AND WE’RE UNDERWAY!
Generals Host Tip-Off Classic to Open Season
by John Conway
LOCH SHELDRAKE, November 2021—If the seemingly abating COVID virus cooperates, the 2021-22 version of the SUNY Sullivan Generals men’s and women’s basketball teams will open their seasons this weekend on their home court, as the college hosts three NJCAA opponents in its very own Tip-Off Classic.
Monroe Community College (NY), Montgomery College (MD), and Raritan Valley (NJ) will visit the Paul Gerry Field House to take part in the two-day tournament, which will feature both men’s and women’s action. Play starts Saturday, November 6 at noon when the women’s teams from Monroe and Raritan Valley square off. Men’s action will commence at 2 p.m. with the same two schools competing. Sullivan and Montgomery will take the floor later in the day, with the women playing at 4 p.m. and the men closing out the day with a 6 p.m. contest.
Play resumes on Sunday at 11 a.m. when the Monroe and Montgomery men square off, followed at 1 p.m. by the women’s teams from those same schools. Sullivan will then take on Raritan Valley, with the women playing at 3 p.m. and the men at 5 p.m.
The Generals men’s team enters the new season with high hopes, coming off a 28-2 record two years ago, which included 18 wins in a row and a perfect 16-0 mark at home. The season culminated in both Region XV and Eastern District championships, and the team likely had a legitimate shot at capturing a fifth NJCAA crown—which would have been their first as a Division II school—but the NJCAA chose not to hold its 2020 championship tournament because of COVID. Sullivan did not compete at all last year due to the pandemic.
One player, Jalen Reneau, a 5’10” guard from St. Raymond’s High School in Manhattan, returns from that 28-2 team.
Sullivan coach Brent Wilson, who captured the NJCAA Region XV Coach-of-the-Year honors as the result of the 2019-20 team’s success, said recently that this year’s roster has been bolstered by a cnumber of prized transfers.
“I believe Kareem Welch (Odessa College), Jay Alvarez (Lackawanna) and Sam DeSouza (St. Rose), Daivel Jackson (Hudson Valley CC) and Jarell White (Hinds CC) will all have big years for us. I think a major strength for us is our size, and depth,” he says.
Wilson has compiled a 169-44 record in seven seasons at Sullivan, and his squads have never won fewer than 21 games in a season. In the two years the school has competed at the Division II level, Wilson’s teams have gone 50-10.
“We are excited to get the season started,” he said in late October. “The guys have been working hard ever since they got to campus.”
Wilson downplayed the significance of the news the Generals had been ranked #8 nationally in the NJCAA’s pre-season poll.
“The preseason ranking is an excellent recognition for our program.,” he told The Sentinel. “However, our kids do realize that is based more on our program’s history, not what they have accomplished yet. They are working hard to earn their own way and show they belong.”
Sullivan Athletic Director Chris DePew echoed Wilson’s sentiments about the pre-season ranking, the first time the school has made the pre-season top ten since it moved up to Division II.
“We are very happy about that, but never satisfied,” DePew noted “Brent and his staff have brought in a team that we think will compete at a very high level by the end of the season.”
Of course, the disappointment of the cancelled national tournament in 2020, especially when the team had built up such momentum, and the loss of last year’s entire season, have combined to raise the level of excitement for the team and its coaches every time they take the floor in anticipation of the season opener.
“[We] are just thrilled to be back on campus with students and beyond excited to have a season,” Wilson said. “The last year has been extremely challenging for our student-athletes and having them back in a normal atmosphere has been amazing.”
DePew also mentioned Sullivan’s women’s team, which too is coming off a stellar 2019-20 campaign, but will be playing under a new coach, Ben Newberg.
“We are equally excited about our women’s team,” DePew said. “Ben and his staff have assembled a very strong team led by returning All-American Infinity Hammonds. Both teams [men and women] should be strong contenders to qualify for the National Championship Tournaments next March.”
The Sentinel will have more on the General’s women’s basketball team in next month’s edition.