Agel’s Brown Bears on the Rise in the Ivy League
Friday, November 12, 2010
From Ithaca, New York where the three time defending Ivy League champion Big Red of Cornell reside to Philadelphia and Princeton home of traditional Ivy powers Penn and Princeton, people are taking notice of the players Agel and his staff have recruited to Brown. They are impressed with what they see and look at the Bears as a team on the rise.
“I appreciate some of the things that are being said,” Agel said. “But we have to put it together on the floor if we’re going to be a good team.”
Agel’s first recruiting class featured four players, three of which played significant minutes as freshman last season.
6’-5” sophomore guard Matt Sullivan (6.2 ppg, 2.8 reb, 2.1 apg) started 29 of 31 games last year and played out of position at the point because the team needed him to. Sullivan will switch back to his natural 2-guard position which should free him up on the perimeter for more open looks at the basket. As it was, he shot 38% from “3” a year ago. Those numbers should improve.
Sullivan wasn’t the lone freshman to contribute to the cause last year. 6’-8” forwards Tucker Halpern (8.1 ppg, 3.5 reb, 2.3 apg) and Andrew McCarthy (6.7 ppg, 4.7 reb, 1.1 blk) were third and fifth on the team respectively in minutes played.
Halpern has the on court mannerisms of former Celtics great Larry Bird. He’s a well-rounded forward who sees the floor well and is an extremely good passer.
McCarthy is a tall, lanky big man who has a great nose for the basketball. McCarthy’s rebounding skills are solid and his timing for blocking shots is an innate skill possessed by very few who play the game. His biggest challenges will be adding strength to his frame to be even more of an inside presence than he already is and staying out of foul trouble because the Bears need him on the floor as opposed to on the bench.
6’-8” forward Tyler Ponticelli was the other freshman who was part of Agel’s first recruiting class. He missed last season due to injury but is back on the floor this year for the Bears.
With leading scorer Matt Mullery now gone, the three upper classmen who will be expected to contribute heavily are Peter Sullivan, Garrett Leffelman and Adrian Williams.
The 6’-5” Sullivan (12.3 ppg, 4.5 reb) is the brother of Matt Sullivan and is entering his final year with the program. Peter eclipsed the 1,000 career point plateau as a junior and has a chance to finish in the top 5 on Brown’s all-time list of scorers.
Sullivan’s in-game leadership was noticeable as a junior. When teams were clamping down defensively on the Bears, Sullivan found a way to generate points. A good perimeter shooter, Sullivan can knock down the “3”, get to the rim off of dribble penetration and get to the free throw line if all else fails. He will clearly be the team’s go-to guy this season.
Leffelman (7.5 ppg, 1.8 reb) blossomed as a junior and was one of the league’s best 3-point shooters. All of his percentages were outstanding (54% FG, 46% 3PT, 83% FT). The Bears will try to get him as many open looks as possible from the perimeter while he helps open up the floor for the rest of his teammates.
Williams (5.7 ppg, 2.4 reb) has been a key contributor since he arrived on College Hill as a freshman. The son for former NFL quarterback Doug Williams, his game is well-rounded on the offensive end and he can be a lock-down defender as well.
6’-8” senior forward Chris Taylor contributed with some key minutes off the bench a year ago and should fill that same role this year.
What’s exciting is that Agel and his staff have added a second extremely talented recruiting class to the mix including a pair of much-needed point guards.
6’-1” freshman guard Sean McGonagill will start the season at the point. He sees the floor and runs the offense better than any point guard since Jason Forte. Unlike Forte, McGonagill is a pass-first type of point guard who can handle pressure and get the ball to his teammates in the right position.
6’-0” freshman guard Hakeem Harris has the physique of a runningback and is very athletic. Harris should be a solid on the ball defender and he also can hit the perimeter jumper on the offensive end.
6’-7” forward Dockery Walker may have been the most talked about member of this year’s freshman class. His size, athleticism and all around game make him a player to watch over the next four years.
6’-5” freshman swingman Josh Biber will start the season on the bench and should see limited minutes. He joins Toledo transfer Stephen Albrecht who should be a big contributor once he is eligible to play next season.
The Bears were picked to finish 6th in the Ivy League’s preseason poll:
The only thing which seems clear is that Princeton and Harvard do appear to be the teams to beat this season with Dartmouth expected to struggle at the bottom of the league standings. After that, it’s anything goes in the Ivy League.
Gone are the days when Penn and Princeton dominated the league and everyone else played for third place. Now, if you build a program the right way, you can have success in the Ivy League and win a championship much like Steve Donahue and Cornell did the past few seasons.
With what Jesse Agel and his staff are doing at Brown University, the hope is that the Bears will be one of those teams competing for a championship sooner rather than later.