2022-23 Men’s Basketball Team Season Preview: The Gritty Underdogs

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Principles. Core values. Beliefs. All three are synonyms that can be used to describe the ‘why’ — why do you operate in the manner that you do? For the Queens College men’s basketball team, they have a simple phrase they use to muster their troops after every huddle: hard earned. There is not a better phrase to use to describe their core values, and that shows when you truly watch the team.

Despite blowing the East Coast Conference preseason polls prediction out of the water last year, finishing as the fourth seed after being ranked the eighth best team going into the season, the Knights are once again being counted out. In this year’s ECC preseason polls, the Knights are slated as the seventh best team in the conference. For captain Jayden Seraphin, this low ranking is motivation to go out there and put on a show right from the first tip-off.

Jayden Seraphin looks to make a pass during practice.

“This year we have great pieces that we added on, so I can only see us going up. I’ve been playing with underdogs my whole life, and I honestly feel like we’re underdogs,” Seraphin stated. “Opening night we’re just planning to go out there and do what we do… show people this is what a seventh place team looks like.”

Not only did the Knights add a bunch of new players to the rotation, but they returned a large majority of the roster that finished fourth in the ECC last year. While they’ll certainly miss the versatility of Eddie Mehmetaj and inside presence of Evan Goldberg, the team debatably got better on paper, deeper at the least.

“We look more athletic as a unit. We’re getting up and down the court faster, we’re playing faster, [getting] more dunks, more blocks, things of that nature,” captain and returning MVP Dion Herrington said. “I feel like everyone’s improved and gotten better. We just look like a better basketball team this year.”

Sunnie Diamond shoots over Dion Herrington at practice.

The Knights reloaded with a bunch of talent that will make their Queens College debut tomorrow night. See the list below for a quick bio on all the new faces:

  • Freshman Eric Tynes (Springfield, Mass), Forward, 6’7″ 175 lbs: Tynes was a two-time All-Western Mass First Team at AP Springfield Renaissance of Science and Technology. He then played one year of post-grad for the Phillips Academy Andover Phoenix. Seraphin added that Tynes knows he has to ‘put the ball in the air’ this season.
  • Sophomore Sunnie Diamond (Atlanta, Georgia), Guard, 6’2″ Unlisted weight: Diamond was a star for the Central Georgia Tech Titans last season, recording about 15 points, seven rebounds, and two steals per game while shooting 45 percent from deep. Diamond made the GCAA All-Defensive Team while being named an All-Region Honorable Mention.
  • Sophomore Tyron Wright (Camby, Indiana), Forward, 6’6″ 185 lbs: Wright averaged around 17 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from three last year with the Franklin College Grizzlies.
  • Junior Jonathan Dean (Westbury, New York), Forward, 6’2″ 210 lbs: Dean averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game for Mohawk Valley Community College in 2019-20. Dean was a key cog for that Hawks team that made it all the way to the NJCAA National Championship game back in 2020.
  • Junior Gaetham Fils-Aime (Dix Hills, New York), Center, 6’8″ 195 lbs: Gaetham Fils-Aime put up around 11 points, six rebounds, and two blocks per game while being named a NJCAA All-Region XV Honorable Mention last year for the Suffolk County Community College Sharks.

While the newcomers don’t know what to expect from the ECC firsthand, the returners remember the tough competition the conference offers. Captain Tyler Carey spoke about this.

“Coming into last year, that was our first time together, so nobody knew what to expect coming into the ECC,” Carey said. “We had two returners, that’s it, so now after getting that far when nobody expected us to get that far and seeing what the competition is like, we’re coming in with more confidence than we did last year.”

Tyler Carey slams one down during a scrimmage at practice.

Last season, after the one prior was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Knights only had two returning players; the aforementioned Mehmetaj and Goldberg. This season, nine players are returning, not to mention Mehmetaj is now transitioning to a position on the coaching staff.

The backcourt duo of Herrington and senior William Ellis returns. Both have an in-your-face offensive playstyle while Ellis is an extreme disruptor on defense. Sophomore Shamar Chester is a true point guard that commands the second unit. The returning man in the middle, Carey, is a bruiser on both ends of the court that leverages his mobility and strength to get to where he needs to be. Junior Malik Bentinck has a similar tenacious playstyle as Carey and is a great piece off the bench for the Knights.

The main returner in the frontcourt is Seraphin, a high-flyer that brings intensity and leadership on both ends of the floor. He’s joined by sophomores Walter DeFreitas, Caudy Desmornes, and Elijah Blackman. The first two have dealt with injuries in recent memory, but all three come into this season looking to contribute to the ‘violent basketball’ head coach Matthew Collier seeks to play once again with an emphasis on tough defense.

Coaches huddle at practice. Pictured (from left to right): Cesar Osses, Reson White, Matthew Collier, Shomari Redd, and Eddie Mehmetaj.

When asked to describe the team with one word, Seraphin chose a word he believes embodies the principles and general attitude surrounding this team.

“Gritty. That’s because number one, everybody wants it. Everybody knows why we’re here. We don’t want to waste anybody’s time, we don’t want to waste our time. We put in a lot of work, and of course other teams do as well, but I feel like our type of work is just different,” he stated.

The Knights kick off the 2022-23 season at home tomorrow night against the Adelphi University Panthers at 6pm EST as part of the ECC-NE10 Challenge.

Editor’s Note: The Knights defeated Adelphi 79-72 Friday night.

Useful Information:

Holden Velasco

Sports Editor and Webmaster at The Knight News. Queens. Sports. Journalist. Nets and Patriots fanatic. Boxing enthusiast. SLAM. NetsDaily. Dateline: CUNY. New York Times Corps mentee.

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