The Vassar men’s basketball team is set to begin another season this weekend. Their 2018–2019 campaign kicks off with a home opener against the New Rochelle Angels this Friday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. The new-look Brewers hope to build on last season’s success with fresh faces on and off the bench.
The Brewers ended last season with an appearance in the Liberty League tournament, but the tournament berth was an unlikely testament to the grittiness of last year’s squad. After starting the season winless through the first eight games, the Brewers rallied, eventually qualifying for the Liberty League playoffs.
The turnaround was in part thanks to the resolve of the group. Starting behind the eight ball meant the Brewers had to win more games with higher stakes. But the team, led by senior and captain Jesse Browne—who averaged 15.6 points a game—went 7-1 in conference play in the second half of the season.
The comeback culminated in a win over Ithaca College and a subsequent trip to the Liberty League tournament.
This year, the Brewers are without Browne, their 1,000 point scorer, but they maintain a strong foundation.
Vassar welcomed new head coach Ryan Mee last May. Mee brings Division I experience, coming to the team from Davidson College, where he was an assistant coach for six years.
I had the chance to ask Mee about the upcoming season earlier this week. When discussing his mindset heading into the season at the helm of a new team, Mee said, “We’re dedicated to building an environment of trust, commitment and care.”
Mee went on to say that those objectives entail a sense of responsibility that the players owe to their teammates, their coaches and themselves.
Earlier in the semester, The Miscellany News conducted an extensive interview with Mee, in which Mee spoke about his transition to Vassar. I wanted to ask him what he has learned in the month or so since regular practices began. “We’re focused on the now,” Mee replied. “We had eight guys on the sidelines to start practice. But those guys are back and healthy, so we’re excited to get started with a healthy roster.”
Mee takes the approach to the now seriously.
As he’s no stranger to the Liberty League (he played basketball for the University of Rochester), I asked the new coach if there was a team against which he was looking forward to playing. But he wasn’t looking that far ahead.
Instead, Mee wanted to stay focused on the short term—he was most excited about the upcoming game against New Rochelle: “[the New Rochelle players] get out and run, they’re fast paced. It’s going to be a great test for us to start the season.”
The Brewers look to their experienced returners to build off of last year’s success. Senior center Paul Grinde averaged 14.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg in his junior campaign, anchoring the team with 34.1 minutes per game.
Grinde and sophomore Zach Bromfeld comprised a tough-minded frontcourt that helped the Brewers crash the boards to third in the Liberty League in rebounding margin. Guard Alex Seff brings his 7.9 ppg and 25 steals from an injury-shortened last season into a senior role.
The team has a tough road ahead of them, no doubt. Starting a new season with a new coach can present a difficult adjustment. But the transition brings with it opportunities, said Mee, who stated, “Sometimes it’s easier on the younger players under a new system.”
And the underclassmen are ready for the challenge. Sophomore Lance Tebay, a forward, will look to build off a stellar first season in which he worked his way into the starting lineup to average 23.8 mpg and 7.0 ppg.
Whatever happens results-wise, the 2018–2019 season should bring an exciting brand of basketball to Vassar. Mee models his system after the pace-and-space style that currently dominates the NBA.
The Brewers will look to get out on the break and spread the defense. Playing in a four-out, one-in set, the Brewers hope to light it up from three in a continuity-driven, flowing offense.
Looking ahead, the Brewers have several non-conference tune-ups before their conference opener against Ithaca later in November. Ranked sixth in the Liberty League preseason poll, the Brewers have the Liberty League tournament in their crosshairs once again.
While it is going to be a drawn-out regular season, culminating in February— over 25 games from now—the Brewers are poised to take on the challenges and joys of another chapter.