HoopCats ready to step up to the challenge

UVM men’s hoop team excited to embrace the challenge of life after Anthony Lamb
Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 9:03 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The UVM men’s basketball team is set to open its season this Monday and Tuesday night with a pair of games at UMass-Lowell.

Those games will make the official start of the post-Anthony Lamb era for the HoopCats. Lamb, the two-time America East player of the year, is one of the most accomplished players in program history, but one of the keys to Vermont’s two decade run of success, just one losing season since 2002 and a current run 12 straight years with at least 20 wins, has been the ability of it’s next generation of players to step up when their number is called. And this year’s group knows that expectation is no different for them.

“I think there’s always pressure, especially with a program that we have.”, says senior captain Benny Shungu. “There’s always going to be pressure on us and so I think the coaches have done a good job with us playing, playing games during the week and practices, doing live segments. I think overall we’ll be ready when the time comes.”

“It just means everyone’s gonna have to be ready.”, says senior captain Bailey Patella. “Everyone’s gonna have to be ready to play. Everybody on the team is important and we’re gonna need everybody, night in, night out, to win.”

On paper, this has the potential to be one of the deeper UVM rosters in recent years. Senior guards Stef Smith, a first-team all-conference pick, and Shungu, the reigning defensive player of the year, will form the core, along with senior forward Patella, junior guard Robin Duncan and junior forwards Ryan Davis and Isaiah Powell. All of them stepped into expanded roles last year and will be counted on to do even more this season.

Sophomore guard Aaron Delony will be a rotation regular, as will a trio of transfers: senior guard Justin Mazzulla, who transferred mid-season last year from George Washington, junior forward Duncan Demuth, who came to UVM last year from Oklahoma State and Tomas Murphy, a 6-8 grad transfer from Northeastern. Head coach John Becker knows it make take some time for the parts to fit together. He likes his team’s potential, but knows there’s work to be done.

“I think with this team, I think we do have legitimate depth and guys that have proven it already.”, says Becker.

“So I think having a veteran team is certainly an advantage. What are the big unknowns with our team, it’s just a lot of veteran guys stepping up into more prominent rules, important roles. The best players on our team this year have proven it here already, but now the responsibility of being the best players on the team means you have to be there night in, night out. So now we’ll see how that production translates to the games. We’ve been able to do that since I’ve been head coach, passing it off from one group to the next. I have all the confidence in the world that these guys are gonna have great years and lead us.”

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