2011-12 Men's Basketball Preview
LANCASTER, Pa. -- Expectations are high in Lancaster for the men's basketball team. They always are. F&M won its 17th conference championship last season and are picked to win it again this season by the coaches and athletic communication directors in the conference preseason poll. The Diplomats are ranked second in the DIII News Preseason Poll, seventh in The Sporting News Preseason Top-10 and 17th in the D3Hoops.com Preseason Top-25.
The Diplomats return 13 of 16 players from the 2010-11 roster, including 3 starters, as they look to be the first school ever to win three CC crowns in-a-row. F&M posted a 23-6 record last season, won its second consecutive Centennial Conference title, third consecutive regular season crown, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd time in school history.
The driving force over the last three years has been the play of Georgio Milligan. Since arriving in Lancaster, the senior floor general has led his team to a 75-18 record, with three NCAA appearances and two CC titles.
His performance has not gone unnoticed as he has amassed a trophy collection commiserate with his play. Milligan was named preseason Player of the Year and earned preseason All-America First Team honors by DIII News. The senior also landed on two preseason All-America Second Teams, by D3Hoops.com and the The Sporting News. That was just this preseason.
Milligan was named a First Team All-American by the NABC last season. He also garnered NABC All-Region First Team, Centennial Conference First Team and D3Hoops.com All-Region Second Team honors. Milligan was named the Centennial Conference Player of the Year, NABC Mid-Atlantic Player of the Year and ECAC South Player of the Year at the end of last season.
But he can still improve on his game.
"Georgio is very talented and he will go down as one of the top-five players at this school," says coach Glenn Robinson. "But he can certainly improve as can everyone. He has shown signs this year of that, becoming a better shooter and improving his passing game."
Milligan led the team in scoring (17.2 ppg), assists (153) and steals (70) last season. He scored in double-figures on 25 occasions, including 10 games with 20 or more points. Milligan became only the fourth player in CC history to score 1,000 points and dish out 400 assists in a career. He also led the conference in assists (5.28 apg) and steals (2.41 spg).
He currently ranks 10th on F&M's all-time list with 1,346 points. Milligan is third in assists (478), fifth in both steals (216) and free throws made (366) and sixth in blocked shots with 103. Last season he became the 31st player at F&M to score 1,000 points. He will enter this year 450 points shy of the school's all-time scoring mark.
Joining Milligan in the backcourt for a second year is Brandon Beckford.
"Brandon has a lot of playing experience," Robinson notes. "He is an unselfish player and helps his teammates perform better."
Beckford was fourth on the team in scoring last year with 9.6 points per game. The junior averaged 3.5 rebounds while dishing 42 assists and 31 steals.
Three starting positions are open with the graduation of James McNally, Mike Baker and Steve Tolliver. McNally and Baker both scored over 1,000 career points and McNally became the all-time leading scorer in F&M history. Replacing the three departing seniors will not be easy, but reloading is how things are done in Lancaster.
"We have big shoes to fill," Robinson says. "Tolliver was a great defender, James always got his stats and Mike consistently improved to be a force in the paint. "
Filling one of the spots will be Hayk Gyokchyan, who started 11 games last season when McNally went down with an injury. Gyokchyan brings a European style of play to the forward position. The junior scored 8.3 points a game and collected 5.6 rebounds a contest a year ago.
Kevin Henry will start at the other forward position. Henry is healthy for the first time in two years and has shown his ability to be starter in the preseason.
The fifth spot is still up for grabs and a number of guys could start on any given night.
Brewer is the most experienced of the group, playing in all 29 games last year. He can play either the point or shooting guard and gives F&M the opportunity to rest Milligan without losing leadership on the floor.
McCormick and Porter both saw action in 11 games last year. With a full year under their belts, they can be valuable as a starter or coming off the bench.
Sophomores Ed Early and Jon Salandra will look to give Henry and Gyokchyan a break and both can score from anywhere inside the arc. David Balderston will also be a key reserve this year. Balderston brings a wealth of experience to the floor and will help guide the younger players.
The always competitive conference schedule, added with a difficult non-conference slate, will make meeting those high expectations a tough task. F&M will face Neumann, and possibly Kean or Oneonta State in the opening weekend. The Diplomats will also host No. 15 St. Mary's (Md.) on Nov. 26 this year.
Robinson will bring an 805-302 record into his 41st season. The most victorious coach in Division III history will be joined on the sidelines by Brain Murphy, Brandon Smith '06 and Dan Fahringer.
F&M kicks off the 2011-12 campaign when the Diplomats host the Lancaster Rotary Tournament. The first game is November 18th against visiting Neumann at 8:00 p.m.