Johns Hopkins Men's Basketball Season Preview
Head coach Bill Nelson, now in his 31st season, returns three starters and 11 letter winners from last year’s squad. The Blue Jays suffered some key injuries last season and finished with a 13-12 record and in a tie for fifth in the Centennial Conference standings. Nelson is on the verge of a pair of milestones this season as he can earn his 500th win at Hopkins and his 600th overall win.
Oh Captain, My Captain!
Graduate student Austin Vasiliadis, seniors Ryan Curran and Nikhil Panu and junior Kyle Doran will captain the Blue Jays this season. Vasiliadis is just the 16th player in the 92-year history of the program to serve as a captain twice. He is also the first to so since 2005-06, when Jeff Thompson served his second stint as a captain.
Around the Centennial
Johns Hopkins was picked to finish third in a preseason vote of the Centennial Conference coaches and Sports Information Directors as the Blue Jays received a total of 116 points. Swarthmore was picked to win the league with 164 points and 12 first-place votes. Defending champion Franklin & Marshall is second in the poll with 151 points and eight first-place votes. Hopkins is followed by Gettysburg (fourth • 106 points) and Dickinson (fifth • 104 points) to round out the top five.
Below is a position by position look at the 2016-17 Blue Jays.
The Point Guards
Hopkins is in the unique position of returning to highly experienced point guards in graduate student Austin Vasiliadis and junior Jesse Flannery, while sophomore Noah Ralby is back after a solid freshman campaign.
Vasiliadis returns after missing 19 games due to a knee injury. The consummate point guard, he was having a spectacular start to his senior campaign, averaging 14.3 points and 5.67 assists while boasting an impressive 3.09 assist-to-turnover ratio. As a junior, Vasiliadis led the Centennial Conference in assists (128) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.51). He enters the season ranked sixth in school history in career assists (257), fifth in assists per game (3.13), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.97) and 14th in steals (100).
Flannery stepped into the starting role after Vasiliadis’ injury and did an outstanding job for the Blue Jays. He averaged 4.7 points, 2.6 assists and 0.8 steals in 23.7 minutes per game. A smart player and an excellent passer, Flannery did an outstanding job of running the Blue Jays’ offense. Ralby saw time in 15 games last season, averaging 5.7 minutes off the bench. He is a strong defender and has tremendous quickness. Ralby can also drive to the basket as he averaged just under a point per game last season.
The Shooting Guards
Senior Nikhil Panu is joined by sophomore Michael Gardner and freshman Mac Rowan at the two spot. Panu has been a jack of all trades in the backcourt for the Blue Jays seeing time at the one and two in his career. He averaged 2.7 points and 1.5 assists last season while playing 16.9 minutes per game. He is a strong defender and Nelson is looking for him to pick up his offensive game this season.
Gardner saw time in 22 games and averaged 8.7 minutes as a freshman. He chipped in 1.5 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game. Gardner is a natural scorer and has a versatile inside-outside game. He’s worked hard in the weight room and is not afraid to fight for rebounds. Rowan is a talented shooter and sees the floor as well as anyone. He should see time at the two and the three spots this year.
The Small Forwards
Returning at the small forward spot are graduate student Sam Gordon, junior Kyle Doran and sophomore Joey Fitzpatrick. Gordon emerged as a starter seven games into the season and averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 55.4 percent from the field. One of the best penetrators on the team, he takes the ball to the basket and one of his strengths is getting to the line. Gordon not only led the team in free throw attempts and free throws made, he also led the team in field goal percentage and offensive rebounds last season.
Doran also missed significant time last season due to an injury. He played 16 games, with 10 starts, and averaged 22.1 minutes per game. Doran chipped in 8.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 84.2 percent from the line. He is another versatile player with a strong inside-outside game. Fitzpatrick, who saw limited time as a freshman, is a crafty player who sees the floor well and is good at finding the open man.
The Blue Jays return three players in the low post, led by senior Ryan Curran, a 2015 All-Centennial selection. Also returning are senior Max McKee and sophomore Daniel Vila. Joining the group this season are senior Josh Wetzler, sophomore Kabir Suri and freshman Harry O’Neil.
One of the best post players in the conference, Curran is a multitalented player. He can step out and drain a three, drive to the basket and battle down low. He will be looked upon defensively this year to replace Matt Billups, who led the league in blocks last season. Curran, who also missed several games due to injury, averaged 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. McKee has had an injury-plagued career but did see action in 19 games last season. He has developed a strong outside game and can step out to 22 feet. At six-foot-eight, he is also a threat inside.
Vila played 13 games as a rookie and chipped in 1.9 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. He has had a great preseason and is really asserting himself in the post. Vila plays well with his back to the basket and is an excellent rebounder. Wetzler, who played with Gardner in high school, brings needed depth to the post position. Suri has a soft touch and a real knack for playing inside. O’Neil has missed much of the preseason due to an injury, but is expected to be back early in the season. He is a strong inside player and a tremendous rebounder, who can also step outside.
By the Numbers
1 • Jostens Trophy winner
3 • Predicted finish in the Centennial Conference
3 • Centennial Conference Tournament titles
3 • Returning starters
7 • CoSIDA Academic All-Americans
11 • NCAA Tournament appearances
11 • Returning letter-winners
31 • Seasons for head coach Bill Nelson
42 • All-Centennial Conference selections
92 • Seasons for Johns Hopkins men’s basketball
485 • Wins at Johns Hopkins for Nelson
590 • Overall wins for Nelson