The men’s basketball season came to a close last Saturday as the Knights hung up their jerseys after a 99-82 victory over Mercy College, ending the season on a high note. Finishing 8-20 overall with a 5-11 conference record, the Knights placed seventh in the ECC, missing the playoffs. While the Preseason Coaches Poll predicted the Knights to finish seventh, those within Fitzgerald Gym felt they had more than enough to be a contender in the conference.
For a short period, it appeared as if that belief would hold true, but then the infamous injury bug infected the locker room. Last year’s Most Valuable Player, point guard Dion Herrington, played only ten games this season. Guard Sunnie Diamond, more on him later, alongside guard William Ellis, the premiere two-way guard the past two seasons, missed roughly 10 games apiece. That doesn’t even mention injuries to additional players. For what it’s worth, the Knights were by far the most competitive team of the three to not make the playoffs. They had only four conference losses by double digits in comparison to SEVEN from D’Youville University and 10 from Mercy, and were the third best defense in the ECC going by opponent points per game, giving up 73.7 points per game. The only teams ranked higher than them were Daemen University and St. Thomas Aquinas College; the top two seeds in the conference.
Diamond, an Atlanta, Georgia implant, often looked like the best player for the Knights on the court this year as he did it all on the court. He finished with season averages of 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game and led the team in total steals (35). He was the third-highest scorer in the conference this season by average, and was named to the ECC Weekly Honor Roll sheet six out of the seven weeks he was eligible for. Also nabbing ECC Weekly Honor Rolls were Herrington, Ellis, and forward Jayden Seraphin, a high-flying player from Malverne High School who never stops talking on the court.
However, only one Knight was able to consistently earn any Player of the Week distinction: center Tyler Carey. He had a conference-high three Defensive Player of the Week selections this season, alongside a Player of the Week Honorable Mention from the prestigious Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association. Carey finished first in the conference in total rebounds (257) and blocks (78) all while averaging almost 11 points per game; the second highest mark on the team. The Brentwood High School product appeared in all 28 games, finishing third in the entire country in total blocks in the regular season and first on the team in total points. In only two seasons in a Knights uniform, Carey cemented himself as the all-time leading shot blocker, while also holding the top two individual season performances in that category, and the fourth highest rebounding season in program history. This fantastic season from Carey puts him firmly in the running for ECC Defensive Player of the Year; awards come out this Friday.
While Carey and Ellis are graduating, Head Coach Matthew Collier could retain the rest of the roster, which is due for a resurgence next year if they stay together. Aside from Diamond, Herrington, and Seraphin, Coach Collier has other players primed to take the next step.
Point guard Shamar Chester, finished third in total points and first in assists — really stepping up when Herrington went down to injury. Tyron Wright was the team’s leading three-point shooter and energetic motor all season long. Center Malik Bentinck averaged around 13 points and nine rebounds in games where he played 19 or more minutes, but provided great backup minutes behind Carey. True freshman Eric Tynes shot nearly 40 percent from three-point range, causing defenses to adjust to his range. Elijah Blackman provided a little bit of everything when on the court, defining the old saying ‘jack of all trades.’ Javier Conteras displayed his wizardly passing and deep range when called upon later in the season. Both Caudy Desmornes and Walter DeFreitas were always ready for when their numbers were called, giving the Knights both intensity and length on defense.