Despite losing its all-time leading scorer, Molloy College’s men’s basketball program is aiming to rebound from a 12-17 season, including a 7-9 mark against East Coast Conference foes.
The Lions, who captured their first-ever ECC Tournament title in the 2018-19 campaign, aren’t playing any non-conference games this season due to Covid-19 and won’t be in action until traveling to upstate Rochester to face Roberts Wesleyan College in the Jan. 9 opener.
“We began working on conditioning around the same time as we usually do and then got into individual skill work and socially distant team-based offense and defense drills,” head coach Charlie Marquardt said. “We have that mandatory week off around the holidays and when we start back up Dec. 28, we’ll have 10 days to get ready for the opener.”
Barring any changes, the 18-game ECC schedule and postseason tournament will be played without fans. “I’m expecting games to have the feel of a scrimmage,” Marquardt said. “We will have to generate our own energy. It’ll be intriguing.”
The Lions will also need to turn the page on the Nick Corbett era. A three-time All-ECC First Team selection, he averaged 23.7 points per game and finished his career at Molloy with 2,032 points, 379 rebounds and 385 assists and 153 steals. “Not only was Nick our all-time leading scorer, which is an amazing feat considering some of the players we’ve had, but he also had the uncanny ability to step up late in games,” Marquardt said. “Who’ll be getting the ball in crunch time this season will be by committee,”
Molloy returns four players who made at least 14 starts a season ago, including former Baldwin High School product Justin Caldwell, a redshirt senior big man, and former Lynbrook High School standout James Montgomery, a sophomore who like Caldwell is 6-foot-7.
Calldwell, who averaged a little more than 5 points and 5 rebounds per game last season while making 22 starts, knows what it takes to get the job done inside, Marquardt said, and will be counted on to provide leadership as well.
Montgomery started 19 games and led the Lions in field goal percentage (55.7) on the way to chipping in 6.3 points per game. “James improved as the season went on and made steady contributions as a freshman,” Marquardt said. “He got bigger and stronger during the offseason and he can attack the rim as well as post up.”
Pano Pavlidis, a 6-8 sophomore, emerged last winter and Marquardt is expecting even more with 17 starts under his belt. Pavlidis led the team in rebounding (6.8 per game) and scored at a 6.7 ppg clip.
Though experienced in the frontcourt, Marquardt also likes his collection of guards and believes it’ll take strong backcourt play for Molloy to be competitive against the likes of Daemen, Bridgeport and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Spearheading a deep group of guards is Steven Torre, one of few seniors on the roster. He’s the Lions’ top returning scorer (10.4 ppg) and made 14 starts. Marquardt said the plan is for Torre to be off the ball more and make up for some of the offense lost by Corbett’s departure.
Junior guard Frankie Phelan is a breakout candidate following a determined offseason. Another quality option to run the point is Kenny Lazo, a freshman out of Brentwood High School who won two Long Island championships and earned All-State honors. Marquardt describes Lazo as a born leader and tenacious defender.
Former Lawrence Woodmere Academy standout Kendall Ogilvie, a junior, transferred from LIU Post prior to last season but didn’t play. He’s in the mix along with a pair of freshmen — former Freeport High School’s Darren Fergus and Mick Browne from Queens.
“We like our guards,” Marquardt said. “We have some experience, some guys with bigger roles and some talented newcomers.”