The University of Richmond men's basketball team won 20 games last season and reached the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational. This year, the team hopes the return of its center and dynamic guard play will help it accomplish even bigger goals.
The team includes only three seniors, but all four juniors on the team have also seen significant playing time, so experience should be a strength for the Spiders, head coach Chris Mooney said.
"I think with that experience comes a good understanding of how we're going to play and what gives us the best chance to win," Mooney said.
Richmond will return four of five starters from last year's team with senior guards David Gonzalvez and Ryan Butler, junior guard Kevin Anderson and junior forward Justin Harper. Junior center Dan Geriot, who missed last season because of a torn ACL, will return to anchor the Spiders' inside game.
Geriot, who stands 6 feet 9 inches tall and led Richmond in scoring two seasons ago, said he felt fully recovered and ready to get back to the court.
"Going into the season, everything is full go," Geriot said. "I'm definitely stronger than I was two years ago, my knee is fine and I feel 100 percent. I think I can be better [than I was]. It's just a matter of getting back into the swing of games."
Richmond struggled with rebounding last season, and Geriot's return should help the Spiders improve their interior game, Mooney said.
"We've addressed it and worked very, very hard on the court and in the weight room," Mooney said of the team's rebounding woes. "The return of Dan's size and strength will help that, but I think overall we're going to be bigger and stronger and we're going to need to be."
In the backcourt, Anderson and Gonzalvez will be instrumental in the success of the team, especially offensively.
"Anderson and Gonzalvez are the best backcourt in the Atlantic 10," Geriot said, "so we're going to go as they go."
Anderson, a 6-foot-tall point guard from Atlanta, Ga., led the Spiders in scoring last season and earned second team All-Conference recognition.
"If he can keep the strides he made at the end of last season to this season, he just makes us go," Butler said. "He knows when to push and when not to push, when to go to our offense. If he can keep that going we'll be fine."
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Mooney also said Anderson would be important to the team's success.
"He has the ability to do just about everything on the floor," Mooney said, "including for some things that are almost un-teachable. He's certainly very difficult to defend. We'll lean on him heavily."
Richmond will rely on its veteran players during the season, but the team's two scholarship freshmen, guard Darien Brothers and guard/forward Greg Robbins could also have an impact, Mooney said.
"Both of them have the opportunity to play," Mooney said. "They're both good players and good athletes."
The team will begin the season with the non-conference portion of the schedule, which includes games against Southeastern Conference teams Mississippi State University, the University of Florida and the University of South Carolina and Atlantic Coast Conference team Wake Forest University.
"We wanted to try to test ourselves against some of the best in the country," Mooney said. "When you go in to play teams like that you have to be confident. You can't be intimidated by the players they have, or the name of the school on their jersey. Hopefully we go out there and have a chance to win any of those games we play."
Within the A-10, the Spiders were predicted to finish third behind Dayton University and Xavier University in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Poll.
"We know the teams that are going to be at the top of the league," Butler said, "but at the same time, you can't take anyone lightly. We've got to take every game head on."
The Spiders have not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2004, but Butler said a berth in the tournament was his ultimate goal.
"The only thing I've wanted to do since I got here is play in the NCAA tournament," he said. "So this has got to be the year."
Geriot said he thought this year's team had the potential to reach the tournament.
"This is the best we've been since I've been here," Geriot said. "The deepest we've been. The way the A-10 schedule plays out, we've got a chance [to make
the NCAA Tournament]."
Mooney also said he thought his team could qualify for the NCAAs in March.
"I think we have the opportunity to be [a tournament team]," he said. "I think by the end of last year we were playing at a very high level. With just about everybody back and the addition of Dan, we've put ourselves in a position where [the NCAA tournament] is our goal."
The Spiders' first game is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow against Lehigh University in the Robins Center.
Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at email@example.com
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