Men’s basketball winds down after a season of injuries

Curtis Smith ‘15 drives past defenders to the basket in a recent match against Skidmore College. He has led the Brewers in scoring in six games this season, which ended last weekend with a 7-18 record. Photo By: VC Athletics
Curtis Smith ‘15 drives past defenders to the basket in a recent match against Skidmore College. He has led the Brewers in scoring in six games this season, which ended last weekend with a 7-18 record. Photo By: VC Athletics
Curtis Smith ‘15 drives past defenders to the basket in a recent match against Skidmore College. He
has led the Brewers in scoring in six games this season, which ended last weekend with a 7-18 record. Photo By: VC Athletics

Vassar men’s basketball season came to an end this past weekend—a year full of injuries and player growth and, despite a 7-18 finish, a year that bodes well for the future of the team. This season saw many younger players making significant contributions to the team’s overall performance.

Injuries were particularly devastating to Vassar’s crop of big men, which had been one of the team’s strengths going into the season. 6’8” center junior Lucas Wager missed 12 out of 16 conference games with his season-ending ankle injury; 6’5 power forward sophomore Luka Ladan suffered a season-ending concussion during intersession practices forcing him to miss all league competitions; starting forward sophomore Alex Snyder missed two games to a concussion; and forward junior John Donnelly missed several games due to leg injuries. Additionally, senior captain, guard Jon Herzog missed 14 games with a torn labrum, and though he did return for the last four games of the season, was essentially playing one handed, while his co-captain junior Evan Carberry played limited all year with tendonitis.

Despite the shorthanded roster, the season still had many positives, such as the emergence of sophomore guard Curtis Smith, who went from playing 114 minutes all of the 2011-2012 season to leading the team in minutes this year with 673, and leading the team in 3pt% (48) and steals (31), while largely operating as the team’s primary ball handler. “Curt was definitely underutilized last season because it was hard for him to get minutes behind a senior point guard,” said fellow sophomore guard Andrew Adkins. “He made huge improvements in his game this past offseason and his confidence on the court increased as the year went on and it was special to watch.”

Freshman point guard Erickson Wasyl and freshman shooting guard Nick Johnson took advantage of the minutes made available to them by injuries and made strong contributions, with Wasyl shooting 44% from three, and Johnson, at 6’4”, contributing helpful minutes by adjusting and playing as a big. Snyder shared, “Erickson proved time and time again that he can score, and he came up clutch in several games. Nick came into the season as a two and due to injuries had to start at the 4 and did a great job stretching the floor offensively.”

Alex Snyder built off ofhis All-Rookie freshman campaign to dominate the Liberty League on the glass, leading the league in offensive, defensive, and overall rebounds, while being a central hub of the Vassar offense. He lead the team in total rebounds, points, and assists, averaging 11.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, and 2.4 apg. His offensive game was both clinical and opportunistic, using his sizeable frame and technical footwork to create good shots while also persistently attacking the glass and scoring off of offensive rebounds. Adkins praised his classmate, saying, “Having Al down low is a luxury for the team because you know what you’re going to get from him every night he steps on the court.“

After a year away from the team, junior John Donnelly returned, bringing back his relentless attack on offense. He led the team in ppg at 11.4, most of which occurred when he put the ball on the floor and challenged his defender off the dribble, often forcing his defender to commit a foul to stop him. He had the team’s season high in points, dropping 27 against RPI. Junior Sam Rappaport also had one of the most impressive shooting performances in Vassar history, going 7-7 from beyond the 3 against Sarah Lawrence.

“We have a lot of very good players on this team and anyone can go off on any given night. Eight different guys led the team in scoring for at least one game, which says a lot about our balance, depth, and teamwork,” stated Herzog. The strength of this team, however, was its defense, an aspect that is determined by effort and communication.

Adkins, one of the team’s most dogged defenders, noted, “[w]e were definitely one of the top defensive teams in the league this past season, which was far superior to our offense …However, we took steps in the right direction because holding teams in the 50’s and low 60’s is right where you need to be to win games.” Vassar’s teamwide effort forced its opponents to shoot only 42% from the floor, good for 3rd in the Liberty League, and it played intelligent defense, holding its opponents to 29% from three point range, a mark that was top in the league.

The team will miss its senior, Jon Herzog, as Snyder explained, “I am very sad to be losing Zog. Not only because I think he is a great guy, and always fun to be around, but because he bring a calmness and steadiness to the game. In a season full of ups and downs Zog always seemed level headed. His composure and ability to always hit a big shot will be missed on the court. Off the court he will be missed as a great guy and a good friend.”

Snyder summarized, “I think the biggest positive we can take is even though we had a ton of injuries, and are a relatively young team, we were in every game, excluding a few. I know that I speak for the whole team when I say that there a few games we know we should have won and just let slip, we also showed great promise in the few games we did win. Winning takes a certain mindset that I feel our team is working towards. I just hope that everyone is able to come back healthy because I honestly believe that we are going to be very successful for the next couple years, and am just upset that we could not have sent out our lone senior on a better season.“

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