Breaking News:

So Much Sports Baltimore has officially shut down on August 7, 2017, but would like to thank all of our readers, writers and everybody who helped make this website possible.

Experienced Jays poised for bounce-back year

Austin Vasiliadis' return from injury gives the Blue Jays a proven scoring threat at guard, but head coach Bill Nelson said he must be patient with him as he returns.

Austin Vasiliadis’ return from injury gives the Blue Jays a proven scoring threat at guard, but head coach Bill Nelson said he must be patient with him as he returns.

It was already a tall task for the Johns Hopkins men’s basketball team to continue their success from their 2015 Division III Sweet 16 run into last season as it was after graduating so many key starters. Things were made even tougher when guard Austin Vasiliadis suffered a season-ending injury after six games, costing the Blue Jays their leading score and top ball handler and offensive facilitator.

The Blue Jays suffered through some wild inconsistencies last year. They were a team that could beat any team, but also suffered losses to teams they had no business losing to. At the end of the year, those inconsistencies cost the Blue Jays a spot in the Centennial Conference tournament.

But this year, entering his 31st season at the helm of the Blue Jays program, Bill Nelson has faith that the team’s great experience and the return of Vasiliadis will put Johns Hopkins in great position for a rebound season. This year’s roster features three graduate students, three more seniors and two other juniors. Experience is the greatest teacher of all. This year’s squad has been through tough games. They know both what it takes to get to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and what leads to losing.

This preseason, the Blue Jays made a short trip north on Charles Street to take on Division I opponent Loyola (MD) in an exhibition. It was clear in that game that Vasiliadis wasn’t quite back yet as he only played 14 minutes and didn’t attempt a shot, but Sam Gordon led the team with 14 points. Ryan Curran was right behind him with 13 points. And while Jesse Flannery didn’t score, he showed tremendous ability leading the offense as the point guard.

There was a period in the first half that Hopkins trailed 26-13. It looked like the Greyhounds would be on their way to an expected blowout right away, but the Blue Jays put Flannery and sophomore Michael Gardner in the game and they scored 13-straight points to tie the game. The Blue Jays went on to lose the game against a Division I opponent, but that run and ability to get back in the game showed a little bit what the Blue Jays could do. And as Vasiliadis continues to get healthy, the Blue Jays will get even better.

Nelson sat down with So Much Sports Baltimore to preview this year’s team and season.

Head men’s basketball coach Bill Nelson on…

His and his team’s excitement for the upcoming year:

“We’re excited. I’ve been in touch with ex-player and they’re all talking about what’s going on, in scrimmages and with the team. It’s a fun time of the year. I’m a big time baseball fan so it’s perfect for me because baseball ends and then basketball begins. It’s perfect for me, enjoying the two sports as much as I do.”

Austin Vasiliadis coming back from a season-ending ACL injury:

“He’s not there yet and nobody expects him to be there. The point guard depends so much on quickness, stop-and-go, change of direction; just being a little off makes a big difference. Being injured in December, not having surgery until mid-January, I’m amazed as the progress he’s made. I haven’t had too many ACL injuries in my coaching career but it really does take a full year to come back. We’re not going to push it with Austin.”

Sam Gordon

Sam Gordon

Jesse Flannery’s ability to distribute the ball:

“Jesse Flanery did this last year. When Austin was injured we were 2-4, Austin was having a phenomenal season and I though the worse because Jesse didn’t play much. He was a wet behind the ears sophomore, but he came in and we ended up 13-12. We had a winning record with Jesse there. We were inconsistent throughout the year but it really wasn’t Jesse’s fault. In the scrimmage (against Loyola) we were down 13 points when we put Jesse and Michael Gardner in the game, replacing Austin and Nikhil Panu and went on a 13-0 run to tie the game. He’s a quality basketball player. His dad coached Bucknell, he’s a coaches son and coach on he floor.”

Expectations for returning seniors Ryan Curran and Sam Gordon:

“Ryan’s had a lot of experience. He’s been banged up over the year. His sophomore year we were 25-5. The key to the season is we were 2-3 and we put Ryan into the starting lineup and the rest is history. We had two all-region players but Ryan was that third element in there and it really gave us additional points per game, gave us more size and he was a huge factor. Last year, game two I noticed he was averaging 20 points and sprained his ankle and it really bothered him the whole season. We would like to see Ryan get back to sophomore form.

“Sam Gordon is a great success story. Sam came here, no promises on my part. I said if there is room on the roster he has a shot to fill out the roster with spot, but we didn’t have room. While Sam sat out for two years he grew about three or four inches. He’s 6’7” now, continued to play with guys in the offseason, put him in a game in January as was phenomenal and started from that point on. He really is a stick to it kind of guy and can go to the hoop, is very athletic, drives to the hoop and finishes well.

“Those two guys are nice weapons to have.”

This year’s team’s ability to get back to the top of the Centennial Conference:

“It’s a veteran group. I’ve been coaching a long, long time and never had a grad student but have three this year for various reasons. And we have three seniors with those guys. We’re a veteran team but we have to be more consistent than we were last year. We ended 13-12. We beat the top two teams, Franklin & Marshall and Swarthmore, three out of four times. Washington College, who only won one game in our conference last year came in here and kicked our butt for their only conference win. That was enough to keep us out of the playoffs. It was disappointing. That class two years ago really shared the ball. We had a lot of weapons. If we do that, we’ll be pretty good.”

Austin Vasiliadis and Jesse Flannery co-existing in the back court:

“Last year before Austin got hurt, we used both of them on the court and we didn’t really have a point guard, it was whoever had the ball ran the ship. Austin only played 14 minutes (in the scrimmage against Loyola) so we’re going to have to work on that. They are two different kinds of players but I think they can gel together.”

The challenge non-Conference tournament’s provide:

“There are pros and cons to that. I think you get better when you play tough competition, especially on the road. We have two of our three tournament’s on the road. The negative thing at Division III is a loss in November is the same as a loss in March. If you don’t win your tournament there are only 21 at-large bids in the country and there are 450 teams. Playing tough teams on the road is difficult. We have not only those tournaments, one in Salisbury and one at Randolph-Macon, but we have one road game a year with a non-conference team and it’s Lynchburg, a four and a half drive to play a team that went to the NCAA Tournament and won the ODAC (Old Dominion Athletic Conference) last year. There are pros and cons to it.”

Importance of ball pressure and creating turnovers:

“Four years ago coach Bob McCone, who was with me 25 years, retired. I had to find a new assistant. I was telling him about our defense being successful under Coach McCone but said the one thing we lacked was creating turnovers. Jeff Eakins, the new assistant, has bought into that and has done a great job. We still play man-to-man defense most of the time, but it’s a different approach. One of the reason we were so successful two years ago was because we created turnovers but last year that dropped off a little bit. I’m hoping this year that we can pick that up this year with Austin being back full time. Michael Gardner, Noah Ralby; they were in the game during that run against Loyola and did create steals. That should be a very important weapon for us.”

Early season goals for the team:

“I’m hoping to see the teamwork. I really do want to see us gelling out on the floor. I’d like to go 10, maybe 11 deep. Unfortunately that means maybe three or four guys will be sitting but I think we have the type of kids that realize that their day will come and I want them to learn from the veterans. We have a veteran team so we have guys who might have to pay their dues. I want to see their confidence build from the early season schedule into the regular season (conference play).”

The following two tabs change content below.

Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

Latest posts by Corey Johns (see all)

Comments are closed.