|Nurideen Lindsey will start at point guard/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE|
LAWRENCEVILLE — New coach. Fresh Faces. Something to prove.
This Rider group isn’t getting much respect from its peers — no
Broncs were selected for a preseason all-conference team, and they were
picked to finish ninth in the 10-team MAAC — but it knows all of that
will change if it plays well on the court.
“We went over that with our team,” said coach Kevin Baggett, who
makes his debut Friday night against Robert Morris. “We said, ‘This is
what the league thinks about you, and the only way to change that is to
go out and show it.’ It’s not about talking. That’s my message. Talk is
cheap. Go out and do what you need to do if you want to be one of those
Baggett has promised his squad will be better defensively than the one that allowed 74.6 points per game a year ago.
He also wants to push the pace in transition. Rider averaged 71.6 points per game, second in the conference.
“Any time there’s change, there’s going to be uncertainty,” Baggett
said. “We have to defend and take care of the ball and I want to get up
and down the court. We’ll defend and give ourselves the chance to be in
some games. If we don’t, we’re going to struggle because we don’t have
enough experience on the court one through 14.
To do that, the Broncs have to blend seven new faces into the lineup — six freshmen and transfer Nurideen Lindsey.
Baggett is going to start Lindsey at point guard with Jon Thompson
and Anthony Myles in a three-guard set. Danny Stewart and Junior
Fortunat make up the frontcourt.
Thompson closed the season by averaging 13.4 points over the final
five games. He scored 19 in the MAAC Tournament loss to Fairfield.
“Jon is a very prideful guy,” Baggett said when asked if Thompson was
upset about being omitted from the preseason all-league teams. “He’s
not one of those guys that’s going to speak out about it, but quietly, I
know he’ll want to go out there and prove people wrong. That’s the kind
of kid he is.”
Thompson only said he felt like the team was being overlooked.
“We feel like we have freshmen that can come in and help and
(Lindsey) comes from St. John’s,” the senior said. “We’re predicted to
be ninth, but we’re saying we shouldn’t be ninth. Our expectations are
The Broncs open with three straight at Alumni Gymnasium before hitting the road over Thanksgiving.
Baggett understands the importance of getting off to a good start.
After all, the Broncs began 1-10 a season ago — the program’s worst
start in 68 years — before righting the ship enough to go 10-8 in
conference play. They finished 14-19 overall.
“I have talked about it more than enough. I know they are tired of
hearing it,” Baggett said. “We have to go out there and play with a
sense of urgency as well. The returning guys understand that and they’ve
been talking about it as well. The freshmen have no idea, but once they
have a chance to really see this thing go live, and see the caliber
(of) team we’ll be playing, they’ll get it.”
With all the moving parts, does Baggett know what he’s going to get this season?
“My freshmen still have a long way to go,” he said. “I have a good
feel with what I’m getting from my returning guys, but it’s the freshmen
I have uncertainty about. Those guys haven’t separated themselves
enough in terms of whom I can consistently count on at this point.”
If it clicks, this team could have a few surprises up its sleeve.
“We have high hopes,” Stewart said. “There’s a paper in the locker
room that shows all the standings and we’re (picked) ninth. We have to
come out and play hard.”
— For complete coverage of Rider hoops this season follow Kyle Franko on twitter @kj_franko