Projected starting lineup:
G – Yolonzo Moore II, Jr., 6’2” 175
G – Evan Cooper, Soph, 6’ 180
G – Corban Wroe, Jr., 6’2” 195
F – Nate Sikma, Jr., 6’7” 235
F – Mark Nwakamma, Jr. 6’6” 235
Head coach John Gallagher’s brash and exuberant demeanor on the sidelines and in press conferences might not make him friends among basketball traditionalists or rival coaches. But it has motivated his players to give more of themselves – in effort, energy and intensity – in practices and in games, and fostered more camaraderie and loyalty than perhaps any other team in the league.
Two years ago, in Gallagher’s second season at Hartford’s helm, the incredibly young and inexperienced Hawks opened the season losing their first 13 games. Most teams would have checked out and quit, but Gallagher kept fighting for his team and in return they kept fighting for him. It paid off, as the Hawks caught fire down the stretch, advancing all the way to the America East semifinals – a double-overtime thriller in which they came up just short against eventual tournament champion Vermont.
That 2011-2012 season was a trial by fire for the freshman class, which included Mark Nwakamma, Nate Sikma, Yolonzo Moore II, Corban Wroe and Jamie Schneck. The trio suffered losses and faced adversity in a way they never had before. But they grew from it, forming the foundation to build a program on.
Last year, the Hawks made the jump from upset-minded underdog towards the top of the conference. They still played incredibly hard, but now they had a burgeoning star and the ability to ignite from behind the arc.
Now, they’re looking to make the leap to the top of the conference.
In theory, Gallagher’s scheme of relying on ball movement and pounding the ball in to Mark Nwakamma on the blocks to open up “naked three’s” on the perimeter to account for the team’s offensive output is sound. The Hawks sacrifice offensive rebounds and second chance points to be able to get back on defense and not get beat in transition.
But, in reality, the Hawks roster has yet to prove it has the shooters needed to sustain an offense that revolves almost solely around volume shooting from behind the arc. Furthermore, they have yet to show any “break glass in case of emergency” plan for when the three’s aren’t falling and/or Nwakamma isn’t on the floor due to fouls. Both of these issues proved to be their undoing in the post season last season, with heavy underdog UMBC taking it to the Hawks around the hoop while Hartford was unable to find water despite falling out of a boat from behind the arc.
Hartford is either going to need their shooters to take the leap from catching lightening in a bottle to consistent (Gallagher’s hope), or adjust to a system that uses their tremendous ball movement to generate offense going towards the basket instead of on the perimeter.
Either way, they need Nwakamma to stay on the floor. (more…)