DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire men's basketball team has all the makings of a title contender for the 2012-13 campaign. After falling to Albany in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament as the No. 5 seed, New Hampshire returns nine letterwinners from last year's lineup and welcomes in a quartet of talented newcomers. Head coach Bill Herrion, who enters his eighth year at the helm, has built a solid foundation in Durham and all signs point to continued success this season as the Wildcats look to capture their first conference title in school history.
New Hampshire (13-16, 7-9) possesses all of the necessary tools for a contending season, starting with the defense, which has become the backbone of the program in recent years. UNH ranked 13th nationally in 3-point defense last season, limiting opponents to just 29.7 percent from beyond the arc, and held opponents to 62.8 points per game. Despite losing the program's third all-time scorer in Alvin Abreu to graduation, the Wildcats will have several reliable scoring options to pair with a persistent defense in 2012-13.
The Wildcats will draw strength from its backcourt, starting with senior tri-captain Chandler Rhoads (Berryville, Va.), who collected America East All-Defensive team honors for the second straight season. The versatile guard was a workhorse for the Wildcats as he started all 29 games and ranked first in the conference in minutes played (1,061). Rhoads was also a threat on the offensive end, finishing second on the squad in scoring with 11.2 points per game and first in assists (2.7).
Junior Jordon Bronner (Sleep Hollow, N.Y.) will look to log playing time in the backcourt after starting 19 games last season, highlighted by a 24-point burst in a win over Colgate. The former all-rookie team selection has experience at the point, which should open up some options for the Wildcats, and ranked second on the team in total assists (67) in 2011-12.
The Wildcats also welcome back junior Scott Morris (Walkersville, Md.) and sophomores Tommy McDonnell (Durham, N.H.) and Garrett Jones (Chicago, Ill.), who look to add some valuable minutes off the bench. Morris will remain a deep threat option in the lineup after shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range last year, while McDonnell brings in scoring potential after redshirting last season. Jones appeared in 13 games as a freshman and provides even more depth for the Wildcats after shooting 38.5 percent from long range in 2011-12.
In addition to the returning players, the Wildcats also add freshman Chris Orozco (Tenafly, N.J.), who will look to contribute early and make an impact during his rookie campaign. Orozco was a standout player at Tenafly High School, where he was a three-time all-county first-team selection and earned all-state second team honors as a senior.
New Hampshire's powerful frontcourt aims to be one of the most talented and versatile groups in the conference, highlighted by the veteran tandem of senior Ferg Myrick (Philadelphia, Pa.) and junior Patrick Konan (Gainesville, Fla.), after the duo ranked third and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring last year.
Myrick missed most his sophomore campaign to injury, but rebounded last year with a strong showing as he averaged 8.5 points per game and registered double-digits in 12 contests. The tri-captain also chipped in on the defensive end by ranking second on the squad in blocked shots (15).
Konan made an immediate impact to the Wildcat lineup after transferring from Liberty, averaging 9.7 points per game in 28 starts. Additionally, the well-rounded forward ranked second on the team in rebounds (168) and knocked down a total of 42 three-pointers, which was also good enough for second on the squad.
Redshirt-junior Chris Pelcher (Albany, N.Y.) will round out the probable starting frontcourt after sitting out all of last season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Pelcher spent two seasons at Iona, where he helped lead the Gaels to a 25-12 record in that span and ranked third on the team in both blocks (17) and field goal percentage (.603, 38-63). Pelcher's 6-foot-10-inch, 240-pound frame was a missing link in last year's lineup and should pair well with the raw ability of Myrick and Konan to make up a formidable trio.
Senior Chris Matagrano (Sayreville, N.J.), who will serve as a tri-captain this season, also returns to add a veteran presence up front after netting 72 points and 57 rebounds in 26 appearances. Matagrano should prove to be a valuable part of the rotation at center and made considerable improvement as a consistent scorer last season as he ranked third on the squad in shooting percentage (.469).
Fellow senior Jeron Trotman (Huntsville, Ala.) aims to play a bigger role in the middle following his first season in Durham when he appeared in 17 games. Trotman was a reliable weapon off the bench in 2011-12 after transferring from Centenary College, shooting .500 from the field to pair with 28 rebounds.
The Wildcats also welcome the addition of freshmen Logan Mortenson (South Jordan, Utah.) and Frank Okeke (DeSoto, Texas.), as the duo will battle for playing time in an already deep frontcourt rotation. Mortenson is a proven scorer with 3-point shooting ability, averaging 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in four years at Juan Diego Catholic High School. Most recently, Mortenson posted 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last year at St. John's Northwestern Military Academy. Okeke will look to add his well-rounded game to the mix this season after earning First-Team All-District Honors as a senior at DeSoto High School.
With the balanced mix of veteran leaders, promising young talent and a deep roster, coach Herrion and his squad look to take the Wildcats to the next level in 2012-13 and challenge the America East field for the program's first conference title in school history.