The University at Buffalo Men’s Basketball Team will begin their quest for another championship
as they open the season at Alumni Arena against St. Francis, from the Northeast Conference, Tuesday afternoon at 4:00pm.
Ahead of the game I wanted to look at a roster that returns several impact players as well some new faces that will look to make an impression on you (the fans) early on.
First… let’s look at who isn’t coming back.
The biggest departure is without a doubt Wes Clark. Clark, who played for Oats in high school, began his collegiate career at Missouri where he played three seasons before transferring for his senior year. He joined UB in late December and was a force, averaging (15.5) points and (5.2) assists per game while shooting (47.7%) from the field. He was the offensive catalyst who could create his own shot at will and generate opportunities for others. He started all (26) games he appeared in and capped the season off with a MAC Tournament MVP after a (26) point performance in the conference championship game.
Also missing from the 2018-19 roster is center Ikenna Smart. Smart started (25) of the (27) games he appeared in though he only averaged (12.2) minutes per contest. A defensive minded center, Smart cleaned up missed shots and played the role of rim protector. You can see Smart in the ACC this year as he took advantage of his remaining year of eligibility and joined Wake Forest as a
This team returns the majority of its championship squad with three standout players that the fans will be hearing and seeing a lot of this year.
Let’s start with Nick “How do you like your pancakes” Perkins.
His post moves are smooth like butter and the lefty’s touch in the post is as soft as the pancakes underneath. Perkins, an All MAC first team selection as a junior, always had to be accounted for when he was on the court. Despite primarily coming off the bench he played starters minutes averaging (27.5) minutes and pouring in (16.2) points per game. Perkins is a matchup nightmare. He uses his (6’8”, 250lbs) frame masterfully in the paint to create his opportunities. In addition, he is no slouch from the outside. His ability to shoot the three forces opponents to leave the post. From there he can shoot it, take other big men off the dribble, or if a team switches a smaller defender on him he can back them down and bully them in the paint. Expect big things from Perkins this year.
Joining Perkins on last years All MAC first team is now senior guard, CJ Massinburg. I will crown Massinburg an undoubted fan favorite. He brings it night in and night out. He is the swiss army knife, do it all player that sets the tone for the rest of the UB team. He led the team averaging (17.0) points while contributing (7.3) rebounds, (2.4) assists, and (1.1) steals per game. Like I said he literally does everything. Massinburg was involved when the team was going on scoring runs and when the team needed a bucket you better believe they looked CJ’s way. He is the on-court extension of the coaching staff and is a legitimate candidate, if not favorite, to win MAC player of the year.
The last player I want to highlight individually is senior guard Jeremy Harris. We can all think of players, regardless of the sport, that everything they do just looks right. It is natural, crisp, smooth, and almost effortless. That is Jeremy Harris. Whether he is spotting up corner threes, pulling up from the wing in transition, or finishing with his patented finger roll at the rim, it should be considered art. The left-handed sharp shooter is deadly outside as he shot (41.8%) from three on (6.1) attempts per contest. At (6’7”) he has the ability to get his shot up and over defenders but also possesses the athletic ability to get to the rack and finish at the rim. As a junior college transfer, it seemed that it took Harris a few games to get acclimated and find his spot on the team. Harris tallied (6) points on January 2nd against Toledo, from there he recorded double figures in the final (22) games in route to (15.5) per game and a spot on the All MAC Second Team. I expect Harris to play an even bigger role this season and believe he is Massinburg’s biggest competition when it comes to the player of the year race.
There are a handful of other players that don’t dominate the stat sheet like the three above but played a major role last season and will again this coming season. Davonta Jordan, junior guard, started (35) of (36) games and is a bulldog. He has a knack for getting into the lane and making crafty moves in tight spaces to create for himself or dish it off to open players. Jordan is also a standout defender, being selected to the All MAC Defensive team last season.
Dontay Caruthers, a senior guard, played (18.0) minutes a game coming off the bench and is a true three and D player. He led the team, shooting (46.7%) from three while harnessing the ability to guard multiple positions at a high level.
Next is sophomore guard, Jayvon Graves, saw a lot of action as a freshman and demonstrated himself to be a trusted ball handler while fueling the high energy Bulls offense in his (16.3) minutes per game.
Finally, is senior forward Montrell McRae. McRae proved to be a reliable option off the bench, using his athleticism and long frame to block shots, grab rebounds, and occasionally throw down a dunk.
New faces, a reason to be excited for this season and into the near future. This section is dominated by two players, Jeenathan Williams and Ronaldo Segu, who will see the floor as true freshman.
We will start with Jeenathan Williams, one of, if not the highest touted recruit to find themselves in a Bulls uniform. Williams committed to Buffalo despite receiving offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse among many others. The four star, nationally ranked guard/forward is listed at (6’5”) and he is as athletic as anyone he steps on the court against. It is evident in his highlight tape that he loves to use his size and get the ball to the rack. Williams finishes above the rim with ease and his ability to penetrate, especially against smaller guards, will force defensive help leading to ample opportunities for the shooters lurking on the outside. A talent like Williams will find the court and make sure his presence is felt.
Accompanying Williams is Ronaldo Segu. The three-star recruit from Orlando Christian Prep is listed at (6’0”) and is a true point guard. Segu keeps the ball on a string with his dribbling ability, utilizes a lot of head fakes and hesitation then leverages his speed to get a step on the defender. His passing ability pops in his highlight tapes as he has apparent court vision and feel for the game. An inside source let us know that Segu, in practice, has been one of the most consistent shooters on floor. A true triple threat option, Segu’s versatility will make it difficult to keep him on the bench.
Of course, there are players not mentioned that will get opportunities. If we learned anything from Nate Oats last year, it’s that he loves to play fast. Get the ball, push it up court and with that he relies on depth. They are constantly subbing players getting in fresh legs and fresh energy. If players show an ability to contribute on either side of the court Coach Oats will find ways to incorporate them into the game. The team was deep last year but I believe this year is a whole other story. There are potentially ten players, if not more, on the roster that will see substantial time.
This team has their sights set on much more than a MAC Championship and one tournament win. It all starts Tuesday night, you can tune in at 4:00 pm on ESPN+, don’t miss out.