UVM basketball programs host media day
Expectations high in Catamount Country
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After yet another conference championship on the men’s side and the best women’s season in more than a decade, both UVM basketball programs are getting set for the start of their regular seasons next week.
Tuesday was UVM basketball media day at Patrick, a chance to meet some of the new faces and catch up with the familiar ones.
Let’s start on the men’s side, where there are a TON of new faces. There are seven new players on the roster this year, and they needed the reinforcements, with the team’s top four scorers and eight players total gone from the 2021-22 team that captured another America East crown and came oh-so-close to knocking off Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament.
In comes last year’s Atlantic Sun Tournament MVP Dylan Penn along with a couple other transfers and a quartet of talented freshmen. The returning vets are also expected to step up and play bigger roles, specifically guys like Aaron Deloney, Nick Fiorillo, and Robin Duncan. The biggest challenge is in blending the new guys and the vets into one cohesive unit, but head coach John Becker is up to the task
“You know, the seven new guys bought in immediately when they got here this Summer, and as a coach, that’s a big deal that we don’t have to convince them we know what we’re doing,” Becker said. “They believe us and they have respect for the guys that have been here.”
“Yeah, we have obviously seven new guys,” said fifth year captain Robin Duncan. “But we also have seven guys returning along with Dylan Penn, who has experienced a lot of college basketball. All of us have kinda showed them the ropes of what winning looks like and what we wanna do here at Vermont.”
“You come to a winning program with a lot of guys that are competitive and really get after it every day, from a basketball perspective it’s meant a lot,” Penn said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here and I’m really excited to see what the season has to bring.”
Over on the women’s side, the Cats are entering a season with probably their highest expectations in more than a decade. Last Winter, Vermont posted its first 20 win season since the 2009-2010 campaign, and they made it to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2013.
Four of the five starters from last year are back, with Emma Utterback and Anna Olson expected to carry much of the load as preseason All-America East selections. Vermont is also breaking in five European freshmen so it’ll be interesting to see how they are integrated into the team.
For the Cats, the biggest questions are how well they can fill the void left by longtime lineup stalwart Josie Larkins’ graduation, and how much can this team build on last year’s success as they look to finally return to the top echelon of America East.
“This is the first time in a while this program is feeling that expectation,” said head coach Alisa Kresge. “So for a coaching staff, that’s something that we’re really trying to pay attention, how we use it as a motivational tool, but not let it get too big. Because at the end of the day, it’s basketball. Go play basketball.”
“I’ve really noticed the extra work that everyone’s putting in, and just like the pure heart and passion that everyone has to win,” Utterback added. “And they just love basketball, they love to be here and I think that’s really really special and it’s like building a really good culture here.”
The UVM men play their final exhibition game Wednesday against Middlebury before hosting Brown to open the regular season on Monday. The women will face St. Mike’s in an exhibition Friday before traveling to face #11 Indiana on Tuesday.
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