PROVIDENCE, RI – Looking to get his team back into the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, head coach Jamie Benton has put together a tough schedule for the Johnson & Wales University men's basketball team. Opening up Friday, the Wildcats travel to Salem, Va. to take on York (Pa.) in the Dick Leftwich Tip-Off Tournament.
Back for his final season is 2019 GNAC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year Brian Hogan-Gary. Last season he averaged a double-double with 23.6 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game to go along with 4.0 assists per game. That stat line earned him All-New England Region honors.
Coach Benton will have to replace three of his top five scorers from a year ago, but also back is starting guard Justin Bullock, who averaged 10.6 ppg. Sophomores Danny Ampofo and Bryan Davis showed flashes during their rookie year and will be called upon to increase their role, along with junior AJ Bajana, and senior Deji Johnson.
This year's roster features six newcomers who will try to work their way onto the floor. First-year students and local products Aireus Rasberry (Cranston, RI/Cranston East) and Chris Lugo (Providence, RI / Juanita Sanchez) could make an early impact.
Coming off a semifinal loss last year to Saint Joseph's College of Maine, the Wildcats hope to reclaim their spot as GNAC champions. Johnson & Wales should be in the mix as it was ranked third with 117 points in the preseason GNAC coaches poll. Reigning GNAC champion Albertus Magnus received eight –first-place votes for 139 points while the University of St. Joseph's (Conn) was second at 129 points.
JWU's schedule features four teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament – including the season opener against the Spartans – as well as Division I opponents Brown University (January 7) and Yale (January 12). Sandwich in between is the GNAC opener versus Regis (January 11). On November 21, JWU welcomes Eastern Connecticut State in a rematch of the 2018 NCAA Tournament first round.