Led by Esonwune, Men's Hoops Aims High
The York College men’s basketball team has played outstanding basketball over the past few seasons. They set a school record for wins in 2007-08 and then broke that record again during the 2009-10 season. They’ve won the CUNY Athletic Conference South Division twice in the past three seasons, played in to two conference title games and even saw one of its players become an All-American.
Yet despite these great accomplishments, the Cardinals have fallen short of their ultimate goal: to win the CUNYAC Championship.
This season, head coach Ronald St. John and the men’s basketball team are confident they can regain the CUNYAC title, which has eluded them since 2007.
The Cardinals will go as far this season as senior center Marcel Esonwune can take them. Esonwune, who is coming off a remarkable season in which he was named a first-team all-American, as well as a slew of other awards, will be looked upon to lead the team in his final season.
“I’m very hungry to win [the CUNYAC title] this year,” said Esonwune. “With the team we have, I think we can do it.”
Last season, Esonwune led all of NCAA Division III in blocked shots per game (4.2 bpg), was second in the nation in rebounds per game (14.8), while also averaging 18.6 points per game. This season, however, coach Ronald St. John thinks he’ll have to work a little harder to score points.
A year ago, Esonwune developed a good chemistry with graduating senior Nick Hamilton-Lopez. Esonwune benefitted from Hamilton-Lopez’s awareness on the court.
“Marcel knows it’s going to be harder to score this year without Hamilton-Lopez throwing it up there for him," according to St. John. "He’s been working on his post-up game to make up for it.”
However, York has brought in a number of new guards to fill the void. At point guard, both Michael Edwards, a transfer from Queensborough Community College, and Caswell Blake will compete for time at point guard.
“Edwards is a very quick player that can get to the basket and also knock down the outside shot,” said St. John. “ He’s a natural shooting guard but I think he handles the ball well enough to make the adjustment to point guard. “
“Blake has the potential to be pretty good as well,” added St. John. “I think he’s going to help us. “
William Holley, who transferred from Kingsborough Community College, and can play both guard and forward is expected to be a major contributor for York this season. “I think William will shine in the CUNYAC this season. He can get to the basket, he can rebound and he can handle the ball. I think he can be a first-team All-CUNYAC player,” noted St. John.
In the frontcourt, St. John expects a breakout season from sophomore forward Shamir Wilkinson. In his freshman season, Wilkinson was thrust into a starting role mid-season and played increasingly better down the stretch. “Shamir is a legit low-post presence,” said St. John.
Returning players David Simon, Phillipe Gregoire and Amobi Moujeke, who each played key roles off the bench, will be looked upon to play a bigger role this season.
In order to regain the conference title, York will have to deal with the usual suspects in the CUNYAC. St. John expects Baruch College and Hunter College to be two of the top teams in the league, along with two-time defending champs Brooklyn College.
In order to prepare for conference play, York has one of its most difficult non-conference schedules in recent years. William Paterson University, Rutgers-Newark University, Ramapo College and SUNY Brockport are just a few of the difficult games on the slate for York.
“One of my goals this season is to be ranked in the East region,” added St. John. “In order for us to be ranked, we have to compete against the best schools. It also helps us to be better against our conference opponents and it will help us in postseason tournaments as well.”
The Cardinals will begin their quest for their fourth CUNYAC title on November 15th, when they visit Ramapo at 7:30 p.m. York’s home opener will be on November 17th against Kean University at 8:00 p.m. Admission to all York athletic events are free of charge.