The Richmond Spiders men’s basketball team hopes to bounce back from a 16–16 record last year (7–11 in conference) in its first home game against VMI in the Robin’s Center Friday night.

The Spiders started last season with an 8–3 record out of conference with wins over Wake Forest and No. 14 California, but dropped their next three games. The team then lost six of its last eight games to conference opponents and received no at-large bid to the NCAA or NIT tournaments.

Coach Chris Mooney made key additions to his roster after losing star senior Terry Allen, who averaged 17.3 points and 7.7 rebounds last year.

Nick Sherod of St. Christopher’s High School and De’Monte Buckingham of Henrico High School, two of the three freshmen, should make significant contributions for the Spiders. Grant Golden, who stands at 6-feet-11-inches, rounds out the freshman class. He combines his size with the ability to play in transition and make deep jump shots.

This is the best freshmen class Richmond has seen since Mooney arrived 11 years ago, Mooney said. The Spiders also added Kwesi Abakah from Northeastern as a graduate transfer, who will be used primarily as a defender off the bench.

“I think our biggest strength has to be senior leadership we have from TJ [Cline], [ShawnDre' Jones] and Marshall [Wood],” senior forward Chase Fletcher said. “Those guys have proven their ability to make big plays in pressure situations when we need them the most. 

"Our goal is to make the NCAA tournament. Period. Anything less will be a disappointment.”

The team traveled to Europe this past summer. “It was an amazing experience,” Wood, a talented senior who can make 3-pointers, said. “Just being with each other was the most important aspect. Getting to know the younger guys and already knowing each other really helps.”

Despite the competitive A-10 conference, Mooney said he was confident in his team. “It is a realistic possibility to get to the top four spots in the league,” he said.

In a conference in which a team won the NIT championship and sent two teams to the NCAA tournament last season, Richmond is predicted to finish ninth. The team’s offense can compete with anyone in the league, but to be successful, it must improve on the defensive end, according to SportsNation.

The Spiders play VMI 7 p.m. Friday in the Robins Center.           

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