Fairfield men’s basketball: Nelson face of new-look Stags
FAIRFIELD — There are three things that Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson knows without a shadow of a doubt.
One, he’s got the best player in the MAAC in senior guard Tyler Nelson. Two, he’s got depth and experience at point guard. And three, his frontcourt is going to be very competitive.
“Those three things I know,” Johnson said. “Are we at where we need to be team-wise with all the other stuff? Not just yet, it’s early. We’re going to need time to get on the same page.”
As the Stags look to put together a third straight winning season and a third straight trip to postseason play, the challenge continues to be how to incorporate seven freshmen and three sophomores into the lineup and make sure everyone understands their roles.
According to Johnson, the transition — so far — hasn’t been that difficult.
“It’s striking how well its gone,” Johnson said. “We’re not a finished product, but I’ve been struck with how well it’s come together. We had Italy, we’ve had a full fall here. The guys kind of know what we’re doing, sharing the ball, taking the right shots so I’ve been really pleased.”
Last season, Fairfield finished 16-15, falling to University of Baltimore-Maryland in the opening round of the CollegeInsider tournament. The Stags averaged 72.6 points a game but allowed 73.5. Defensively, things have to get better.
“We want to get up and down the floor and score, no question, but we want to play hard on defense,” Johnson said. “We have to be on the right page defensively and it’s still a work on progress.”
Another work in progress will be how to get Nelson open looks when defenses will likely be double-teaming him from the opening tip.
“The coaches identified him as the best player in the league in the preseason and I think he is that,” Johnson said. “He’s got a great ability to score and get other guys involved. He’s going to face everyone’s best defense, but when you have a second guy, a third guy, a fourth guy, all the weight won’t be on him.”
The question is, who will be Fairfield’s second, third and fourth (scoring option) guy? Stay tuned.
2017-18 FAIRFIELD STAGS
Conference — Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
2016-17 Record — 16-15 (11-9 MAAC, fifth)
Postseason — CollegeInsider Tournament (lost to University-Baltimore Maryland 88-83)
Coach — Sydney Johnson (seventh season, 90-108)
First game — Saturday, 1 p.m., vs. Penn at Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport,
Predictions — Fairfield was selected to finish fourth in MAAC preseason poll, Senior guard Tyler Nelson chosen as preseason MAAC Player of the Year
Starters — In the two exhibition games, Johnson started junior Jonathan Kasibabu and junior Matija Milin at the forwards and Nelson and senior Jerome Segura at the guards. Against Hofstra, he started freshman Jesus Cruz and against Bridgeport he started sophomore Ferron Flavors Jr., who responded with 16 points against the Purple Knights.
Roster — 0-Oliver Cadieux, Soph., G/F, 6-4 205 (Montreal, Canada); 1-Jerome Segura, Sr., G, 5-11, 175 (Houston, Texas); 2-Taj Benning, Fr., G, 6-3, 185 (Fair Lawn, N.J.); 3-Tyler Nelson, Sr. G, 6-3, 180 (Bradford, Mass.); 4-Jared Harper, Sr., G, 6-1, 180 (Beverly Hills, Calif.); 5-Aidas Kavaliauskas, Soph., G, 6-1, 175 (Kaunas, Lithuania); 10-Thomas Nolan, Jr., G, 6-3, 195 (Trumbull, CT); 11-Alonde Legrand, Fr., G, 6-6, 185 (Harlem, N.Y.); 12-Kevin Senghore-Peterson, Fr., F, 6-6, 220 (Prolunda, Sweden); 13-Jonathan Kasibabu, Jr., F, 6-8, 240 (Kinshasa, Rep. of Congo); 14-Matija Milin, Jr. F, 6-9, 215 (Belgrade, Serbia); 15-Wassef Methnani, Fr., F, 6-8, 208 (Kairrouan, Tunisia); 23-Ferron Flavors Jr., Soph., G, 6-4, 180 (Federal Way, Wash.); 24-Jesus Cruz, Fr., G, 6-5, 210 (Puerto Rico); 30-Omar El-Sheikh, Fr., F, 6-7, 195 (Cairo, Egypt); 35-Aziz Sultan Essa, Fr., F, 6-9, 250 (Abu Al Hasany, Kuwait)
Skinny — The Stags are seeking their third straight winning season and a third straight trip to the postseason, but to do so, Johnson is going to have to find a way to incorporate seven freshmen and three sophomores into the rotation to provide depth and quality minutes. There is some serious talent In Nelson, the MAAC preseason POY along with Kasibabu, Milin and Segura, but the new kids are going to have to grow up quickly.
Quote - “I like this team a lot. I think we’ve gotten more versatile and we’ve gotten tougher. There’s some grit there.” — Johnson