While a 1-5 start to the season was not what anyone in the program expected, the fact that sophomore guard Mike Black missed four of the games had a lot to do with the struggles. With Black’s return to the lineup at the recently completed Legends Classic Subregional, the Great Danes won two of their three games, with the only loss coming in double-overtime against Detroit. According to Brown, the return of the sophomore guard to the rotation means everything to the team.
“It’s imperative for us to have him [Black] on the floor,” Brown emphasized. “He is the best point guard in the America East. He is the engine for us and the guy that really gets us going. We had him for the first 10 minutes against Cornell and we were up 10 points. So, we hadn’t really played a game with Mike until this weekend and he was still probably only at 75 percent. Just having him on the floor makes us a whole different team because now we can score consistently from all three perimeter positions.”
During his freshman season, Black received attention for his ability to score from the point guard spot. However, Brown insists that it is his intangibles that are the key for this team to have success.
“Not only can he score, he forces tempo and he helps us get out and run. He is still not healthy enough to get into the lane and score, which is something that he is pretty good at, but he brings the ability to shoot the ball and handle the ball and just get us into our offense. Like I said, he is the heart and soul of our team.”
In the absence of Black, sophomore guard Logan Aronhalt has shown the ability to be one of the elite scorers in the conference. While Aronhalt flashed his potential early in his career, it has taken lots of hard work and dedication to get back from some of the early injuries he faced.
“The one thing with Logan is that he is a confident kid,” said the 10th-year head coach. “Every time he shoots the ball, he thinks it’s going in and so do we. I think what people don’t realize about Logan is that he was inactive for about 16 months. He had two foot surgeries and he had a screw put in and removed. He then had bone graphs and another screw put in. So, he wasn’t even cleared to start jogging until October 1st of last year and wasn’t even close to his comfort zone until the final five or six games last season.”
With Aronhalt finally healthy and able to show the versatility in his game, Brown and his staff are not surprised by the great success he has had early this season.
“He has gone down from 217 pounds to 202 pounds and has dropped his body fat from about 11 percent to 8.5 percent,” explained Brown. “Now, he has his quickness back and his explosiveness back. When we signed him coming out of high school, we thought we were getting a kid that could potentially be a rookie of the year in our league.”
The return of Mike Black from injury has allowed the coaching staff to build this team around the backcourt of Black, Aronhalt and senior guard Tim Ambrose. While the majority of the rotation is young and inexperienced, there is a sense that this could be a special group when America East play comes around in January.
“I think this group has a chance to be pretty good,” Brown said. “What we need to realize is that we have a nine-man rotation and eight of those kids are freshmen and sophomores. The biggest thing for us is that we have to stay healthy and as a coaching staff we need to realize how young this group is. If we can get this group to play with a sense of urgency every single day, I think this team has a chance to be very good.”
As this team continues to get to practice and play together, it appears that the potential is there to compete for an America East Championship. There are few teams that can match the talent and explosiveness of the backcourt, and the duo of freshman forward Luke Devlin and sophomore center Blake Metcalf gives the Great Danes nice size on the interior. While the rest of the non-conference schedule won’t be easy, it should setup this team to have a high level of both mental and physical toughness heading into what should be an exciting conference race.
“Our goal is to be good in America East play,” emphasized Brown. “That is why we are playing such a demanding non-conference schedule. We want our guys to be challenged early and often so that when we get to conference play, we are ready to go.”