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Monday, December 05, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

Baby bulls: 2022-23 men’s basketball preview

UB begins a new chapter after the last remaining members of the 2019 NCAA Tournament squad graduate

Then-junior forward LaQuill Hardnett goes for a layup in a 2021-22 matchup.
Then-junior forward LaQuill Hardnett goes for a layup in a 2021-22 matchup.

For the first time in the better part of the last decade, UB men’s hoops finds itself at a crossroads. Gone are the days of sky-high expectations and steamrolling the conference schedule en route to MAC championships and NCAA Tournament berths. Those glory days (2015-2019) were led by current Alabama head coach Nate Oats.

The Bulls have yet to win the MAC since Jim Whitesell, Oats’ head assistant at UB, was hired in 2019. Now, almost all of UB’s veteran leadership from last season has moved on. Seniors Ronaldo Segu, Jeenathan Williams and Brock Bertram all graduated, while defensive anchor Josh Mballa transferred to Ole Miss over the offseason. 

Whitesell, who’s expected to win his first conference championship with a completely revamped roster, faces perhaps his toughest challenge yet this season. Here’s what to expect from the men’s basketball team with the season just over a month away:

New Faces

Isaac Jack, a 6’11 center, was the highlight of the Bulls’ 2022 recruiting class and will provide much-needed size to the roster after the team lost Bertram and Mballa. Jack, a native of Port Alberni, British Columbia, started his career at Alberni District Secondary School before transferring to Fort Erie International Academy in Ontario, where he averaged 15.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. 

6’1 guard Devin Ceaser is another impressive 2022 recruit. He was the 50th ranked point guard in his high school’s graduating class, according to ESPN.com. Caesar, along with freshman guard Jaden Slaughter, will eventually look to fill the void left by Segu’s departure.  

This year’s UB squad also features six transfers: fifth-year guard Armani Foster (Indiana University of Pennsylvania); sophomore guard Kanye Jones (Boston College); senior forward Sy Chatman (Illinois State); and junior forwards Isaiah Adams (Central Florida), Jonnivius Smith (Seton Hall) and Yazid Powell (Harcum Junior College).

Returning Bulls

Senior forward LaQuill Hardnett is one of the few holdovers from last year’s squad. The Philadelphia native averaged 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 24 games off the bench for the Bulls last season. 

6-foot-9 sophomore Kuluel Mading, who played sparingly for the Bulls last season, will likely join Hardnett in the starting front court this upcoming year. Mading committed to UB as a three-star recruit and the 10th-best player in North Carolina, per 247Sports.com

Also returning for the Bulls this season are sophomore guards Kidtrell Blocker and Curtis Jones. Jones appeared in 28 games and averaged 2.5 points and 1.3 assists last year while Blocker averaged 2.3 points in 12 games as a freshman. Forward Zaakir Williamson, who missed the 2021-22 season due to injury, will also return.

Schedule Outlook

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The Bulls will open the 2022-23 season with a matchup against Colgate on Nov. 7 at Alumni Arena. Eight days later, UB will face a tough test on the road against the UConn Huskies in a nationally televised game (CBS Sports Network) on Nov. 15. 

But UConn won’t be the only high-major road test for the Bulls this season. UB will face West Virginia in Morgantown on Dec. 18, followed by a date with the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing on Dec. 30. Another highlight on the Bulls’ schedule includes the Paradise Jam tournament, which takes place Nov. 18-21 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. UB will also face off against Tulane in  “Holiday Hoopsgiving” at State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Dec. 10. 

Western New York hoops fans will have Dec. 3 circled on the calendar as UB will face St. Bonaventure for the second season in a row, this time at Alumni Arena. The Bulls’ lost last year’s matchup on a game-winning St. Bonaventure three-pointer as time expired.

UB will open its conference schedule with a home matchup against Ohio on Jan. 3. The Bulls will conclude the regular season against Miami (OH) on March 3.

The sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com

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