2001-02 Season Preview
Catholic University enjoyed a dream season a year ago, capturing the first team national championship in school history. The dreaming should continue in 2001-02, although waking up to the same happy ending will be difficult.
"Last year was wonderful," said Cardinal Coach Mike Lonergan prior to his 10th season at CUA. "While we can draw strength from all the tough games we played, we can't just expect to show up and win. If anything, it will be tougher for us because everybody gets up to play the champions."
The Cards begin the season without the five seniors that won 100 games during their illustrious careers. The biggest losses are in the backcourt, where All-American Pat Maloney, defensive specialist Tim Judge and clutch shooter Andy Rice wreaked havoc for opponents. Maloney finished as CUA's sixth all-time scorer (1,648 points).
"Pat, Tim and Andy played key roles in our drive to the title, but we have to go on without them," Lonergan said. "Fortunately, we return our two starting big men (junior Matt Hilleary and sophomore Will Morley) and a number of top reserves. Our play in the backcourt will be critical to our success."
Juniors Kevin Wise and Craig Avallone return on the wings in CUA's three-guard offense. Wise was sixth on the team in scoring (4.4 ppg) and hit 83.3 % of his free throws. Avallone played in every game and averaged 2.5 points. The pair will be starting regularly for the first time. Maloney's successor will be diminutive freshman Bobby Henning, who is more of a traditional pass-first point guard than Maloney.
Sophomore Adam Dickman and rookie Tim Burke will vie to be Henning's principal backup. Although Dickman saw limited action last season, his success-filled past includes leading his team to a Maryland state championship as a junior. Sophomores Kyle Hyland and Ben Gibson will join freshmen Nick Mimmo and sharpshooter Jimmy Dominkewicz in providing depth.
Hilleary and Morley are two of the top post players in the conference. Hilleary posted career-high averages of 12.5 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds. His 53.4 % shooting percentage led the club for a second straight year. Morley became a starter early in his career and responded by averaging 10.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. He possesses a soft touch for a big man and led the CAC in free-throw shooting (84.1 %). He needs to increase his rebounding.
In 33 games last season, sophomore Blair Mills (2.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg) showed flashes of his tremendous potential. He'll have to work hard to turn his potential into production. Juniors Chris Altenburger (56.0 FG %) and Ryan Sheehy will be counted upon to give CUA tough minutes off the bench.
Jeff Baccash, a 6-7 freshman center, could work his way into the rotation. Rookie forward Will Jawando will have to wait until at least January to display his toughness and playing ability after breaking his left foot in practice on Nov. 1. He'll compete for time at small forward.
CUA will once again attempt to navigate one of the nation's toughest schedules. The season-opener is a national title game rematch at William Paterson on Nov. 16. The Cards are 1-1 on the Pioneers' homecourt. After an exhibition matchup with the most recognized team in the world, the Harlem Globetrotters, CUA hosts perennial power Scranton. CAC play begins three days later at York (Pa.) and continues at home with Goucher. Up next are tough games with Haverford, Western Maryland, Lebanon Valley and Lycoming.
The Cardinals will welcome North Carolina Wesleyan, Edgewood and Swarthmore to the DuFour Center for the 15th-annual CUA Pepsi Classic on Jan. 5-6. The Cards travel to Salisbury, Md., for a CAC encounter with the Sea Gulls on Jan. 9. After a home date with Gallaudet, the club heads to Baltimore to play at Johns Hopkins. It's all league play after that with 10 games before the CAC Tournament in late February.
"Playing a tough non-conference schedule has prepared us well for the rigors of the CAC and the NCAA playoffs," Lonergan said. "I'm convinced that our Division I games last year with Columbia and Albany (N.Y.) steeled our confidence when we played tough opponents in the postseason."