Top scorers Will Moreton, Brandon Twitty of Randolph and Dan Largey, who started as sophomores, lead the Skyhawks, who open Saturday night against the University of the District of Columbia.
EASTON – There was plenty of valuable experience gained by the Stonehill College men’s basketball team with three sophomore starters last season.
After going 2-5 in November, the Skyhawks won 15 of their final 22 games with progress being made throughout the winter.
“We absolutely did get better,’’ said coach Chris Kraus. “We started a number of young guys last year and the kids got more confident and just improved each and every month, especially at the end of January and in February.
“We were a team that could compete with a lot of the best teams in the league and in the region.’’
Stonehill is hoping that experience translates into more success this season, which begins on Saturday night at the Saint Thomas Aquinas Tip-off Classic in Sparkill, New York.
The Skyhawks open against the University of the District of Columbia at 7:30 p.m., then will face the host Saint Thomas Aquinas on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Stonehill (17-12, 12-9 in the Northeast-10 Conference) is picked to finish fourth in the Northeast Division. The Skyhawks’ conference opener is Wednesday at home against Bentley University.
The three sophomores who started last season were Stonehill’s leading offensive players and are back in the starting lineup as juniors.
Will Moreton averaged 18.1 points and made 42 percent of his 3-pointers, earning a spot on the All-NE-10 second team. Brandon Twitty of Randolph scored 14.6 points and received all-conference honorable mention while Dan Largey averaged 11.4 points.
Joel Berroa, a senior, is also back as a starter and newcomer Owen Chose, who averaged 8.5 points off the bench, replaces KJ Lee, who graduated.
The bench includes senior Michael Boen, who did not play last season, sophomore Owen de Graaf, who appeared in 28 games, and freshmen Josh Mack and Andrew Sims.
“We’ve got a number of guys coming back who logged a lot of minutes in this league and understand what it takes night in and night out,’’ said Kraus, now in his sixth season. “To have that experience coming back is really good. It’s great for our young guys. We’ve got five really talented freshmen and we can have them learn from the older guys. That’s a great teacher.’’
While Moreton, Twitty and Largey figure to be the top contributors on offense, Kraus sees others being capable of producing, and he knows that improvement on the defensive end will be needed.
“I hope that we’ve got a pretty even group of scorers where multiple guys can contribute night in and night out,’’ said Kraus. “But I’m more concerned with the defense. We have been a middle-of-the-pack team defensively. We’ve addressed that and talked about it a lot. Whether we do it or not is yet to be determined. But it’s been a focal point.’’
With four returning starters and talent in the freshmen class, Kraus is optimistic that the Skyhawks can keep improving the way they did throughout the 2017-18 season.
“I’m excited about this group, excited about our returners,’’ he said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We had a really good fall and a good preseason. The kids are working really hard. I think we’ve taken some steps forward.
“But we’ve got a ways to go to reach our full potential. It’s a group that is willing to put in the work, wants to put in the work and wants to take that jump to be an elite team. I think we’ve got an opportunity to be good.’’
Jim Fenton may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.