At a press conference on Wednesday, Richmond men's basketball coach Chris Mooney decided to have fun answering a question on whether his team had moved on from last season's success.
"We were joking at lunch today, we'd just like to hang on for a little bit longer and enjoy it," Mooney said, eliciting laughter in the room. "There's nothing like the offseason after a great season."
The offseason officially ends Friday night for Richmond, when it opens its season hosting American University. On that night, a banner will be raised in the Robins Center in honor of the team's Sweet 16 appearance last year and members from the 1988 team - the only other team to advance that far - and 2011 team will receive rings.
Though the pre-game festivities will focus on the past, senior forward Darius Garrett said that the team had not became complacent by last year's accomplishments.
"In the game of basketball, everyone starts fresh," Garrett said. "Whether you won a ring or you didn't, everyone starts 0-0. So you just have to go in with a clear mindset and be ready to work and show people you deserve everything you're going to earn that year."
Four starters from last year's team graduated, including top scorers Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper. Both are currently playing on the same professional team in France, and Harper will be playing with the Orlando Magic when the NBA lockout ends. Kevin Smith, the team's energy player who would do the little things to help the Spiders win, is now playing professionally in Japan.
Those losses have tempered outsider's expectations for the Spiders. Despite making consecutive NCAA tournaments and winning the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament last year, Richmond was selected to finish fifth in pre-season balloting by the conference coaches.
"I think the motivation is different this year," said Mooney, who signed a 10-year contract extension last year. "Last year, there was an expectation that we would be really good coming off a really successful season the year before. This year, the expectation isn't as high, so hopefully that's a little bit of a motivating factor for us."
Garrett and fellow senior Francis-Cedric Martel will be counted on to take a bigger role on the team after playing supporting roles their previous three years. They have become team leaders though they aren't always vocal, Mooney said.
In addition to Martel and Garrett, junior guard Darien Brothers will be featured more often in the offense. Last year, Brothers, the only returning regular starter, was more of a three-point shooter though Mooney has repeatedly said he had the ability to do more than that.
Sophomore Cedrick Lindsay will take over the role of starting point guard after backing up Anderson last year. Lindsay averaged four points in his 16 minutes per game last year and played key minutes in the A-10 tournament and the NCAA tournament.
Some combination of Garrett, senior Josh Duinker, sophomore Derrick Williams and possibly freshman Alonzo Nelson-Ododa will replace Harper and Dan Geriot at power forward and center.
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Despite missing a majority of the key players from last year's team, Garrett said he would expect other teams and fans to focus on the Spiders when they go on the road.
"When you reach success, you always have a target on your back," Garrett said. "People are going to want that and people are going to be preying on that."
There's an expectation among some close to the team that the current team could leave its own impressive legacy. Former Richmond coach Dick Tarrant, who coached the Spiders to five NCAA tournament appearances, including the Sweet 16, said at Wednesday's press conference that this year's team could surprise some people.
"I think Mooney's Sweet 16 team was far more athletic than mine," Tarrant said. "It was far deeper, it had quality depth. ... His number six, seven, eight [players on the depth chart] could take the place of three, four and five and there was no drop off."
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org
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