Jim Baron/nytimes.comBy Paul Seaver (TheArenaPulse)
Following introductions of both the men's and women's basketball teams, URI head coach Jim Baron
proclaimed, "The league is predicting us to finish somewhere near the bottom, but we've been in that position before."
With a mix of upper class leadership and young talent, the 2011-12 URI Rams could be in a position to surprise a few teams in the Atlantic-10 this season.
Earlier this week, as part of the Atlantic-10 media day in Brooklyn, New York, the conference predicted URI to finish 10th
in the standings this season. Xavier was the listed as the preseason favorite.
The loss of their leading scorer and rebounder from a season ago in Delroy James will hurt the Rams, but a sense of optimism surrounds this URI squad.
Senior Orion Outerbridge
will lead the way for the Rams in 2011-12, while junior Nikola Malesevic
will look to build upon his 10.3 points per game from a season ago.
As part of the program's Rhody Madness, the squad participated in a scrimmage, as well as both a 3-point and dunk contest.
Freshman Rayvon Harris
won the team's dunk contest, but the highlight of the event may have been the athletic promise of fellow freshman Jonathan Holton
Holton, a 6-foot-9 freshman from Coral Gables, Florida took off from just inside the foul line, finishing with a 360-State of Liberty dunk in the contest's opening round. In the championship, Holton attempted to throw down a dunk off a pass from sophomore transfer Billy Baron
. Baron was about 20 rows into the stands on the pass, but the attempt was unable to be completed, allowing Harris to win the contest.
While the focus for the Rams in 2011-12 will likely come from Malesevic and Outerbridge, the young core of talent entering the program provides the opportunity for a bright future.
[Billy] Baron, who is the son of head coach [Jim] Baron, is a transfer from Virginia, and will be eligible at the end of the fall semester. Fellow sophomore Blake Vedder
has tremendous size at 7-foot-3, but after appearing in only five games last season, it will be interesting to see what role the big man will play in 2011-12.
The Rams welcome in a six-man freshman class, highlighted by the athleticism of both Holton and Harris. A.J. Kemp
, Dominique McKoy
, Mike Powell
, and T.J. Buchanan
are the other freshman listed on the squad's roster.
Auburn transfer Andre Malone
, who participated in the team's 3-point contest, appeared in 11 games last season for the Tigers. Malone was ranked as the No. 74 overall prospect by Rivals.com
coming out of high school. He will be eligible in December alongside Baron.
The Rams open up the year with a tough battle on the road at George Mason on Friday, November 11th.
*Photo: Jim Baron *Credit: nytimes.com
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