Oct. 16, 2008
Providence, RI - First year head coach Jesse Agel has plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the upcoming season, especially with his familiarity with the Brown squad. He'll couple that optimism with a great deal of hard work as the 2008-2009 men's basketball team holds its first official practice on Friday evening, October 17th, on the new floor at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
Agel, an assistant coach at Brown for the last two years, played an integral role in the success of last year's19-10 team that earned a berth in the College Basketball Invitational. Despite the loss of two first team All-Ivy players, Agel returns three starters, including second team All-Ivy guard/forward Chris Skrelja, and a slew of lettermen that contributed to Brown's record-setting season.
Agel, who is recognized as an outstanding tactician, is expected to take a portion of the motion offense Brown ran for the last two years, and combine it with his own experience to open up the offensive and defensive systems for the Bears.
"Our program just experienced the best year in its history, and now our immediate goal is to win more games, culminating in an Ivy League Championship," said Agel. "I'm excited to see how our players react to the opportunity to replace two All-Ivy guards."
If anyone can make an offense work, it's the 6-6 Skrelja, who ran the point for the Bears and also played at the three, four and five positions. With relentless motion and guile, Skrelja emerged as one of the top all-around players in the Ivy League, averaging 8.4 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, third best in the Ivy League, while dishing out over four assists per game, which ranked second in the Ivy League.
"Chris' improvement and contributions to the program have been enormous," commented Agel. "Now he will be asked to do more. His versatility and ability to do what it takes to help us win will put him on center stage."
Skrelja pulled off three double-doubles last year, but he often "Skreljaed" an opponent with some interesting numbers, nearly pulling off several triple-doubles. For instance, he "Skreljaed" Army with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and did the same against Harvard with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He launched a similar performance against Penn, scoring nine points, while adding eight assists and seven rebounds.
Skrelja also proved to be a prolific scorer on occasion, with an incredible 29-point performance against Hartford where he connected on 11 of 12 field goals and 7 of 8 free throws. He added 21 points in the Bears' win over Wagner.
Joining Skrelja in the backcourt is sophomore Adrian Williams, who was one of six Brown players to play in all 29 games, and was the Bears' first guard off the bench, averaging nearly 18 minutes per game. A defensive presence on the court, Williams can go to the hoop or step back and hit the three, knocking down 15 treys a year ago, while averaging 4.6 points per game. He scored in double figures three times, including a season high 13 points against Penn.
Junior point guard Steve Gruber is a playmaker and ball handler who saw action in 18 games a year ago, scoring a season high four points in Brown's win over Dartmouth. Sophomore shooting guard Garrett Leffelman saw action in 12 games for last year's squad, and tossed in a season best four points against Eastern Michigan. Sophomore Sean Kane also returns to the backcourt after competing in 13 games.
In the frontcourt, sophomore forward Peter Sullivan started Brown's last 18 games and enjoyed a sensational rookie campaign. A four-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, Sullivan averaged 8.8 points and 2.7 rebounds a game for the Bears. An excellent long-range shooter, Sullivan ranked second in the Ivy League in three-point field goal percentage (48 %) and seventh in the league in free-throw percentage (81%). Sullivan burst onto the scene with 19 points in Brown's win over Northwestern in Evanston, and scored in double figures 12 times, including 19 points against Columbia and 18 points against Harvard.
Senior forward Scott Friske is expected to play a major role in the success of this year's squad. Friske, who earned 15 starts for the Bears a year ago, came up big in Brown's win over Northwestern with 17 points and six rebounds, and was strong against Quinnipiac with 11 points and nine rebounds. He also scored eight points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out six assists vs. Harvard. Junior Colin Aldridge is an athletic and versatile forward who scored a season high four points against Dartmouth.
Sophomore forward Chris Taylor saw the most action of the first-year players a year ago, appearing in 21 games. He contributed to Brown's success down the stretch with six points against Penn and four points vs. Harvard.
The Bears look strong in the middle with the return of 6-8 junior center Matt Mullery, Brown' starter down the stretch last year, and 6-9 sophomore center Morgan Kelly. Mullery has a knack for blocking shots, leading the Ivy League with 1.4 blocks per game, including a career high four blocked shots vs. Quinnipiac. His 37 blocked shots last year are fourth in the Brown record book, while his 56 career blocked shots rank 11th in the Brown record book. He scored in double figures three times last season, including a season high 14 points against Princeton on 6 of 9 shooting from the field. Kelly is a big man who can hit the trey, and his best game came against Baylor where he scored eight points in Waco, Texas, connecting on 2 of 4 treys and 2 of 2 free throws.
Brown's Class of 2012 looks strong with some explosive scoring and good height in the four-man class. Jean Harris (Los Angeles, CA), a 6-2 guard, should have an impact on the offensive end of the court after averaging 27 points and five assists per game for Los Angeles High School. Marques Coleman (Glendale, AZ) is a 6-3 point guard and four-year team captain, who averaged 14.0 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds as a junior at Cactus High School, but missed his senior year due to injury. Noel Hollingsworth (Salt Lake City, UT) is a 6-9 freshman center, who has a strong season at Judge memorial Catholic High School, averaging 20 points and 13.5 rebounds a game as a senior. Freshman Stefan Kaluz (Carona Del Mar, CA), a 6-9 forward, was a two-time Pacific Coast League MVP at Carona Del Mar High School, who scored 1,600 career points.