BURLINGTON, VT – A winning program comes from a winning formula.
“They recruit good guys that really can mold into a system and listen and are coachable and once that system is in place and you’re here to play, I think everybody just flows with it and they realize this is what it is and if you wanna be a Catamount basketball player this is what you have to do and they do it,” said Aaron Deloney, a graduate student.
The UVM men’s basketball program is coming off its second straight conference championship, but in the offseason, four major players graduated: Robin Duncan, Finn Sullivan, Dylan Penn, and Kam Gibson. Longtime head coach John Becker quickly filled those holes by picking up four experienced guards from the transfer portal. One of them is Shamir Bogues, a defensive specialist.
“[He has] just an aggressive relentless style of play,” said Becker.
“[There’s] definitely gonna be a lot of steals, hopefully a lot of lobs and a lot of dunks from me,” said Bogues, a transfer from Tarleton State.
Bringing in new players can sometimes change the culture, but not in this team’s case.
“It’s really been on us returners to carry the culture forward and the new guys have been fitting in seamlessly,” said Ileri Ayo-Faleye, a redshirt junior.
“Everybody has been really really locked in and bought in; more than I’ve ever experienced since I’ve been here in my five years,” said Deloney, who initially chose to enter the transfer portal after last season but opted to stay at UVM instead.
And Deloney lives the Catamount culture every day. He’s a back-to-back conference Sixth-Man of the Year award winner and he has never questioned his role. But this year, that role has grown.
“He’s earned the right to start,” said Becker, on Deloney’s willingness to come off the bench his whole college career. “It’s his team. He’s been a leader since we got back to campus this summer.’’
Last year, fans saw a demanding non-conference travel schedule, but this season, the Catamounts will play at Patrick Gym in Burlington much more. The team plays nine home games before the new year on route to what they hope will be their third straight title.
“[I’ve] been doing it a long time,” said Becker. “We’ve cut a lot of nets down in my time fortunately and I think this team has a real shot, but we gotta go out here and do it.”
UVM men’s basketball opens its season at home in an exhibition game against Becker’s alma mater Catholic on October 28. The regular season tips off on November 6 against Merrimack.