College Basketball

Davidson hopes to build on last season’s basketball success in Atlantic-10

Bob McKillop enters his 26th season as the men’s basketball coach at Davidson.
Bob McKillop enters his 26th season as the men’s basketball coach at Davidson. TIM COWIE -

Last year, Davidson’s men’s basketball team was picked to finish 12th out of 14 teams in its first season in the Atlantic 10 conference.

The Wildcats went on to win the league’s regular-season title, and earned their first at-large NCAA tournament berth.

Now, with a new season set to begin in a month, Davidson coach Bob McKillop said there won’t be any more surprises for the other A-10 teams.

“The Atlantic 10’s going to be a tougher league this year,” McKillop said Wednesday. “There are many people who are no longer sleeping on Davidson. They’re going to recognize what we did.

“We’re no longer going to be considered just a newcomer to the league, but somebody who’s been in the league and been a talented team in the league. It’s a tremendous challenge in front of us, one we’re very excited to have.”

The Wildcats return four starters and 13 lettermen from last year’s team, which finished 24-8 (14-4 in the Atlantic 10) after losing to Iowa in their opening game in the NCAA tournament.

However, the missing starter is significant – guard Tyler Kalinoski, who was A-10 Player of the Year as a senior. He’s now playing for Elan Chalon of France’s Pro-A League.

“It’s certainly different coming in this year,” said senior guard Brian Sullivan. “It’s going to be a challenge. Tyler was kind of a Superman last year, but I’ve enjoyed taking on a leadership position and trying to get the other guys better every day.

“We were picked to finish near the bottom last year, and had no idea what to expect. If anything, we’re more comfortable now being in the hunted position, coming from all those years in the Southern Conference.”

McKillop said his goal this year is to build upon last year’s success, and make Davidson as much as a year-in, year-out contender in the Atlantic 10 as the Wildcats were in the Southern Conference.

“We’re pretty darn proud of what we accomplished in our one year in the Atlantic 10,” McKillop said. “But the mark of excellence is always consistency. That’s our quest this year – can we be consistent?

“Shooting star or shining star? Our years in the Southern Conference clearly demonstrated that we were a shining star. Now in one year in the Atlantic 10, we’ve accomplished that. The test now is going to be consistency.”

Newcomers sidelined

McKillop said that his three-player recruiting class for the 2015-2016 season could be among the best Davidson’s program has brought in since he became coach in 1989.

Trouble is, only one might see playing time this season.

Freshman Dusan Kovacevic, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward from Serbia, underwent knee surgery two weeks ago and is out for the season. Junior Will Magarity, a 6-11, 240-pound forward, has to sit out per NCAA rules after transferring from Boston College.

Only freshman KiShawn Pritchett, a 6-6 guard from Lake Norman High, might play this season. He underwent his second knee operation in less than a year in July, and has been working with the training staff to return to playing shape.