[Editor’s Note: Post originally appeared on A Daly Dose Of Hoops, where I’m a staff writer.]
After winning the Northeast Conference regular season championship, but falling short of earning the championship victory by a mere eight points to the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights with an NCAA Tournament berth on the line, the Wagner Seahawks will look to sustain the success they found for the upcoming year and not only maintain it for the future of the program, but to return to the conference’s final game and walk back onto the team bus with a trophy.
For starters, any team wishing to do just that must have the least amount of turnover possible on their roster plus whoever is added, which is a given due to transfers and graduation. New players have to fill in whatever role or philosophy the team requires.
Aaren Edmead, Dwaun Anderson, Henry Brooks, Bruce Brittingham and Japhet Kadji are gone. Shaq Scott, Connor Ferrell, Blake Francis, Jamar Brown and Elijah Davis are in. Three of the five players Wagner lost were upperclassmen, and only one of the new additions is a veteran of college basketball. But it’s what they bring as individuals to the Seahawks’s culture of “#ATTITUDE” that’s going to make all the difference.
“All small things that help you win that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Seahawks fifth-year head coach Bashir Mason said about what the word attitude means to him and the team. “We have five attitude plays: defensive deflections, offensive rebounds, taking charges, diving on the floor and assists. It has nothing to do with you putting the ball in the basket, but just all hustle plays that we feel help us win.”
Mason’s staple since joining the Seahawks is defense. It’s “who we are,” he said. So when he and his staff decided to bring in Scott, Ferrell, Francis, Brown and Davis, they knew they’d see a return of experience in Scott and Davis; but also defense, skill, craftiness and potential in Ferrell, Francis and Brown. With how Mason runs things, he said he needs players who can move and are athletic, because to him, basketball is becoming less of a physical sport and one more so of skill.
“Although we want to be the best defensive and rebounding team in the league,” he added, “on the other side of it, I really would love to have just a bunch of different skill guys on the court that could do multiple different things. So not only will we be able to defend you, but offensively, it’ll be really difficult to guard when we spread the floor out.”
Once the 10-win season in 2014-15 — Mason’s third year — came to a close, he said it was “growth for me as a coach” when he watched his Seahawks, with half of his roster comprised of freshmen and transfers, have a down season following back-to-back 19-12 years. His takeaway was part of their struggle was the team’s lack of experience.
“I learned then that in order to compete not only do you need skill and talent,” he said, “but you need some experience. Size, speed, skill and all of the things, I’m really attracted to that.”