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Sports

Men’s Basketball Prepares for New Season

MB New SeasonThe men’s basketball team put together one of the most exciting seasons in program history a season ago. They finished with a 28-8 record, winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) regular season title and came within a three-pointer of forcing overtime in the MAAC Tournament title game.

There is definitely buzz around campus surrounding the Hawks’ upcoming season. The team was even selected to win the conference as voted on by the league’s 11 head coaches, garnering nine of the first place votes.

Head Coach King Rice, who is entering his sixth season leading the Hawks, cautions fans not to get too far ahead of themselves early on.

“We had a great summer, but since practice has started, we have a long way to go,” Rice said. “The kids are working hard, but I don’t want to compare anything to last year because we are not the same team.”

The blue and white return seven seniors, including reigning MAAC Player of the Year Justin Robinson, who was also unanimously selected to the Preseason All-MAAC First Team and was named the unanimous Preseason MAAC Player of the Year.

“It just puts a target on my back because every team is going to be scouting me even more than they were last year,” Robinson said. “Players are going to want to shut me down and it’s just going to put a chip on my shoulder to play harder.”

Robinson started all 36 games last season and averaged 19.3 points per game and set the Monmouth single-season scoring record with 693 points. He posted a career-high 36 points in a 93-87 win at Siena on Feb. 1.

Also returning this season are senior guards Je’lon Hornbeak, Collin Stewart and Josh James and junior guard Austin Tilghman. Rice likes what he has seen from them so far in practice.

“Je’lon is a senior this year and he’s been playing great and Collin has been playing well. Josh is our best defender and Austin has been working really hard for us,” Rice said.

Senior center Chris Brady also returns from last season, as does sophomore guard and reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year Micah Seaborn, who started all 36 games and averaged 13.2 points per game a season ago and was named to the Preseason MAAC All-Second Team.

“Micah started a little slow this season but we’ve seen major improvements. His maturity on and off the court have been tremendous and we’re excited about the things that he’s going to do this year,” Rice said.

The Hawks welcome two freshman to the team this season in guard Ray Salnave and forward Sam Ibiezugbe.

“They’re two young guys and we’re loving what we’re seeing from them, but sometimes everybody starts talking about freshmen before they’re ready and it puts pressure on them. Ray and Sam have both been awesome so far,” Rice said.

The Hawks made their first appearance to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) last season and advanced to the second round, but fell to the eventual champion George Washington Colonials. This year, fans are hoping they can advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Their journey begins on Friday, Nov. 11 when Drexel visits the newly re-named OceanFirst Bank Center for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

“Just get me to Nov. 11. I’m ready,” Robinson said.

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University Athletics

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