Fresh off its second New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament title in a three-year span, the 2012-13 William Paterson men's basketball program will need its four returning starters and 10 returning letterwinners to lead the way if the Pioneers are going to make another deep postseason run this winter.
"Our players from last year's conference-championship team gained valuable experience, and know what it takes to achieve that level of success," said 18th-year head coach Jose Rebimbas. "We have a proven all-conference and all-America caliber player in Lance Brown returning, and he has been a leader on and off the court, as well as a calming influence for our younger returnees and newcomers."
Two starters return to the Pioneer backcourt, but several others will also be in the mix for significant minutes this season.
Senior 6-1 guard Rick DeStefano (Marlboro, N.J./Marlboro) established himself as one of the best three-pointer shooters in the league a year ago, draining 49 of 128 (.383) attempts to average 7.5 points while starting all but two games. Willing to take, and capable of making, the big shot, his clutch performances helped lift WP to a number of key victories last winter.
Jaques Conceicao (Massama-Lisboa, Portugal/Francais Charle Lepierre) ranked third for the Pioneers with 7.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest as a rookie starter, despite needing time to adjust to the American style of play. The 6-3 sophomore two/three guard's improved perimeter shooting may be his biggest contribution this season as he continues to grow and mature in his game.
Both exceptional defenders and pass-first guards, 6-2 senior Julio Rosario (Perth Amboy, N.J./Cardinal McCarrick) and 5-8 sophomore Najea Brown (Newark, N.J./St. Anthony) will likely handle the majority of the minutes at the point. Rosario contributed 6.2 points in 26 games off the bench as a first-year Pioneer, while Brown compiled a 1.83 assist/turnover ratio in limited action as a rookie.
Sophomore 6-2 guard Manny Hernandez (Paterson, N.J./Paramus Catholic) could see an expanded role at the point and two-guard spots, as Rebimbas describes him as quick and talented, and arguably the team's best three-point threat.
Justin Grant (Springfield, N.J./Jonathan Dayton), a 6-2 sophomore, will compete for time after making a dozen appearances last season. A 1,000-point scorer at Harcum College, junior 6-2 guard Sandy Burgos (Fort Lee, N.J./Fort Lee) racked up more than 2,000 tallies in high school. He could see significant action, as could 6-4 freshman Bright Mensah (Hackensack, N.J./Hackensack), who can fill up the stat sheet due to his ability to do a little bit of everything on the court. Freshman 6-6 guard/forward Terik Bridgeman (Harlem, N.Y./Nia Prep) could contribute inside or outside, as Rebimbas believes he has the potential to be a very productive player.
Rounding out the group of guards is freshman Luke Cervino (Wayne, N.J./Bergen Catholic).
Led by 2012 NJAC Player of the Year and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) second-team all-American Lance Brown (Teaneck, N.J./Paramus Catholic), William Paterson has a number of proven veterans in the front court.
At 6-5, Brown can contribute at the three and four, making him a dangerous inside-out threat. First in the conference in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and fourth in scoring (18.4 ppg) last winter, he has stepped up as a leader this preseason, guiding his teammates while setting an example of how to grind and work hard each day.
Junior 6-8 forward Erik Brooks (Saddle Brook, N.J./Paramus Catholic) became a starter a year ago, primarily due to his contributions on the defensive end. But with 15 pounds of extra muscle on his frame this year, he could be poised for a breakout season, thanks to his bigger physical presence and improved offensive skills in the paint.
Thomas Goubadia (Union, N.J./Union) proved himself to be a low-post scorer as a mid-year transfer, averaging 3.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per contest. The 6-7 senior is expected to be more productive at the center position this winter now that he has gained experience and knowledge of WP's offensive and defensive philosophies.
Sophomore 6-6 forward James McLane (Belleville, N.J./Queen of Peace) is the most versatile Pioneer and could play almost anywhere on the floor. Extremely knowledgeable and in better physical condition, his perimeter shooting and crafty scoring in the paint should allow him to improve upon his average of 3.6 points in 27 games off the bench as a freshman.
A transfer from Wentworth Institute of Technology, junior 6-5 forward Davon Daniels (Paterson, N.J./Paterson Catholic) is an athletic rebounder who also will contend for playing time.