starts and plays 15 minutes or comes off the bench and plays 20, he’s going to be a part of this.”
Marquardt believes the Lions can go 10 or 11 deep and have a deeper bench than last season. That was evident in the early going with five non-starters all averaging at least 11 minutes per game.
Junior Steven Torre is a well-rounded guard who’s playing 20 minutes, while seniors Nolan Kelly and Arthur Scott, and sophomore Frankie Phelan are additional keys to the backcourt. William Mueller is another hard-nosed forward who can rebound, and fellow sophomore Colin Brady brings size and quickness off the bench. Former Lawrence Woodmere Academy standout Kendall Ogilvie transferred from LIU Post and should be ready to contribute soon, Marquardt said.
“Everyone’s working to get better in bigger roles,” Marquardt said. “We know with our schedule we can’t really have any dry spells if we want to be successful.”