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college basketball WestConn is all in

January 3, 2019

His 20-plus-year career has included stops at several successful programs across multiple levels. He’s now back home to apply that knowledge.

Guy Rancourt and the WestConn men’s basketball team are off to a positive start in 2018-19, sitting at 8-4 two games after the winter break. Rancourt, a 1997 graduate, had stops at Stony Brook and John Jay College before spending the last 10 years as the head coach at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania. He was also the director of operations at Florida State for two seasons.

“It’s been terrific,” said Rancourt of his short time at the helm. “I was able to take all that knowledge and have our Lycoming team ranked top 10 in the country in Division III. The transition to WestConn has been great. (The team) is showing that willingness to grow.”

WestConn is off to a 2-1 start in the LEC, with one of the wins snapping a six-year drought against rival Eastern Connecticut. The Warriors were co-favorites to win the league before the season began and the win by the Colonials was an eye-opener.

“Winning against Eastern was a great start,” Rancourt said. “I know it’s been six years; I shared that with my players. I was proud they could overcome that obstacle.”

The first win in 2019 wasn’t just another regular-season game for Rancourt or WestConn. The Colonials hosted St. Joseph — now coached by the legendary Jim Calhoun — and staged a stunning comeback to win 98-95 in overtime.

The Colonials feature balance and experience in Rancourt’s first year. Senior guard Aaron Samuel leads the team in scoring while classmates Geary McLeod and Rashard Rodriguez have also been key contributors. Add in juniors Ronald Jefferson (11 points per game) and sophomores Legend Johnson and Shea Tracy, and WestConn possesses a dangerous rotation. Rancourt said he was particularly pleased with his team’s aggressiveness on defense; the Colonials average a league-best 20.4 forced turnovers per game.

The start of a program build is underway if early-season results are any indication.

“I think communication would have to be No. 1,” Rancourt said of keys to being successful in Danbury. “On and off the court the upperclassmen teaching the younger guys on where you need to be and how we need to act, how to conduct ourselves and appreciate everything that’s been provided to us.”

FINDING MOMENTUM

No one in the country likely has a deeper rotation than Colonials’ women’s team, which plays a hyper-aggressive style that includes launching a massive number of 3-pointers and substituting frequently.

The Colonials average 38 3-point attempts per game — which is actually down from 47 a year ago — which almost doubles the second-highest total in the league (21). Twelve players are averaging double digits in minutes as virtually the entire roster sees action with the aggressive style.

The Colonials have a 5-6 record after a defeat in the final of the Hat City Tournament against Oneonta last week. WestConn — which started the season 4-1 — is 0-3 in the league and hopes to turn that around in the new year.

“We had a great start,” said coach Kim Rybczyk. “But since then we’ve struggled. … It was a little disappointing because we feel we should have done better in a few of those games. We’re trying to regroup; we have a young group and the kids are trying to get back on track.”

Senior Jancy Sherwood averages almost 12 3-point attempts per game and is leading the Colonials in scoring (17.9 points per game) for a second straight season. She isn’t sneaking up on opponents this time around, though.

“She’s been great and we do try to get her a lot of shots,” Rybczyk said. “It becomes difficult when some teams prevent her from catching the ball or she gets double-teamed. We have a talented group and we need to play off her when they stay tight on her. We need to use that to our advantage.”

Stratford native Genesis Torres (11.0) is also in double figures while sophomore Sydney Gouveia (New Fairfield) also sees action. Injuries to the depth of the roster have taken a toll given the team’s style.

Last season was the first time in more than a decade that the Colonials finished below .500. More comfort with the system heading into the second half of the season will be key to a surge, Rybczyk added.

“It’s just more of a repetition thing of everything we’re doing when you have a young group of kids,” Rybczyk said. “It’s the drill work, it’s pace of play. We have a great group of kids who are committed, we just have to get better.”

rlacey@bcnnew.com, twitter.com/ryanlacey11

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