Following an Atlantic 10 tournament championship, the Davidson Wildcats made their 14th appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament last season. A solid group of players from that team return and a talented bunch of freshman have arrived for coach Bob McKillop, who is embarking on his 30th year at Davidson.
Here are five storylines to follow with the Wildcats, who started practicing Wednesday and open their season Nov. 6 against Cleveland State at Belk Arena:
The next star
The Wildcats were led last season by forward Peyton Aldridge, who was the A-10’s co-player of the year and is now playing professionally in Italy. Ready to step into the star’s role for the Wildcats is sophomore guard Kellan Grady, the league’s rookie of the year last season. Grady averaged 18 points, 1.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds and, McKillop said, is ready to take the next step toward becoming an even more complete player. That will come from him handling more of the Wildcats’ point guard duties.
In addition to Aldridge, the Wildcats lost two other frontcourt players — Will Magarity and Oskar Michelsen — to graduation. There’s not a lot of experience to replace that size, so it’s possible that Grady and juniors KiShawn Pritchett and Jon Axel Gudmundsson, as well as redshirt freshman Luke Frampton — could form a four-guard lineup.
And the fifth starter?
McKillop said depending on what the team needs at the time, senior Nathan Ekwu or junior Dusan Kovacevic will likely fill the center position. Ekwu (who missed last season and much of the previous season with a knee injury) and Kovacevic will provide toughness and rebounding. True freshman Luka Brajkovic, a 6-foot-10, 220-pounder from Austria, will also be a factor.
The wild card
Before last season started, McKillop said there was a freshman on the roster who had the potential to be as good as any player he’s had at Davidson. He wasn’t talking about Grady. He was referring to Frampton, who had torn his ACL in preseason practice. Now ready to play (and wouldn’t it have been fun to see him out there with Aldridge and Grady?), Frampton will give the Wildcats another scoring threat. McKillop refers to Frampton as a high IQ, “deadeye” shooter, who, at 6-5, can play small forward as well.
In addition to Brajkovic, McKillop is thrilled with the freshman class, and expects most of the new players to contribute. Nelson Boachie-Yiadom, a 6-8 forward form England, will be a backup in the frontcourt. David Czerapowicz, brother of former Davidson star Chris Czerapowicz, will get time at point guard, and guard Mike Jones made nearly 50 percent of his 3-pointers as a junior in high school. In other words, another “deadeye” shooter for the Wildcats.