Jelani Scott | Sports Editor
“Home is where the heart is” and there’s no question that the Hampton Pirates men’s basketball team were missing that by the time they took the floor November 25.
After winning their first home game of the season against Appalachian State, 82-61, on November 20, the Pirates began their nine game road trip the day before Thanksgiving when they take on William & Mary.
The trip will carry into 2016 when they will return to their “Home by the Sea” on January 3 to play Princeton.
This game marked the first time in two years that Hampton and William & Mary met on the hardwood (the Pirates won their last matchup, 77-69, in their 2013-14 home opener). Only three Hampton players (Brian Darden, Lawrence Cooks and Dionte Adams) remain from that team, who finished that season 18-13.
Darden, who is averaging 14 ppg with 2 three pointers a game this season, led the Pirates that game with 18 points (4/5 from downtown) and five rebounds.
Fresh off their historic run to the NCAA Tournament last tournament, the Pirates have started this season with a solid 2-1 record and November 25 will be an early season statement game for the Pirates.
The Tribe, who lost all-time leading scorer Marcus Thornton to graduation, have relied heavily on the only four players who remain from that 2013 matchup and it has paid off.The team is off to an efficient 3-1 start and are ranked #4 in scoring offense with 76.5 points a game and #1 in scoring defense, holding teams to only 64 points a game.
The Pirates, under the guidance of head coach Edward Joyner, are hoping to add “an above .500 record” to their list of things to be thankful for this holiday season and, in order to do so, there are keys they must follow. The Tribe ended up beating the Pirates, 86-67 pushing Hampton to a 2-2 record so far.
Here are five of them that the Pirates and Hampton Nation should pay the most attention to:
#1. The Chievous Effect
Since forward Quinton Chievous joined the Pirates in the 2014-15 season, the team has gone 19-19. A son of a former NBA player, Chievous has brought an all-star caliber style of play to this team. He is currently dominating the MEAC in rebounding, averaging 14.3 rebounds a game. He is doing so while also being ranked third in field goal pct. (62%), making 18 of his 29 attempts. His numbers are large reason for why the Pirates are ranked second in both offensive and defensive rebounds; third in field goal pct. and fourth in scoring offense.
#2. The Four “Tribesmen”
Remember these names. Terry Tarpey, Daniel Dixon, Sean Sheldon, and Omar Prewitt. These four undergraduates are the last four that remain from the 2013-14 team and have The Tribe overachieving four games into their season. All four players rank in the top-30 in scoring in the MEAC and each have made their own mark throughout the conference. Tarpey is ranked eighth in rebounds (7.3) and first in steals (3.3), Sheldon is first in field goal pct. (73%) and Dixon is tenth in three point pct. (43%).
#3. Live and Die from Behind the Line
While they are not considered “high percentage shots”, the three pointer can put a nail in any opponents’ coffin when made at the right time. Both teams are capable of providing that moment. William & Mary are ranked third in the CAA from downtown and Hampton is ranked fourth in the MEAC. Senior guard Brian Darden is averaging 2.3 makes from long range a game and he will be looked at as a prime target. Both teams also defend the three point line well, with The Tribe ranked first and Hampton ranked ninth in defensive pct.
#4. “Block” Party
If you asked the Pirates’ first three opponents, they would, undoubtedly, tell you that the paint belongs to 6-8 senior center Jervon Pressley. The big man is averaging three blocks a game and has turned this team into a mean, blocking machine. The Pirates are ranked first in the MEAC with five blocks a game.
#5. Efficiency around the rim
It’s very possible to make a good living from within 20 feet on the floor. While both teams have had their three point barrages, they both understand that the mid-range is crucial. The Tribe are averaging 49% from the field, good enough for second in the CAA, and the Pirates come in at #2 in the MEAC with 45.2%.