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Young Tigers proving adaptable

The Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) basketball team’s victory Sunday in the Luck Stone Holiday Classic was the latest sign of the Tigers’ adaptability and resilience in the face of unanticipated circumstances entering the 2017-18 season.

“We started the season without seven of our top 10 players,” H-SC Head Coach Dee Vick said Monday. “We had some injuries, some suspensions, we had (some) decide not to (return), so we knew we were inexperienced and going to have to rely on some of our freshmen. We have seven really good freshmen, and with that comes a lot of growing pains, but those freshmen are playing really well.”

Vick and his staff brought in 16 freshmen this year, helping to form a second Hampden-Sydney team.

“We decided to add a junior varsity (JV) program,” Vick said. “We had the JV program back when I was an assistant coach in the late 90s. It can help with their development, playing more game-meaningful minutes.”

Serving as head coach of the JV team is Matt Williams, one of Vick’s assistant coaches on the varsity team. Williams runs his own practices at times, and sometimes varsity and JV will scrimmage each other with the JV team serving as a scout team to prepare the varsity players for upcoming opponents.

“It’s been good to have so far,” Vick said. “(The JV Tigers) have a 10-game schedule starting right after Christmas.”

The varsity H-SC team holds a record of 4-5 after its 85-82 win Sunday against visiting Johnson & Wales University, of Rhode Island, in the Luck Stone Holiday Classic.

“Our team is coming together, and we’re starting to get some guys back from injuries and from suspensions, and I think that hopefully we can put it all together and make a run here on the second half of the season,” Vick said.

Hampden-Sydney lost a trio of players from last season’s team due to graduation — guard/ forward Jake Duncan, senior guard JaVonte Reddick and senior point guard Zack Tabrani.

A few players opted not to return, including starting point guard Logan Samuels, 6-foot- 9-inch center/forward Josh Katowitz and guard Michael Duncan.

Standout senior center/ forward Guilherme Guimaraes has yet to play as he is sidelined by double-stress fractures in his shins.

After making plans in the offseason that included these players, Vick said the loss of them forced him and his staff to “take a step back and reevaluate everything, and we’ve made some big changes, because we knew we weren’t going to get all of those back. Now we have gotten three of them back.”

Guimaraes could be the fourth returner in the group, potentially in early January.

“So, I think our guys and staff feel like we get everybody healthy and we continue to progress that we can make a run for another ODAC championship,” Vick said. “We feel like it’s within reach.”

Helping lead the way for H-SC is senior forward Nick Chase, a captain on the team and a high-performing student.

“He’s a phenomenal young man,” Vick said.

The coach also highlighted 6-foot-8-inch senior center Hunter Kuehn and sophomore guard Kevin Quinn.

“Those three right now, I’d say, are the leaders of the bunch,” Vick said.

Quinn has averaged 14.7 points per game so far this season.

“Kevin won a state championship at (Virginia Episcopal School) playing under Curtis Staples,” Vick said. “Last year, he played 16 minutes a game, and he had to play behind Jake Duncan … But with Jake graduating, he saw a lot of opportunity, and he’s playing 30-plus minutes a game for us right now and really doing a nice job. He’s a big guard, he can really shoot the basketball, and he’s adding to his game now where he can go off the dribble a little bit more, and he’s creating for his teammates as well.”

The Tigers return to action Friday, Dec. 29, when they participate in the Tampa Bay Shootout in Florida. They will face DePauw University at 5 p.m.