Buoyed by performance against UAlbany, Skidmore men’s basketball has high hopes for 2022-23 season


TROY — The biggest challenge for the Skidmore men’s basketball team last season? Just keeping the same group on the court on a game-to-game basis.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept players cycling in and out of the lineup throughout the 2021-22 season, as just two members of the Thoroughbreds roster — Greg Skoric and Ty Lamport — appeared in all 26 of the team’s games. 

That led to a uneven regular season, but when Skidmore finally got some consistency in the lineup at the end of the year, the Thoroughbreds made a surprise run to the championship game of the Liberty League tournament that has head coach Joe Burke optimistic about what his club can do this year — as long as everyone stays healthy.

“We got crushed last year by COVID,” Burke said last Sunday after his team dropped an exhibition contest to UAlbany at Hudson Valley Community College. “It was an in-and-out situation. We did not have the same group. We got the group together at the end and went on a nice run, but I felt, ‘Man, we could’ve had such a monster year if we didn’t have to deal with this.’

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“So, coming into the year, I had expectations that are very high, because I think we can compete with just about anybody.”

The Thoroughbreds certainly seemed to back up Burke’s high hopes with their exhibition performance against UAlbany. Skidmore led for most of the game, and while UAlbany eventually pulled out a 71-69 win, the Division III Thoroughbreds certainly didn’t look out of place against a Division I squad.

In fact, for most of the contest, it was Skidmore using its size and physicality to push around a smaller UAlbany team. In particular, the 6-foot-11 Skoric was a menace, with 15 points, eight rebounds and six blocks before he fouled out late in the second half.

Skoric averaged a double-double last season, putting up 15.7 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.

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“Greg has come a long way. He’s really developed over his four years,” Burke said. “I hate using the word ‘Division III’ big man, because I think he’s just a really good big man. He’s going to make a career out of this.”

Skidmore also returns its leading scorer from last season, senior wing Tautvydas Kupstas, who put up 17.4 points per game last year while almost never leaving the court. Kupstas averaged 39 minutes per game in 2021-22.

Kupstas scored 10 points against UAlbany before exiting the game with an injury early in the second half. Kupstas’ injury, coupled with Skoric and forward Alexei Downie both fouling out, left Skidmore short on depth down the stretch as UAlbany finished off its win.

In addition to Kupstas and Skoric, Skidmore returns six players — Downie, Harrison Eichelberger, Riley Greene, Jake Walsh, Bobby Stratts and Mark Engel — who averaged double-digit minutes a season ago. The team also boasts plenty of size, with seven players listed at 6-foot-7 or taller.

Depth, Burke said, is something the Thoroughbreds will need to cultivate as they head into their 2022-23 season, which officially opens Nov. 11 with a home game against New Paltz.

“We have great chemistry with those guys and that nucleus,” Burke said. “I think our job as a staff, and my job as the head coach, is to get more guys involved. . . . We need to get deeper, and I need to play more guys. The only way I’m going to play more guys is once I get confidence, and you’ve got to get confidence in guys in practice, and when they get the opportunity to play.”

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