Victor Taylor ’24 (He/Him), Staff Writer
As the leaves change and the temperature gets cooler in Davidson, that can only mean one thing: basketball season is near. With the team’s exhibition game coming Wednesday, November 3rd, and the first official contest being played Tuesday, November 9th, the men’s basketball team is ready to kick off the season. The team is predicted to finish 6th in the Atlantic 10 by media members, and Ken Pomeroy has ranked the squad at 91st in the country using his statistical analysis system. These rankings seem to indicate that the general public believes Davidson to be a pretty good team, but not one that will make the tournament as an at-large team. However, the team has a lot of upside, and it would not be a surprise to see this group make the top four in the Atlantic-10 once again.
The team kicked off their season on Saturday, with the annual Red/Black scrimmage; the first time the team has played in front of a sizable amount of fans in over a year and a half. The Black team took home the win in open play, 37-19, and a lot of questions about the team were answered. With Kellan Grady ‘21, Carter Collins ‘21, and Bates Jones ‘21 having graduated, many wondered how the ‘Cats will replace the trio’s leadership and scoring ability. Enter Hyunjung Lee ‘23 and Luka Brajkovic ‘22. The two are the top returning scorers last year, and both have put in the work to advance their games even further this summer. “I’ve gotten stronger both physically and mentally,” said Lee. “If I make a bad play or miss a shot my mentality is just to focus on the next play no matter what.”
Brajkovic was not able to suit up for the Red/Black game, but Lee, along with Sam Mennenga ‘23, led scorers with 12 points a piece for the Black team on Saturday. Lee showed that he was not just an outside threat as many people have painted him to be, putting the ball on the floor and getting to his spots, both inside and outside the arc. Another standout was Foster Loyer ‘23, the Michigan State transfer who led the Red team with 7 points, but also shined in the second session where the teams went through different end of half and game scenarios. Loyer said that “it was great to finally put on the Davidson uniform,” and that he was “excited to keep building up towards the regular season next week.”
Another question coming into the year was what the four member freshman class would bring to the table for Davidson. Des Watson ‘25, Styrmir Thrastarson ‘25 and Chris Ford ‘25 all logged extensive minutes during the scrimmage and looked good against their teammates, even if some typical freshman mistakes were mixed in. Thrastarson, from Iceland, said in regards to the transition from European basketball to the college experience, that he “struggled a little bit in the beginning with the pace, which is much quicker here than in Iceland,” but that he’s settled in and doing much better now. Watson and Ford both showed their talent, Watson with a few difficult pull-up jumpers and Ford with some determined play at the forward spot despite his relatively short stature compared to his matchups, Nelson Boachie-Yiadom ‘22 and David Kristensen ‘23. The ‘Cats should feel confident in their ability to go deep in the rotation with the way the newcomers are playing.
Not only are the players excited, but the coaching staff is too. Associate Head Coach Matt McKillop ‘06 has a really good feeling about this team. “It’s exciting cause we have a lot of pieces and a lot of versatility, our newcomers give us new things that we don’t have from our returners, but we have the experience and leadership that our returners give us,” said McKillop. As for someone he thinks deserves a little more buzz than he has gotten? “Mike Jones. Toughness, intelligence on the court allow him to compete at the highest level. Exceptional cutter.”
There are still questions about this team that will need to be answered during the regular season, but the outlook regarding Davidson Men’s Basketball should be bright. If Lee and Brajkovic make their next steps concrete on the court and the additions of Loyer, Watson, Ford and Thrastarson make an impact, the ‘Cats will be in the mix for a tournament appearance with their deadly outside shooting and an offense that Coach Bob McKillop has developed to be both unique and effective.