Picked to finish eighth in the PSAC West a year ago, the Fighting Scots found themselves on the winning end of seven of their final
10 contests to qualify for the 2015 PSAC tournament. Heading into this season, Edinboro is picked to finish third in the PSAC West, only behind Mercyhurst and Division II’s national runner-up, Indiana (Pa.).
A group that concluded the 2014- 2015 campaign with a 14-13 mark (11-11 PSAC West) is looking to transform from the “hunter” to the “hunted,” according to head coach Pat Cleary.
“It’s an interesting transition, because we have always been the hunter instead of the hunted, and so now it’s trying to make sure our guys realize it’s a change of roles and the expectations are higher,” Cleary said two weeks ago at PSAC basketball media day. “We’ve got to be able to move up now.”
The Fighting Scots return just two starters from last year’s squad after finishing fifth in the conference in scoring (74.7 PPG) and third in scoring margin, but according to Cleary, his talented backcourt has a lot to do with the high expectations.
“I’m a little bit surprised to be honest with you, because we did lose three starters from last year’s team,” Cleary admitted of being picked third. “I do think that some of that high ranking is attributed to them obviously with Jaymon [Mason] being freshman of the year and Henri [Wade-Chatman] being an all- conference player last season, but it is a surprise being that high.”
Wade-Chatman (18.9 PPG, second in PSAC) and redshirt-sophomore guard Mason (14.5 PPG, 13th) return after turning in the highest scoring average by a backcourt duo in the conference a year ago (33.4 PPG).
“It’s exciting; we just come in and battle each other every day in practice,” Mason said. “No matter what, we just always work hard and [are] looking for results. It’s exciting to get that recognition and whatnot, but we don’t really think about it much. We just play basketball.”
The 2015-2016 campaign will be the second season Cleary will have both players on the floor together after Mason’s freshman campaign last season.
“I’m not sure, because to keep practice competitive we’ve kind of split them up the whole time so I’m kind of looking forward to having them out there together,” Cleary said of Mason and Wade-Chatman playing together. “Coaching them is fun and really when you have guys of that caliber you can do a lot of different things."
Wade-Chatman earned first team All-PSAC honors a season ago and enters this year as the preseason player of the year in the PSAC along with All-American status, according to D-II Bulletin. “Booka,” as his teammates call him, is one of two preseason first team All-PSAC players representing the Fighting Scots.
“He’s got a lot stronger, he’s got a better shot, he’s so much quicker and everything,” Mason said of his teammate. “He’s improved his game all around, so I’m expecting big things from him this year.”
Mason was named to the first team heading into this season after winning PSAC West freshman of the year honors.
“They have to pick their poison,” Wade-Chatman said with a grin. “You’re going to come after me or Jaymon. That’s going to be a hard decision for some coaches, because he’s just as dangerous or more dangerous than I am.”
In the absence of lost seniors Sam Sealy-James and Casey Baker from last year’s starting frontcourt, junior center Tommy Scales is poised to play a much bigger role in the eyes of his coach.
“He’s massive for us,” Cleary said simply. “He has the experience with us last year. He knows what is expected of our guys in those roles.”
Among newcomers for the Scots, a pair of players stand out heading into this year, according to their teammates.
Art Cook, a California (Pa.) transfer, is a 6-foot-6-inch redshirt junior forward and Je’Land Head, a 6-foot junior guard from Cleveland, who transferred from Mercyhurst North East, will be counted on to play critical roles this season.
“Art Cook brings a versatility to the floor,” Wade-Chatman said. “He’s really a nice stretch-four and has nice ball handling skills. You can really put him out on the perimeter. Je’Land Head is a great backup point guard. He probably could start almost anywhere else in the PSAC.”
Edinboro hosts Slippery Rock for its 2015-2016 lid lifter on Wednesday, Nov. 18 with a 7:30 p.m. tip at McComb Fieldhouse.
SRU ended the Scots’ season a year ago with a 64-60 win at Morrow Fieldhouse back on Feb. 28 in the PSAC tournament quarterfinals.
Mike Fenner is a Senior Staff Writer for The Spectator.