Team preview: Hartford
Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
Editor's Note: Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, long known as the Bible of college basketball, to provide a comprehensive look at all 326 Division I teams.
Larry Harrison has waited for four seasons for Hartford to be able to play the style of basketball he likes to coach. After enduring an injury-plagued 2003-04 season, this may finally be the year the Hawks will be able to do that.
"We want to create offense from our defense and put pressure on the ball," Harrison said. "We want to get people playing fast and playing out of their comfort zone. We want to give people the illusion that they are open and rotate to the ball instead of rotating to the man."
Basically, Harrison wants the Hawks to do what the University of Cincinnati did when he was an assistant coach under Bob Huggins. And, after watching Hartford finish ninth in the 10-team America East in scoring defense last season (67.7 ppg allowed), he knows improved defense is the first step toward a better record.
Harrison also knows that you can't employ his style without players who can guard the ball and jam up passing lanes. That's why he and his staff went out and added two junior college wings David Ruffin and Demarcquez Rembert to their solid collection of returning guards.
"If our perimeter guys come through and play as well as I think that they can, then we can have a good year." Harrison said.
Harrison already knows what he can expect from junior Aaron Cook (15.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.7 spg), a 6-2 guard who finished fifth in the America East in scoring and second in three-point field goals made per game (2.83)
"He can hit three or four threes in a row and he can hit from deep," Harrison said.
Cook, who made 82 three-point field goals last season, also has added motivation after not being selected to any of the league's three postseason all-star teams. Although bothered by the perceived snub, Cook hasn't said much about it. He just spent the summer in the weight room and gym working to improve.
"I really like his commitment to our program," Harrison said. "I really think he can be one of the top scorers in the conference."
Charles Ford (9.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.2 spg), a 5-11 junior, started 18 games as a freshman in 2001-02 before taking a year off. He returned to the Hawks last season and took some time to shake off the rust, finishing with more turnovers (95) than assists.
"He's explosive and athletic and he can guard people," Harrison said. "After a year of playing and practicing and getting repetitions, I think he's ready for a big year."
Rich Baker, a 6-1 sophomore, should also build on a solid freshman season (4.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.8 apg) during which he established himself as a solid reserve.
"He exceeded all expectations," Harrison said. "His shooting was a lot better than we anticipated. He's done a good job working on his shot."
Ruffin, the younger brother of former Hawaii standout Trevor Ruffin, spent the last two seasons at Connors State (Okla.) Junior College.
"He doesn't shoot it as well as Trevor, but he's more athletic," Harrison said.
The 6-6 Ruffin, a Buffalo native who played high school ball with former Pittsburgh standout Julius Page, has a 40-inch vertical leap and averaged 18.2 points for the Cowboys last season.
"He's a slasher that can really get to the basket and he's a great defender," Harrison said. "I think he's going to be one of the top defenders in our league."
Rembert (14.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg), also 6-6, played for Collins County (Texas) Community College the last two seasons. He made 69-of-206 three-point shots (.335) as the Express finished 29-3 and ranked second in the final NJCAA poll.
"Demarcquez is a three-point specialist with great range," Harrison said. "And, he's kind of sneaky as far as going inside and getting some points."
The Hawks also return Sean Regan (2.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg), a gritty 6-5 senior guard who led the team in rebounding last season. Regan, who started 23 games and fouled out of 10, will likely take on a different role this season.
Hartford also adds Brian Glowiak, a 6-3 freshman, to the backcourt. Glowiak (16 ppg, 6 rpg, 5 apg) earned all-state honors while playing for his father, Stan, at New Britain (Conn.) High School as a senior.
"He's probably the best shooter I've ever recruited at any level and he shoots from deep," Harrison said. "He can shoot a pure jump shot from the volleyball line." Injuries caused Harrison to do a lot of juggling in the frontcourt last season and he's hoping things will be more stable in 2004-05.
Trevor Goode, a 6-9 senior, and Bernard Lowndes, a 6-9 sophomore, were limited to 11 and 10 games, respectively, last season.
Goode (4.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg) suffers from asthma, but has the ability to be an effective inside scorer when healthy. Lowndes (3.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg) was slowed by a torn tendon in his thumb.
"He can score inside and run the floor like a deer," Harrison said. "He just hasn't played yet."
All of the injuries forced sophomore Bo Taylor, 6-4 and a natural wing, to play inside last season. Taylor (7.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg) performed admirably, but is expected to spend more time and be more comfortable on the perimeter this season.
Alex Zimnickas, a 6-8 sophomore, also learned on the fly last season. Zimnickas (3.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg) is a decent shooter who can make open shots and also likes to bang inside. The front line will also receive a boost from 6-8 Anthony Lalor, a transfer from Westchester (N.Y.) Community College. Lalor has some offensive limitations, but the Bronx native is long and athletic and could be one of the top shot blockers in the league.
"He can be our last line of defense, plus I'm thinking of putting him on the ball because he can get out and guard," Harrison said.
Fred Kuonkorgo, a 6-6 freshman, can play inside and out. He averaged 10 points, six rebounds and a block at Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Mass.), the third-ranked prep school in the country, last season.
"He's like a Bo Taylor, only bigger," Harrison said.
Only two teams, Vermont and Hartford, have advanced to the America East semifinals each of the last two seasons, and the Hawks could have what it takes to make a bid for three in a row.
"I think we can score at every position and I think we can defend at every position," Harrison said.
Defense will be the determining factor for Hartford, which lacked an inside game most of last season. If the wings can harass opponents and Lalor can become a force inside, the Hawks will go places.
Cook has the ability to be an all-league player and Ruffin and Rembert will open up the offense for players like Ford, Taylor and Baker. Hartford may need some time to adjust to all of the new faces, but under Harrison has played its best basketball late in the season. Expect that trend to continue.
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