WILLIAMSTOWN — These are words you don't hear often when talking about a Williams College men's basketball team, but this team feels like it's lying in the weeds waiting to surprise.
When a team graduates more than half of it's offense, that happens.
"When you lose a couple of big time scorers [Daniel Wohl, Hayden Rooke-Ley] like we did this season, teams are going to overlook you a little bit," said Williams junior forward Dan Aronowitz. "People are looking at us and saying that they're such a young team. I think we're more experienced than people think, and I think we're playing as a unit as much since I've been here."
The Ephs, who finished 15-10 last year, open their season Friday night when they play Salem State in the first round of the Williams Tip-Off Classic. Williams will play its second-round game in the tournament Saturday at 4.
For Williams, this has been a longer-than-normal preseason because of the calendar. NESCAC schools get three weeks to practice as of Nov. 1. The Ephs will have had 20 full days of work before Friday's game.
And then, with the rest of college basketball having already started, Williams coach Kevin App said it's time.
"You sit around and say 'Is it Nov. 1 yet? Then you sit around and say 'Holy cow, we've got a game in two days,'" said App. "This was my favorite week because I don't have to worry about my team necessarily. I can watch other teams and not feel the stress. It's the one week I really get to soak it in."
But as of Friday, App will jump in the deep end with a Williams team that has only two seniors in Ed Flynn and Luke Thoreson. Williams graduated starters Wohl, Rooke-Ley and Ryan Kilcullen. The only returning starters are junior guard Mike Greenman and Aronowitz.
"But we have more returners in the number of guys who played [significant] minutes this year than we did last year," said App.
Opening night will demonstrate that, as Flynn, Greenman, Aronowitz, Chris Galvin and Cole Teal will be in the starting lineup. Galvin and Teal were part of last year's freshman class along with Adam Kroot. Galvin and Teal averaged 20 and 18 minutes per game, respectively.
There are six freshmen who range in size from 6-foot-2-inch Bobby Casey to 6-10 Michael Kempton. Kempton and Flynn are both 6-10, while among the freshman Jake Porath is 6-9, Marcos Soto is 6-8 and James Heskett is 6-7.
"I think we have a really high ceiling. We're very talented. We just have to be able to get it together, freshmen through seniors," said Greenman. "We just have to find our roles, find our niches. The quicker we do that, the quicker we'll get to where we want to be.
"But like Coach says, we want to be there in January, February and March. We don't necessarily need to be there on Day One."
One change for the Ephs is in their schedule. With the addition of Hamilton a few years back as a fulltime NESCAC school, the conference grew to 11 teams. That means one team plays without a travel partner. This year, and for the next two years, that'll be Williams.
What that means is that instead of playing Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, Williams will play its conference games on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.
"I think we're very ready" to start the season, said App. "I'm trying to get them to not be anxious and just play.
"I tell them, I've had my time and Friday is their time."