New York, NY – For the first time ever, The Sage College's men's basketball team was picked to finish in second in the race for the 2014-2015 Skyline Conference men's championship. Defending league champion, Purchase College has been selected to capture the 2014-15 Skyline men's basketball title in voting conducted by the league's ten head coaches.
Vying for its third consecutive Skyline crown, Purchase has been selected to capture the 2014-15 men's basketball title in voting conducted by the league's ten head coaches. The Panthers received nine first-place votes and 81 overall points coming off a program-best 26-3 campaign and an appearance in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. PC welcomes back senior center Joel Neri, a first-team All-Conference and second-team NABC All-District selection, who averaged 15.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a year ago.
Sage earned one first-place vote and finished second in the preseason poll with 62 points, followed closely by Old Westbury (61), Farmingdale State (60) and Mount Saint Mary (56). Junior forward Melvin Ford averaged 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds last season as Sage registered its most victories (15) in the five-year history of the program, while OW welcomes back sophomore center Mark Gjonlekaj (10.3 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 51 blocks).
Under the direction of first-year head coach Kevin Spann, St. Joseph's-L.I. placed sixth with 44 points, followed by Mount Saint Vincent (36), Yeshiva (23), Maritime (19) and Sarah Lawrence (9).
The opening round of the 2015 Skyline Men's Basketball Championship will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 24, with the semifinals scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 26. The title game will be played on Saturday, Feb. 28, with the winner receiving the league's automatic berth to the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.
The Skyline also welcomes its newest member, Sarah Lawrence College, to the conference this season. SLC will play a full conference schedule but will not be eligible for the 2015 Skyline and NCAA Championships as it completes its final year of NCAA Division III provisional membership.
Last season Sage earned the team's second straight Skyline Tournament appearance after posting the best showing in the program's five-year history, all under the guidance of head coach Brian Barnes. The 2013-2014 Gators went 15-11 overall, setting new high-water marks for wins overall (15) and in the Skyline Conference (11). The Gators return seven letterwinners from last year's team, including senior Kai Deans (Miami, FL/Monsignor Pace).
As a Sage newcomer last year, Deans was the squad's overall high scorer with his 358 points and a 13.8 ppg average. He added 193 rebounds and 26 blocked shots in 26 games played with 24 starts. He added a 49.3% FG%, which ranked 192nd in Division III, while his 7.4 rpg average was No. 181 and his 1.0 blocks per game was No. 235. He also averaged 3.23 offensive rebounds per game and ranked 57th in the country. He finished the year having been the high scorer on 11 occasions, while adding high rebounding honors in 10 games.
Junior Melvin Ford (Voorhees, NJ/Eastern Regional) returns after he tallied 279 points and with 11.6 ppg average on his sophomore season. He shot 55.4% from the floor (108-195) and added a 6.5 rpg average in 24 starts. He was the Gator the high scorer twice, while ranking first in rebounding on eight occasions.
Senior center Jacob Sopchak (Rhinebeck, NY/Rhinebeck) connected for a 6.6 ppg average with a 4.0 rpg average in 26 games played a year ago. He led the Gators with his 37 blocked shots and finishes his third season with 63 career blocked shots, which ranks second all-time at Sage. Nationally, he ranked No. 116 in blocks per game as well in Division III with his 1.42 blocks per game average. Adding to the team's veteran lineup is senior guard Troy Nwanna (Washington, DC/Mercerburg Academy). Late in the season, he was forced to watch from the bench after suffering a late-year injury. In 21 games played with three starts, he added a 5.1 ppg average with a 2.9 rpg average.
Sage opens the new season on November 19 hosting the Panthers of Albany College of Pharmacy at the Kahl Gym at 7 p.m. in the "Battle of New Scotland Avenue." The Gators will open Skyline Conference play on December 2 hosting Yeshiva University at Kahl Gym at 7 p.m. and four days later Farmingdale State will visit Kahl Gym for a 2 p.m. key league contest. The game on December 6 will tip at 2 p.m. and in conjunction with the game, Sage will raise four Skyline Conference Championship banners from the 2013-2014 year as the Gators won the 2013 Skyline Conference regular-season title in both men's soccer and women's volleyball as well as the 2014 Skyline Softball regular-season championship, while the 2013-2014 women's basketball team won the Skyline Conference Tournament and earned the program's first NCAA tournament bid.
2014-15 Preseason Men's Basketball Coaches' Pre-Season Poll
Place School Points
1. Purchase (9) 81
2. Sage (1) 62
3. Old Westbury 61
4. Farmingdale State 60
5. Mount Saint Mary 56
6. St. Joseph's-L.I. 44
7. Mount Saint Vincent 36
8. Yeshiva 23
9. Maritime 19
10. Sarah Lawrence 9
First-place votes in parentheses