Men’s Basketball Pushes for Playoffs with High Hopes for New Coach

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Published January 22, 2020
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The Montclarion
Sophomore guard DeAireus Brown shoots against Kean University on Dec. 7th Chris Krusberg | The Montclarion

Midway through the season, Montclair State University’s men’s Basketball team has a 8-8 overall record. The team sits in third place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) with a 6-3 record and eight games to go.

Newly hired head coach Justin Potts has adapted to the new style of play, and so far players have responded positively.

The team started the season traveling outside of New Jersey to Oregon and Virginia, where they won and lost a game in each state. One of the biggest highlights of the first half of the season came on Nov. 26, when the team played their first NJAC game at William Paterson University.

A back-and-forth battle between the two led to a late shot for William Paterson to send the game into overtime. The overtime game was capped off with Red Hawks senior guard Akbar Hoffman’s game winning shot from the top of the key with three defenders surrounded by him.

This buzzer beater landed Hoffman on ESPN’s top 10 highlights, with a 41 point performance and an amazing finish to the teams first NJAC matchup of the year.

The team went on to win five straight games against key NJAC opponents, finishing off mid-season 7-3. With this came a lot of improvement to be made in 2020.

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Senior guard Nate Nahirny jumps for the ball against Kean University on Dec. 7th.
Chris Krusberg | The Montclarion

Throughout the season, senior leadership has played a big role, with the top four scorers being all seniors. Hoffman leads the team, averaging almost 18 points per game. The other three seniors, guard Nate Nahirney, forward Jalen Parham and forward/center Eddie Emedoh each average between 10 and 11 points per game.

The new year started off rocky, with the team losing five out of six games. They still hold on to third place in the NJAC conference and are only two games back from the leader, Stockton University.

The men’s team is coming into a home stretch of NJAC matchups with the second best offense in the league, averaging 80 points per game. They also lead the league in 3-point field goals made, averaging 11.2 a game.

The importance of offense plays a major role for Montclair State. They strive to force turnovers during the game and transition to get open shots and 3-point attempts.

The team plays a deep rotation of players off the bench that contribute to valuable minutes and have come up big in close games.

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Junior guard/forward Irving Callender IV jumps for a shot against Kean University on Dec. 7th
Chris Krusberg | The Montclarion

The team’s final nine games are against NJAC opponents. William Paterson will come to Panzer Gym on Jan. 22, setting up another intriguing matchup after the previous game was won by Montclair State on Hoffman’s game winner.

Two important matchups come in February, when first place Stockton and second place Rutgers-Newark make trips to Montclair State that can impact NJAC standings immensely.

These games give Montclair State the opportunity to move up in the standings with each matchup. Home court will give the Red Hawks a strong advantage, with five out of their nine final games being played at Panzer, where the team excels.

This final stretch will be a true test for Coach Potts. His team plays with a fast tempo and with a full-court press that has been adapted well by his players.

The team flourishes with multiple players and sometimes uses all 10-15 players to win games. There is a lot of important basketball left to be played for the Red Hawks men’s basketball, who look to make another playoff run.

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