Dartmouth men’s basketball team looks to elevate its game

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2021 4:50:35 PM
Modified: 11/9/2021 4:52:25 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College head men’s basketball coach David McLaughlin enters his fifth season on the court in Hanover seeking continued improvement.

The Big Green have finished no higher than sixth place in the Ivy League during his tenure, and they were pegged to finish sixth again this season in an Ivy League preseason poll.

The men’s program did show progress in 2019-20, posting the best winning percentage both overall and in league play of McLaughlin’s tenure.

As Dartmouth opens its 2021-22 campaign on Tuesday at Boston College, McLaughlin will hope his squad can build on that success and make it to the next level.

“You want to be at the top four of the league and you want to go to the league playoffs. But if we want to be seen as a developmental program, which is what we want to be seen as, (it’s about whether) we are getting better across the board,” McLaughlin said. “And if we are getting better across the board and guys are buying into that development piece, there’s no way we can’t get better as a program.”

The Big Green have an unusually large roster — 20 players — thanks to a fifth-year senior and a graduate student, both of whom were granted another year of eligibility under the Ivy League COVID-19 rules.

The two players, forward Aaryn Rai and guard Brendan Barry, will be important pieces to this year’s team. Barry returns to Hanover after he played last season at Temple. He missed his entire senior season at Dartmouth with an injury, so this will be his first time on the floor for the Big Green since 2019, when he led the team in assists and steals per game and was second in 3-point percentage.

He relished the opportunity to face stiffer competition at Temple, but isn’t dwelling on his time in Philadelphia. He’s just eager to play for Dartmouth again — as are his teammates, who missed 2020-21 due to the conronavirus pandemic.

“I got to play last year, but I missed the year before that with the injury. (I’m) excited to put that Dartmouth uniform back on, and I know all of (my teammates) are excited,” Barry said. “I think last year pretty much gave us a great perspective on how easy it can be taken from us.”

Barry figures to start at guard along with seniors Taurus Samuels and Wes Slajchert.

Despite the expanded roster, McLaughlin is planning to lean on the experience of the guard trio, Rai and senior forward Garrison Wade.

The Big Green lost a crucial piece from previous seasons in forward Chris Knight, who transferred to Loyola Chicago.

Knight was a second-team All Ivy League selection in 2019 and 2020.

In 2020, he led Dartmouth with 14.8 points, 0.9 steals, and 1.21 blocks per game, and was the team’s second-leading rebounder behind Rai.

McLaughlin thinks there’s opportunity available in the front court for a less experienced player to capture a role during non-league play. Samuels thinks Dartmouth’s young forwards could step up.

“I think all five of our seniors can be huge, and then we got a lot of young talent,” Samuels said. “Especially losing Chris Knight, I think that our fours are going to step into big roles this year. They’ve been working really hard this offseason. We’ve been on them a lot, and they’ve really responded well.”

McLaughlin said winning rebounding battles will be essential for his team to succeed.

He wants to coach a defensive-oriented team that values possession and is efficient on both ends.

He sees intangibles in his squad that he likes.

“This team is capable of being a very together team, being very detail-oriented. They have to be able to out-tough opponents,” McLaughlin said. “We have the ability to potentially take great care of the basketball. With the way we defend, we want to protect the paint. We cannot allow second shots.

“If we can be defined by those things, I think that’s a really good beginning for success.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.

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