Newcomers aim to reverse lower division trend for Brown men’s basketball

After losing eight players from the 2016-2017 season (13-17 overall, 4-10 Ivy), including first team All-Ivy Steven Spieth, four-year starting point guard Tavon Blackmon, and three-point specialist JR Hobbie, the Brown men’s basketball team was picked last in the 2017-18 Ivy League preseason media poll. With underclassmen filling out almost 64 percent of the roster and playing 74 percent of the team’s minutes, the Bears finished last year at 11-16 with a second straight 4-10 mark in the Ancient Eight. While the record was not impressive, Brown did take Providence to overtime, defeat Princeton on the road for the first time since 2010, and have a third place 4-4 record halfway through the conference schedule. After gaining a year of experience leading the program, the talented young core will attempt to move Brown beyond four straight seventh-place league finishes and make a push for a first-ever spot in the Ivy Tournament.

Reflecting their young roster, the Bears have minimal losses following the 2017-18 campaign.  Jason Massey and Patrick Triplett graduated, while David Erebor has left the team.  Massey played in 27 games, averaging 12.9 minutes, 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds.  Triplett only saw action in one game last year and Erebor played in five early-season contests.

Last season, Brown was able to use an uptempo game (adjusted tempo 71.7; #33, nationally) to lead the Ivy League with 77.0 points a game.  This fast pace also helped them become one of the nation’s best at drawing fouls and getting to the line.  Against Division 1 opponents, they averaged 24.1 attempts (#17) and 18.0 made (#8) free throws a game, while shooting at a 74.8 percent rate (#55) and securing 23.8 percent of its points (#11) from the charity stripe.  However, they struggled from the field, shooting 32.1 percent from three (#310) and 48.6 percent from two (#221), while allowing opponents to block 12 percent of their two point attempts (#337).  Their positive numbers on the offensive glass, 29.4 percent rate for the year (#149) and 30.7 in league play (#2, Ivy) helped lessen the effect from their shooting.

The high tempo game cost Brown, with its defense giving up 79 points a contest.  The quick pace also allowed its opponents to get to the line, averaging 23.1 attempts (#310) and 16.2 made (#308) free throws per game.  While the Bears did a solid job on the defensive boards with a 73.3 percent rate for the year (#79), they allowed Division 1 teams to shot 53.9 percent from two (#306) and 37.0 from three (#278).  In league play, Bruno was last in field goal defense, allowing its rivals to shoot 53.8 percent from two and 39.9 percent from beyond the arc.  Assuming that Brown continues to play its fast-paced game in 2018-19, coach Mike Martin’s team will need to find a way to flip the script when it comes to field-goal shooting.

In trying to reverse its fortunes, the Bear will be led by sophomore Desmond Cambridge, junior Brandon Anderson and sophomore Tamenang Choh. Cambridge is a 6′ 4″ wing from Nashville, who was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and second team All-Ivy.  Starting all 27 games, he averaged 17.3 points (3rd, Ivy), 2.5 made threes (5th), 4.5 rebounds (20th), 1.1 steals (8th) and 1.0 blocks (6th) for the season.  In league play, he put up 18.6 points (2nd), 2.5 made threes (4th), 4.9 rebounds (18th), 1.3 steals (7th) and 0.9 blocks (9th).  Additionally, his 486 total points were a school record for a first year player.  The 6′ 1″ Anderson, in his second year in the starting lineup, moved from shooting guard to the point with the graduation of Blackmon.  For his sophomore campaign, Anderson averaged 33.9 minutes (7th; +11 from ’16-’17), 17.3 points (3rd; + 9.1 from ’16-’17), and 3.9 assists (2nd; + 2.1 from ’16-’17).  For the year, Choh, a 6′ 5″ small forward from Lowell (MA), averaged 7.2 points per game, while leading the team with a 53.3 shooting percentage and 5.4 rebounds per game.  In conference play, he had 9.5 points on 53.8 percent shooting (7th), seven rebounds (4th) and one block (7th) per contest.

Heading into next season, coach Martin will bring in four first-years to build upon the program’s youth movement.  The Class of 2022 consists of two forwards, one forward/guard and one guard, with three of the athletes having ties to the state of Massachusetts.  New York’s Davis Franks started his high school career at Brooklyn Collegiate, but completed his last two years at Northfield Mount Hermon (MA).  Over 57 games at NMH, he averaged three points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists.  Verbal Commits noted that the 6′ 8″ forward had offers from Cornell, Columbia and American.

David Mitchell is a 6′ 6″ small forward/wing from the Belmont Hill School in Roxbury (MA), who played his AAU ball with Mass Rivals, alongside Choh, Yale’s Azar Swain and Penn’s Jarrod Simmons.  He is listed as a two-star recruit at ESPN and Verbal Commits listed offers from Boston University, American and Towson.  This past season, Mitchell was named to the Class A All-NEPSAC team.  After committing to Brown in June 2017, the New England Recruiting Report noted that the athlete was a physically strong wing, who could defend bigger players.  On offense, he was viewed as a hard line driver with an improving jump shot.

Thomas Shaughnessy is a two star (ESPN) 6′ 0″ combo guard from Needham High School (MA).  According to Verbal Commits, he had offers from Boston University, Army, Navy, American, Loyola (MD), Binghamton, Bryant, Quinnipiac and Manhattan.  He averaged 23 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals a game in his junior year.  In his senior season, he averaged 21 points a game and eclipsed 1,000 career points.  In the last two years, he was named to the Bay State Conference All-Star team by the Boston Herald, as well as the league’s MVP.  Additionally, he has earned the unofficial title of “Best Shooter in Massachusetts” in  2017 and 2018 due to his victories at the “A Shot for Life Challenge” charity events, which brought the 14 best male and female shooters in the state together for a two hour shooting competition of free throws, mid-range jumpers and three pointers.

Jaylan Gainey is the group’s non-Bay Stater, arriving from the Ben Smith High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. and Verbal Commits noted that the 6′ 10″ center/power forward had additional offers from Army, Lafayette, Canisius, Denver, Appalachian State, Hampton, Howard, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, Western Carolina and Maryland-Eastern Shore.  When profiled in Phenom Hoops Report last September, Gainey was noted to have impeccable timing in blocking shots and the ability to shoot the 10-15 foot jumper with consistency. This past season, he averaged 7.8 points (60 percent shooting), 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game.  For his career, he was named his conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and an All-League performer three times.

Note: The Brown announcement lists Marco Carnes of Braintree High School (MA) as a member of the program’s Class of 2022.  According to a representative of Brown Athletics, Carnes is not on the team.  It is not known which school he is attending.