The Holy Cross Crusaders look to improve upon their 9-9 finish in the Patriot League last year, but they’ll have to do it without two of their best players.
Their top two scorers from their previous season, guard Robert Champion and forward Malachi Alexander, were both seniors last year and have since graduated. Champion lead the team in points with 13.5 PPG and Malachi was second in points with 13.3 PPG, and led them in rebounds per game at 5.0.
Junior forward Karl Charles will be a key figure for the team going into this season, as statistically he is the best player on the team having averaged 9.4 PPG, 3.3 RBP, 3.7 APG, and 1.6 SPG last season. As the team has no senior players on the roster, juniors will play a key leadership role for the Crusaders this year. Head Coach Bill Carmody highlighted the role that his five junior players will take on in an interview with GoHolyCross.com.
“We are looking for the junior class to be leaders both on and off the court,” Carmody said. “With a young team this season, it will be up to them to show the underclassmen what it takes to be successful.”
Defense will be the key to the Crusaders game this year, as they were the best defensive team in the Patriot League last season. In the 2016-17 season, the Crusaders led their conference in scoring defense with 62.1 PPG, steals with 9.4 SPG and turnover margin with a margin of +4.9.
Without their two leading scorers last year, the Crusaders are in need of players to step up to fill in those roles. One player that will look to fill the scoring void is freshman guard Austin Butler. Butler, who hails from Greater Latrobe Senior High School in Pennsylvania, averaged 29.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 2.5 APG in high school. Aside from Butler, the Crusaders have added five other freshman that coach Carmody thinks will be standout players this year.
“We have a large freshman class this year with a good amount of talent,” Carmody said. “We will be counting on them to contribute right away, while looking for them to grow and develop over the course of the season.”
Only two years removed from a Patriot League title and a March Madness appearance, the Crusaders are set for a tough season in which they will need to prove themselves. After going .500 in the Patriot League (15-17 overall) and losing to Navy in the first round of the Patriot League tournament, the Crusaders will certainly strive to prove that they are a top team in the conference. Key games this season will be against Harvard on Thursday Nov. 16th, defending Patriot League champion Bucknell, 2017 Patriot League runner-up Lehigh, and Boston University, their Turnpike Trophy rivals. Coach Carmody reflected on how this season will be a challenge for the Crusaders, but a welcomed challenge nonetheless.
“We always try to play a tough non-conference schedule because we really like to compete against other good teams,” said Carmody. “The Patriot League will be challenging, since most of the top teams have several key guys coming back.”
Holy Cross will open its seasn at Sacred Heart on Friday Nov. 10. Tip off is at 6:00 p.m.