“Create chaos” was the mantra of the Warren Wilson College men’s basketball team throughout the 2015-16 season, a season in which the Owls advanced to the semi-final round of the USCAA Division II National Championship Tournament in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
While much has changed for the Owls - they lost second-team All-American and leading scorer Justin Gonyea to graduation - the mantra will remain the same this season, head coach Anthony Barringer’s second season with the team.
Barringer, a member of the Warren Wilson national championship team in 2013, coached the Owls last season as interim head coach. Leading the team to its highest seed in a postseason tournament (a number 4 seed), he accepted the permanent position shortly after the season concluded.
“As a player I loved playing a fast pace,” he said. “We run a defensive system where we keep a frantic pace, and then on the offensive side the guys have a ton of freedom. We want to get shots up quickly and score 100 points every night.”
The Owls were 9-0 in 2015 when eclipsing the century mark, led by a stable of speedy, athletic guards whose pressure on opponents forced turnovers and led to points in transition. Warren Wilson enters the 2016-17 season with 11 of 13 players capable of playing the guard position.
“We’re going to play faster, we’ll press harder, we’ll press more and we’ll be able to fly around the court more,” Barringer said. “We’re more athletic than we were last year.”
With the departure of five seniors, including Gonyea, players like Owen High graduate Michael Pomeroy will have expanded roles, Barringer said.
“You don’t fill (Gonyea’s) shoes with two feet,” Barringer said. “We’ll need Mike (Pomeroy) to score more than he did last year, but we’ll also rely on some other guys that can create their own shots and score as well.”
As in 2015, the Owls enter the season with five seniors on the roster. One of them is point guard Steven Holton Jr., who Barringer is relying on to lead the young team.
“He’s done a great job during the preseason with being a more vocal leader,” Barringer said. “Last year he had moments where he played a really high level of basketball, and then he would have times where he looked like a freshman. So more consistency is something I’m looking for from him this year.”
Another senior, Tuscola High School graduate Thomas Hay, will likely be one of the team’s toughest players, once again, the coach said.
“He’s ready to take it to another level now that he’s healthy,” Barringer said (Hay played much of last season with a shoulder injury). “He’s our 'glue' guy. He’ll take every charge, dive on every loose ball. And if there’s a ball going into the stands, then he’s going in there too.”
Another senior who will play physically, the coach said, is Kenrick Nesbitt. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard/forward will have several roles this season, Barringer said.
“We had to use him at center in one of our scrimmages because our post players were hurt,” Barringer said. “He had to guard a 7-footer, and he refused to be denied. I would say as far as toughness is concerned, it’s 1A and 1B with Kenrick and Thomas.”
Barringer also likes sophomore Jaquann Lockhart's physicality.
“He just continues to grow,” Barringer said of the Reynolds High graduate. “He had a big year last year as far as learning the game and what basketball at the college level is all about. But he also worked his tail off this summer, so he’s stronger and more explosive.”
Barringer is more comfortable and confident as head coach, he said. He’s given his players one goal, which if fulfilled, will once again propel them into the postseason.
“We want to go out there and win the day,” Barringer said. “Just go 1-0 every day.”
The team's next five home games
Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m., vs. Milligan College
Nov. 28, 7:30 p.m., vs. Newberry College
Jan. 28, 3 p.m., vs. Berea College
Jan 31, 7:30 p.m. vs. Columbia International University
Feb. 7, 8 p.m., vs. Bob Jones University