Young Nucleus Should Keep Men's Basketball in Contention Going Forward
The UNCP men’s basketball team may have had their season end in disappointing fashion after an early exit from the NCAA Southeast Regional tournament in which they fell to Catawba Indians in the quarterfinals by nearly 20 points in a 61-80 defeat on Saturday, but they still have hope for a bright future with a young core.
One of the best aspects of this year’s team was their incredible depth along the roster. The team was essentially made up of at least nine or 10 starts and just about every member of the Braves’ second unit could start for most teams at the Division II level.
They utilized a heavy rotation of their starters and talented bench to keep their players fresh, out of foul trouble and often just give the team a boost when one unit was struggling to get going or maintain a lead.
A player that began the year as one of the most impactful bench players that would check in to the game to get both the defense and offense going was junior point guard Micah Kinsey. He had always been a key role player throughout his tenure with the program, but he earned a starting role late down the final stretch of the season as the team wanted to use his spark from the jump and not just in relief.
His record-breaking performance in the quarterfinals of the Peach Belt Conference tournament against Georgia College where he set a record for assists in a single game shined as the brightest example of how much he can contribute to the offense by distributing the ball at such an efficient rate.
Forward James Murray-Boyles was the lone senior on this year’s squad and will be the only starter that will not be back next season. That opens an opportunity for the player that assumed his sixth man role this past season in Spencer Levi to step into an even more prominent role as a full-time starter.
Sophomore Tyrell Kirk built upon his impressive freshman season as he refined his game and became on the team’s best defenders this season according to Head Coach Ben Miller. Redshirt sophomore David Strother grew as well during his second year as a starter as he was the orchestrator of the Braves’ offense on the court and put his teammates in positions to succeed.
Sophomore Jamal Bryant began and remained a starter before being supplanted by Kinsey late in the season, but that didn’t stop him from putting his best foot forward when he was on the court as he was one of the best rebounders on the team a finished second in offensive and fourth in total boards.
Redshirt Junior Carson Mounce was a strong presence for the Braves in the paint when he checked into the game as he was a key member of the Black and Gold’s second unit. He sat out in 2017 and worked on his body by committing to his diet and conditioning which reflected itself when he was on the court.
Redshirt freshman Cam Hamilton sat out the 2017 season along with Mounce and gave the 2017-2018 Peach Belt Conference championship team fits day in and day out in practice according to Miller. He played a similar role that Kinsey played coming off the bench and providing a spark on both ends of the court, but especially offensively.
He finished the year first with the most made three-pointers with 56 which was 10 more than the two players tied for second, he finished fourth in scoring despite not being a starter and would have the third most steals on the season with 48.
Junior Akia Pruitt validated his preseason All-Conference designation by leading the team in rebounds on the year with 243 and came in second in scoring just behind Murray-Boyles. He will be looked up to as one of the main leaders heading into his senior year and will be the expected to be the leading scorer next season.
The 2018-2019 Braves showed glimpses of brilliance and may have peaked earlier in the season as they struggled to win close games down the stretch of the season against both quality and underwhelming competition. This young team will take the lessons from their highs and lows of this past season and be better equipped for greater success going forward.