It is always a big deal when a college or university changes their conference affiliation. While the Mountain East is really just the old West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) reincarnated with some additional institutions, it is always a big deal to say that you won the conference during the first year of existence.
Right now, it looks as if the Shepherd University football team is going to hold up their end of the bargain. They are rolling to say the least. The Shepherd Rams men’s basketball squad will be looking to do much of the same this year. Last year wasn’t too bad for the team as they finished the campaign 15–12 overall and 12–10 in the WVIAC. There is little doubt that Coach Justin Namolik will be hoping for a better year this time around.
When running a college athletics program, one of the issues you always face is losing your student-athletes to graduation. Losing Sidney McCray and Chad Moore could be very rough on the Rams. Those two young men were vital cogs in the Shepherd basketball program. However, it also opens the door for a young man to step up and fill in the vacant leadership role.
That opens up the leadership role to four seniors. Guard Marcus Pilgrim, guard Brantley Osborne, forward Kevin Jones and forward Logan Holloman will all look to lead the team by providing a positive example to the six freshmen on the squad. Holloman and Kevin Jones are both transfers, arriving at Shepherd from Liberty and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, respectively. The players should not hold this against them; at this time, they are teammates and should respect their status as senior athletes.
The Rams open up the season on Nov. 9, taking on California of Pennsylvania. They will be competing in the Clarion Hotel Conference Challenge when they take on Cal of Pennsylvania, as well as the following day when they play Slippery Rock. Their first conference matchup of the season will come on Nov. 23 when the Rams will host the Pioneers of Glenville State. On Jan. 9, Shepherd will play West Liberty. Last year, the Rams narrowly lost to the Hilltoppers by five points. It was a game of epic proportions; West Liberty was ranked number one in the nation and the Rams gave them all that they could handle. This year, the Rams will definitely have eyes on reversing the result of the game.
It is going to be an interesting year for the Rams. They lost two great players in Sidney McCray and Chad Moore. One of the qualities that oftentimes will make a program highly competitive is the ability to reload, not rebuild. The team lost two great players; it will be up to those who come after them to carry the mantle.