Head coach Mitch Oliver has developed Albertus Magnus into a perennial D3 men’s hoops power.
The Falcons have won the GNAC and reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last five seasons under Oliver. That stretch includes a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2013-14. They haven’t lost at home since 2011. They score at will and put on quite a show with their up-tempo attack that had the third highest points per game average in the nation last season at 93.3.
However, what started as a promising season, one that for a moment looked like it could be the best in program history, ended on a sour note. Albertus got bounced of the NCAA tournament in the second round by Dickinson on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater.
To add insult to injury, the Falcons graduated six of the top seven scorers from that team. That includes three exceptionally talented players in forward Victor Ljuljdjuraj (a HeroSports All-American), flashy point guard Eian Davis and fellow guard Tavon Sledge, who spent some time at Iowa State before transferring in.
Last year’s team may have been the most talented – on paper – the program has ever seen.
Now the question is, will the Falcons take a step back, or can Oliver keep them at the top of the GNAC and near the top of the division?
Sure, they lost a lot. A ton, actually. But Albertus does have a talented guard coming back in James Jennings (11.1 ppg). He should really emerge in 2015-16 with a substantial increase in minutes. Jaqhawn Walters also showed flashes of promise as a freshman last year.
Oliver is a great coach. Some are even surprised that he’s still at Albertus and hasn’t moved on. But as good a coach as he is, he’s an even better recruiter. Guard Shakeem James and forward Justin Campbell are a pair of homegrown talents considering Albertus and could give the Falcons a boost. It’s likely Oliver will find a diamond in the rough, whether it’s a transfer or a high school player that slipped through the cracks.
Oliver took a 4-21 Falcons team and put them on the national map. This upcoming season will be a challenge for the Falcons. Their conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance streak could be in jeopardy.
But don’t count Oliver and his Falcons out just yet.