How does a basketball team coming off of a remarkable run in the NCAA Division II tournament replace nine letter winners, four of whom were starters, including one of the most prolific basketball players in the school’s history?
The answer comes in the form of senior Reggie Bates, a 2007-2008 All-PSAC first team selection who will lead a young roster of players that includes only one other player to notch over ten minutes per game last season.
The 2008-2009 Men’s basketball team features only six returning letterman, five freshman, and four transfer players all of whom are expected to form one cohesive unit that will carry the Marauders to their third consecutive appearance in the big tournament, and fourth such appearance since 2003.
Coming off his second consecutive 20-win season in which the Marauders finished 22-10, 11th year Head Coach Fred Thompson faces the task of reshaping the Marauder program while maintaining its winning ways that the Millersville faithful have become accustomed to over the years.
The Marauders will attempt to do so without one of the most successful players the school has ever had.
Charlie Parker, who was recently taken in the fifth round by the Reno Bighorns of the NBA’s Developmental League’s 10 round draft, graduated last season as the schools all time leader in career games played and started.
Parker is also second all-time in career points, steals and field goals made, as well as fourth all-time in assists and 15th in rebounds.
Filling the void left by Parker will come as no easy task
“Obviously he was one of the best players in school history, and you can’t just replace players like that,” assistant coach Damian Pitts said.
“But we have lost lots of good players in the past and we have a collection of people who are ready [to take on that challenge].”
The numbers put up by Parker can be replaced, but perhaps what the Marauders will miss most is his experience and leadership.
“One thing that gets taken for granted [with experienced teams] is that some things are just understood,” said Pitts “Now we have players that are new to the system and it takes time for them to adjust.”
The Marauders are hoping that the lack of experience will be made up for by those returning players who are a bit ahead of the learning curve.
The roster will be headed by last year’s leading scorer Reggie Bates. Bates finished last season with 615 points, the 6th best season total in school history, and his 262 field goals made last year were the most made since Phil Walker during the 1976-1977 season.
Bates will receive help from returning teammates such as senior forward Makal Stibbins who started in 11 games last season and averaged 3.9 points a game to go with 3.2 rebounds per contest.
Stibbins will team with junior center Alen Ahmetovic to control the paint and fill the void left by the departure of Bernard Brown who was last year’s leader in rebounds and blocks.
Other returning lettermen who expect to receive a significant increase in playing time include a pair of junior guards Lenny Henderson III and Zac Bauermaster, along with sophomore forward Rob Coney.
The team’s success this season, however, may rely on how well its transfer players and freshman class mesh with the rest of the team.
“We have lots of new guys who know basketball,” said Ahmetovic.“ [They’re] talented and we just have to work on our chemistry, but the more we play the better it will get.”
Millersville welcomes transfers Palmer Mcdurfee and Steven Ross who each played at the Community College of Beaver County along with Jason Blake from the Community College of Philadelphia as well as T.J. Lundy who attended Millersville last year but sat out because of the two-time transfer rule.
This year’s men’s basketball team has big shoes to fill but seem up to the task under the tutelage of Thompson and Pitts.
But it will be a learning process. Millersville is expecting to encounter a few bumps in the road but hope to have most of the kinks worked out before their season opener against Penn State Abington at home on Nov. 15.
“We just want to get better every day, from the very first day of conditioning up until the last game,” said Pitts.
Under a proven coaching staff and an already established star in the PSAC, Millersville looks poised for the rest of the team to prove their worth deep into the postseason for the third consecutive season.