July 19, 2006

2006-2007 Brown Basketball Preview

July 19, 2006

Providence, RI - The Craig Robinson era begins at Brown with the Bears transitioning to a new head coach, a new offense, and a new defensive philosophy.

Robinson, a former two-time Ivy League Player of the Year while at Princeton, and former assistant coach at Northwestern, has taken over the head coaching reigns at Brown and will look to build on a strong nucleus of returning players and mold his new squad into a contender for the Ivy title. He inherits a team that posted a 10-17 overall record last season, 6-8 in the Ivy League (fifth), and returns a starting five who started each of Brown's last 15 games.

"I'm looking forward to introducing the Brown offense," said Robinson. "My goal is to build a program that can consistently compete for the Ivy title. I want to make Brown a place where student-athletes want to come and compete."

Headlining the returning players in the front court is second team All-Ivy junior forward Keenan Jeppesen, who was the Ivy League's second leading scorer in league games with 16.1 points per game. He scored in double figures in 13 of the 14 Ivy League games, including a career high 25 points against Dartmouth and Columbia. Jeppesen scored 20 or more points five times and registered his first career double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds against Cornell.

Jeppesen's 51 steals ranked second in the league overall, while his 15 blocked shots were tenth in the league. The 6-6 Jeppesen was at his best in Ivy League games, averaging 6.1 rebounds per game, seventh best in the league, and 2.43 steals per game, second in the league. Showing great anticipation, Jeppesen registered a career high six steals against Dartmouth and had five steals against both Yale and Princeton.

Brown's front court is also buoyed by the return of junior center Mark MacDonald, and two players coming off solid freshman campaigns, sophomore forward Scott Friske, a three-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, and sophomore forward Chris Skrelja, who also earned Ivy Rookie of the Week honors.

The 6-9 MacDonald could be a big beneficiary of Brown's new offense, with excellent passing ability and a solid shooting touch from behind the three-point arc. He averaged 7.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in a starting role last year, scoring in double figures eight times, including a season high 18 points vs. Cornell. MacDonald, who ranked fourth in the Ivy League with 23 blocked shots, also grabbed a season high 11 rebounds against Dartmouth.

Friske started 21 games for the Bears and grew into a major force in the paint, averaging 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He scored a career high 26 points against Quinnipiac, while adding 10 rebounds, and had 19 points and 10 rebounds against Canisius. Friske, who also developed a solid outside game as the season progressed, scored a 24 points against Army, including the game-winning basket at the buzzer.

Skrelja had a breakthrough game in a win over Harvard, exploding for a career high 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the field, while pulling down a season high 10 rebounds. He shot 60 percent from the field (18 of 33) in Brown's last six games of the season.

Also returning to the Bears' front court is senior forward Sam Manhanga, senior forward Nathan Eads, and sophomore forward Aaron Jimenez. The 6-6 Manhanga, a strong presence in the paint, missed the last month of the season due to injury. He tossed in a season high 18 points against Holy Cross. The 6-8 Eads is an extremely physical presence for the Bears, who netted a career high 12 points against Columbia last season. Jimenez, a 6-7 forward with excellent athletic ability, missed the majority of last season due to injury. He scored six points in 12 minutes of play against Albany.

Brown's starting backcourt returns intact, with the return of senior point guard Marcus Becker and junior two-guard Damon Huffman.

An athletic presence on the court, Becker ranked eighth in the Ivy League in assists and ninth in steals. He averaged 6.8 points per game and scored a career high 20 points against Navy on 8 of 13 shooting from the field. His three-point buzzer-beater sent the Bears into overtime against Penn.

Huffman, a former Ivy League Rookie of the Year, scored in double figures 16 times last season, averaging 10.8 points per game. He ranked fifth in the Ivy League in free throw percentage, connecting on 69 of 85 shots (.812) from the charity stripe. Huffman, whose 41 treys led the Bears, scored a career high 23 points against Columbia, converting 11 of 12 free throws.

Junior Mark McAndrew will also compete at the shooting guard position after playing 24 games a year ago, missing three games due to injury. Known as a three-point shooter, McAndrew scored a season high 11 points against Harvard.

Joining the Bears are five talented freshmen, who could have an immediate impact on the Brown program. J.J. Anderson is a 6-5 wing player and All-Conference selection, who averaged 17 points as a senior at Torrey Pines (CA) High School. Colin Aldridge, a 6-6 forward, netted 14.2 points and 8 rebounds a game as a senior at the Peddie School (NJ). Steve Gruber is a three-time All-Conference point guard, and was ranked one of the Top 350 seniors in the country. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.3 assists per game as a senior at Whitefish Bay (WI) High School, scoring 1,200 career points and handing out 650 career assists. Matt Jones, a 6-5 wing player from St. Ignatius Prep (CA), was rated among the Top 100 players in the West. He tossed in 14 points and grabbed 7 rebounds a game as a junior. Matt Mullery, a 6-8 forward, is a first team All-State selection from St. John Vianney (NJ) High School, who averaged 22.3 points and 8.9 rebounds a game as a senior, finishing his career with 1,522 career points.