Williams college men's basketball team gets back to work after making Final Four last season

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WILLIAMSTOWN —The newest banner hangs on the south wall in Chandler Gymnasium.

"It's my first time checking it out," Williams guard Cole Teal said before practice Thursday night. "It looks good, though."

The newest banner honors Williams' 2017 trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four.

"We worked a kids camp last weekend. They pointed to the banners and said 'Are any of you guys part of those?' " Teal said. "We said 'well Greenie [Mike Greenman] is.'

"Just to be a part of something, and we're part of Williams history forever with that banner up there."

While most of college basketball has been hard at work since mid-October, NESCAC teams are not — by conference rule — allowed to start formal practices until Nov. 1.

"This fall, it feels like it's taken forever" for Nov. 1 to arrive, said Teal. "Everyone was so ready to get started again because we're so excited for what this year has to come. Now that it's here, I'm sure everything's just going to fly by."

The men and women split time in Chandler during the preseason. They alternate 6 and 8 p.m. practices until the season starts.

Williams will open its season on Nov. 17 at home, when the Ephs play Salem State in the 6 p.m. opener of the fall Williams Invitational. The nightcap of the doubleheader features Suffolk and Stevens Institute of Technology.

The Ephs, who were unranked at the start of the 2016-17 season, lost in the D-III semifinals to Augustana, and ended up ranked fifth. This year, the Ephs head into the season as the No. 3 team in the D3hoops.com national Top 25.

Williams is one of three NESCAC teams in the preseason Top 25. Tufts, losers to Williams in last year's NESCAC semifinals, is ranked sixth. Middlebury, the team that beat Williams in the NESCAC championship game but lost to the Ephs in an Elite Eight game, is ranked ninth.

Whitman, loser to eventual national champion Babson in last March's second semifinal, is a near-unanimous No. 1. Whitman blew a 25-point lead in the semifinal.

Augustana, winner over Williams in the other semi, is ranked second. Hanover is fourth and Ramapo is fifth. The defending national champions got two of the 25 first-place votes and are ranked seventh.

Williams isn't ranked highly just because it finished its season at the Final Four. Williams did graduate leading scorer Dan Aronowitz and reserve guard Taysean Scott — Aronowitz took his team-best 17.3 point-per-game average with his diploma — but coach Kevin App has the rest of his group back.

Williams was 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament last year and while Aronowitz led the team in scoring twice, so did returning junior Kyle Scadlock and senior Greenman led once.

"We were anxious to get going," said App. "We didn't have everybody. A few guys had class and interviews. We won't have the full group until [Friday's practice]. We have balance, experience and the upperclassmen are doing a great job of saying the right things and keeping everyone focused."

While Aronowitz led the team in scoring, the fourth-year head coach said he's not concerned about finding one player to step into those shoes.

"Dan was a security blanket for me for the last two years. Any time I thought we needed something, we just called something for him. To his credit, he usually made something good happen," said App. "That'll be the biggest adjustment on my end, with different situations.

"Instead of it just being one guy, we have — depending on the games and the matchups — a lot of different options."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.


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