Basketball Teams Gearing up for Start of Season

Sam Thomas-

Coach Bob McKillop heads into his 29th season at the bench for the Wildcats
Photo by Jane Campbell

The temperature is dropping. The leaves are changing. Midterms are solidly in the rearview. Sweaters and pants have been donned. The energy in the air means that, once again, basketball season has finally settled upon us.

The Davidson men come back from an up and down season last winter, returning four of last year’s five starters as Coach Bob McKillop enters his 29th season. Everyone remembers the magical run the ‘Cats made in last year’s Atlantic 10 tournament that was eerily reminiscent of the 2008 NCAA tournament, upsetting nationally ranked Dayton. However, the team was disappointed with the way it played in during the regular season conference schedule, where it finished just below .500 in A-10 play following multiple nail-biting finishes. This year, the team enters the season ranked sixth in the A-10 preseason polls with prospects of finishing even higher than last year’s fourth place finish in the A-10 tournament.

Senior Peyton Aldridge looks to lead the ‘Cats towards another year of success. He was the first selection to the preseason Atlantic 10 All-Conference team. Furthermore, he was placed on Sports Illustrated’s list of projected top scorers in the NCAA. Aldridge was a large part of the offense last year as he posted 20.5 points per game in his junior year. His production will be even more critical this season as the team looks to fill the void left with the graduation of Jack Gibbs.

Aldridge will have support in this task, however, in large part due to the addition of one of the most talented and deepest freshmen classes in recent memory, perhaps in program history. The ‘Cats freshman class includes Carter Collins, Bates Jones, Kellan Grady, and Luke Frampton. Collins, a guard hailing from Chapel Hill, NC, led the ‘Cats in scoring with 15 points in the team’s Red/Black opener while Grady, a guard from Boston, MA, was placed on Jon Rothstein’s list of top 20 freshmen under the radar in the NCAA.

Other highlights from the game included sophomore KiShawn Pritchett, who also scored 15 points, and Dusan Kovacevic, who led the team with 7 rebounds – a position to watch this season with the graduation of Andrew McAuliffe.

Key matchups to watch as the season gets underway are against Nevada, UNC, Virginia, New Mexico State, along with a slate of important opponents during the conference schedule. The ‘Cats November 21st matchup against Nevada is important in terms of building a strong NCAA Tournament resume seeing as the Wolf Pack is currently ranked first in the Mountain West conference. Stealing wins against UNC, UVA, or New Mexico State would have similarly positive effects for Davidson’s hopes at once again making things interesting in March Madness.

On the women’s side, Davidson similarly returns four of five starters, but, following some offseason turnover, the ‘Cats welcome Coach Gayle Coats Fulks as she embarks on her first season with the team. Coach Coats Fulks joins the team after spending five seasons as an assistant coach at Wake Forest. Referring to her new coach, senior Mackenzie Latt said, “Coach Gayle has brought a real change in energy and intensity to our team this year. Everything we do has an element of competition to it, from our lifts in the weight room to our on-court workouts, and us players are really responding to that.”

In addition to Latt, the ‘Cats return junior Justine Lyon. Lyon, who was named the Atlantic 10’s most improved player a season ago, was selected to this year’s preseason All-Conference team. This comes after last year’s breakout season where she averaged 15.7 points per contest, including clutch performances towards the end of the season against UMass, URI, and Fordham. Furthermore, the ‘Cats welcome incoming freshmen Katie Turner, Kelly Fitzgerald, Sarah Donovan, Sae Abdul-Aziz, and Alana Davidson, who all look to add to the team’s depth and energy. In particular, Donovan, who was a multiple-time medal winner at FIBA Americas for Canada, and Abdul-Aziz, a McDonald’s All-American nominee, look to have an immediate impact for the ‘Cats.

Coming off of a disappointing finish to last season with loads of untapped potential, the ‘Cats are excited to get the ball rolling this year. “As a team, we’re looking to put more W’s up on the board. With the talent we have and the new system we are running, I think opposing teams are not going to know how to handle us, offensively or defensively,” said Latt, “Individually, I really just want to get the most out of every time I step foot on the floor. Even as a senior, I’m constantly being pushed as a player and a leader every day, so my goals for my last season are to learn and grow.”

Latt is coming off a season where she posted strong numbers of 13.7 points and 7.4 boards a game. She also became the 19th player in program history to score 1000 points in her career.

Some key matchups for the ‘Cats this year are when they square up against NC State and University of Central Florida. NC State is the preseason ranked 8th team in the ACC and UCF is currently ranked 4th in the American conference. They match up against these teams on November 12th and December 28th respectively before they open up their conference schedule against George Mason on December 31st.

Both the men’s and women’s side have high expectations and the talent to meet them. Davidson basketball is back and Wildcat fans should be excited to embrace its arrival.

The Cats next compete against George Mason on  Oct. 20-21st in Richmond, VA. Their next home contest will be against Georgetown on Oct. 28th.