A new season of basketball will be hitting Burridge Gym on Friday, and with a fresh start comes fresh expectations. Last year’s success from the McMaster Marauders men’s basketball program was unexpected. Impressive rookie campaigns and reliable veteran leadership fuelled their trip to the Final Four, where the Maroon and Grey fell to the eventual CIS champion Carleton Ravens.

But that was last season. Sure, there will be familiar faces donning the McMaster jerseys this season but make no mistake; this is a different team. The young core of Adam Presutti, Aaron Redpath, Joe Rocca and Nathan McCarthy are the most important factors going forward.

Head Coach Amos Connolly has made the goal of the 2012-13 campaign clear to his team: a CIS Championship.

“We want to win a national championship. We’d be selling ourselves short if our expectations were less than that,” said Connolly about the goals for this season. But the trip to this year’s championship tournament will not be an easy one. The OUA is littered with contenders and home to three of the top-ten CIS ranked teams; No.9 Windsor, No.5 Lakehead and No.1 Carleton.

Connolly’s focus isn’t on their opponents though. “When you have a young team like ours, there’s no opponent in Canada who can be looked at as big or little. We can’t take days off or look at any other teams,” said the coach about the day-to-day focus of his team.

While there’s a focus on youth this year, there are two veterans on this team whose leadership cannot be ignored. Forward Nathan Pelech and guard Scott Laws need to bring consistency and intensity for every game to set the standard for their teammates. Laws will be a defensive rock for the Maroon and Grey, running through screens and playing with grit night in and night out. The fourth year Pelech should be a calming presence on the court, with his level headed play as an asset for the Mac coaching staff to use if play gets out of control.

Veteran play will not be enough for McMaster and they’ll need contributions from across the roster. One of the most important components of the Maroon and Grey will be point guard Adam Presutti. The CIS Rookie of the Year will be the engine of McMaster’s offense, leading an attack that will use speed to kill their opponents. But this year, Presutti has to look to get more buckets in order to fill a scoring void from the departure of last year’s players. “Adam’s weakness as a point guard is not looking for his own shot” commented Connolly of his standout floor general. The need for scoring from No.25 was crystal clear in the preseason game against the Mohawk Mountaineers, when Adam started the second half scoring eight points the kick-off a run for McMaster to separate the two teams.

The play of Taylor Black, a third year forward, will be integral to how Mac performs. Mac will need his rebounding and toughness in the paint to succeed this year, as Cam Michaud’s graduation leaves the team with a hole on the defensive glass. Without solid rebounding, McMaster’s transition game will suffer and could lead to a disappointing season for the Maroon and Grey.

Connolly is looking for the team to hang their hat on the defensive end and his message has gotten through to his players. “The guys commitment to defense is better than it’s ever been”, said the head coach. This roster is filled with offensive talent, highlighted by multiple leading scorers throughout the exhibition games. Joe Rocca, Rohan Boney, and Aaron Redpath can all put points on the board in a hurry, but the ability to defend well and protect the rim will be key factors to success.

The Marauders have high aspirations for this season, but those on the outside looking in do not feel the same. McMaster has been left off the first two top-ten CIS rankings. With their fair share of doubters, the team starts their journey to the CIS Championship tournament this weekend with a doubleheader. On Friday, Nov. 9 the York Lions visit Burridge Gym followed by a game against the Laurentian Voyageurs on Saturday Nov. 10. Both games tip-off at 8 p.m. following the women’s basketball game.

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