With Barros Gone, Beacons Need to Play as a Team to Succeed

Photo by Kory Vergets

Photo by Kory Vergets

Ryan Thomas

Amazing how much difference one season makes. Two years ago, the men’s basketball team was where they are now, sitting in the middle of the Little East Conference pack, no one expecting them to make any noise.

If you remember, that season turned into a Little East Conference Championship banner for the Beacons. Quite a turnaround. But it’s amazing how much difference one season makes.

In 2006-07, the reversal of fortune was drastic. Even with the majority of the championship team returning, the Beacons struggled to a 10-17 record, playing sub par basketball in conference and at home. “The guys had so much success the year before,” head Coach Charlie Titus said about last season’s team, “that they thought it was almost going to be automatic.”

Being comfortable on the floor is not how you win games. The Beacons will need to be aggressive and cohesive this season if they expect to surprise conference opponents the way they did in 2005-06. Coach Titus thinks that his three seniors-Mark Doran, Amigo Paniagua, and A.J. Titus-know what it takes to return to championship form. “They certainly can’t rest on their laurels like they did last year,” Titus said. That’s a start.

Titus said that objectively, on paper, the team he has constituted right now is middle-of-the-pack in the Little East. But. There’s always a but. “When we won it two years ago,” he said, “no one expected us to do it. So if we come together as a strong unit, we got as good a chance as anyone else.”

The three seniors that Titus singled out-Doran, Paniagua, and captain A.J. Titus-will all have to work extremely hard and lead by example because they will have to work together to fill the void left by Tony Barros. Amigo Paniagua, who was second on the team in scoring last season behind Barros, will be the new go-to guy. “He’s by far our best player, no doubt about it,” said Titus. Paniagua averaged 14.8 ppg last season in Barros’ shadow. Expect more production from the 6′ 3″ forward this season.

Mark Doran will also absorb some of the scoring load, “which pleases Mark,” Titus said. “[But] stepping up doesn’t mean shoot it every time you get it [the ball].” Mark is learning better shot selection and Coach Titus is pleased with his progression so far.

This season, because the Beacons don’t have that “fearless scorer,” as Coach Titus likes to refer to Barros as, the team will have to become a cutting, slashing, get-to-the-basket team. And that starts with A.J. Titus at the point. A.J.’s pass first, shoot second mentality is good, but Coach Titus knows that in order for the team to be successful, the captain will need to be a scorer as well. “When he gets to the basket, he becomes a double threat because he can finish and he can pass.” Along with A.J., Titus believes that Ernest Jean can be a good slasher and collect much-needed offensive rebounds for the Beacons.

A crucial cog that was missing from last year’s team was one of those scrappy guys, someone who would defend, get rebounds, force turnovers and do that “dirty work stuff,” Titus said. In 2005-06, Charles Yuan and Jimmy Hall were those guys. “Probably two of the best defenders in the whole conference,” Titus said about the two. Their presence was missed last year, but Coach Titus thinks that he has a couple young guys who can fill that “dirty work” role. Freshmen Giorgios, Ernest Jean and Anthony Brewer, who is a “tremendous defender,” all have a chance at being that guy. “But they’re all freshman,” Titus explains. He won’t know a lot until they get more game experience. And that goes for the rest of the team too. He believes that his team is good, but won’t know the team’s strengths until they start playing real games.

What Coach Titus does know, however, is that his team has bonded well, “which is critical,” he says. Thanks to more players living in the Harbor Point apartments this year, the guys have a chance to hang out away from the court and develop better relationships, something that Titus can’t even begin to explain the importance of. “Some coaches say it’s bunk,” Titus explains. “I don’t care, I believe it. I honestly believe it. I think that if you don’t get that kind of bonding, you don’t get the chemistry you need.”