Amherst College Athletics
Amherst College  
Site Map
Amherst College > Athletics > Men's Basketball > 2003-04 Preview
John Donovan '04
Senior guard John Donovan was ninth in the NESCAC in three-point FG% and 10th in three-point field goals made last season.

Jeffs Eye 11th Straight Postseason and Fifth Consecutive NCAA Tournament Berth

October 28, 2003

2002-03 RECAP
Returning its entire starting five from a team that breezed to a second straight NESCAC Championship and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16, head coach Dave Hixon’s Amherst men’s basketball team entered 2002-03 with a sky’s-the-limit approach. Success would follow, but not without adversity. The Jeffs battled injuries all year long but finished the regular season with a 20-3 overall record (8-1 in conference play), earning their 10th straight postseason appearance and the host seed in the NESCAC Championship Tournament. As the two-time defending conference champions, the Jeffs downed Bowdoin and Wesleyan en route to a third straight appearance in the NESCAC title game, but fell to eventual national champion Williams, 74-70, in a dramatic, back-and-forth finale. An at-large bid to its sixth overall and fourth straight NCAA Tournament ensued and, after drawing a first-round bye, Amherst hammered visiting Southern Vermont, 84-60, and upended defending Sectional Champ Rochester, 74-68, in the NCAA Round of 16, setting up a rematch with Williams in the national quarterfinals. A 91-75 loss ended their season at 24-5, but the Jeffs had much to be proud of, like shattering the school record for single-season wins and posting the second highest winning percentage (82.8%) in school history. “We accomplished a lot of our goals despite an injury plagued season,” says Hixon, who enters his 27th season as head coach, “Setting the record for wins, winning the conference regular season and advancing to the Elite Eight were all major accomplishments. I felt that with a few breaks, we were as good as any team in the country.”

Graduating three of the best players in school history in forward Steve Zieja, center Pat Fitzsimons and point guard Ryan Faulkner, who collectively led the Jeffs to a school-record 87 wins, back-to-back NESCAC Championships and four straight NCAA Tournament berths, Amherst’s losses are significant. Zieja, a First-Team All-American and the 2003 NESCAC, ECAC and Northeast Region Player of the Year, is the leading scorer in Amherst history with 1,708 career points. Fitzsimons, a Second-Team All-NESCAC selection now playing professionally in Germany, graduates as Amherst’s career leader in field goal percentage (64.6%) and blocked shots (233) and is 12th on the college’s all-time scoring list (1,077 pts.). Faulkner is the Jeffs’ career assists leader (498) after dishing out 4.6 per game, the third most in the NESCAC, as a senior. Reserves Sulaiman Jenkins and Neil Somers, two of the program’s hardest workers, are also lost to graduation.
Adam Harper '04
Senior guard Adam Harper led the conference in steals and finished sixth in FT% as a junior.

Despite its considerable losses, Amherst’s cupboard is far from bare, especially in the backcourt. Senior tri-captain guards Adam Harper and John Donovan are both two-year starters with a wealth of experience. Harper, the 2003 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year and a Second-Team All NESCAC pick, led the conference in steals (3.5 spg) and finished sixth in free throw percentage (.794) and 21st in scoring (12.4 ppg) as a junior. Donovan was ninth in three-point FG% (.417) and 10th in three-point field goals made (2.00/gm.), while averaging 9.8 points per game. Junior point guard Ray Corrigan is ready to fill the void left by Faulkner after finishing fifth in the NESCAC in assist/turnover ratio (2.44) and seventh in assists (3.39 apg) in 2002-03. Fellow junior Russell Lee, a slick left-handed shooter and penetrator, also returns, as does sophomore sharpshooter John Bedford, who averaged 5.7 points and played in all 29 games as a rookie. Look for sophomore southpaw Keith Zalaski and senior defensive stopper Frank Perry - a two-time All-NESCAC forward on the men’s soccer team - to contribute as well. Without the presence of a true big man, Hixon says the frontcourt will have to rely on its athleticism, which shouldn’t be a problem with the personnel returning. At the top of the list is 6-7 junior forward Andrew Schiel, a scoring threat on both the post and the perimeter who finished seventh in the NESCAC in three-point FG% (.429), eighth in blocked shots (1.18 bpg), 11th in free throw percentage (.772) and 22nd in scoring (12.4 ppg) last season. Senior forward Tim Jones (6-4, 225 lbs.) adds a strong defensive presence, finishing 13th in the NESCAC in blocked shots (0.82/gm) last season. Lanky 6-6 sophomore forward John Casnocha gained valuable experience as a first-year, averaging 2.8 points and 2.6 boards in just under 10 minutes per game, while 6-8 senior center Don Quinn returns for his final campaign with three years of postseason experience.

As if returning 11 quality players isn’t enough, the Jeffs add four stellar first-years in Dan Wheeler, Dan O’Shea, Tim McLaughlin and Jason Tucker, among others vying for roster spots. Wheeler, a 6-5 forward from Bloomington, Minn., is an outstanding inside-outside player, and O’Shea, a 6-6 center from nearby Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Mass., was First-Team All-State as a prep senior and led the Raiders to a 25-1 record. McLaughlin, from Chatham, N.J., and Tucker, a Philadelphia native, both 6-4 guards, bring strength and size to the backcourt.

In addition to a nine-game NESCAC slate, Amherst will play in a pair of tournaments in 2003-04, hosting the season-opening Ken Wright ’52 Memorial Invitational and traveling to Springfield College for the for the Third-Annual Pioneer Valley Classic. As usual, the Jeffs will face a slew of tough non-conference foes, highlighted by a December 2 matchup at Clark University, which advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2002. The fourth installment of the NESCAC Championship Tournament tips off on Saturday, February 21, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake (Amherst is 8-1 all-time in NESCAC Tournament play).