By Marissa Chamberlain, Contributing Writer
In spite of several injuries among top players, the UMF men’s basketball team is making a run at the playoffs following a five game conference winning streak sparked by newcomer Tyus Sprague-Ripley. Ripley, a 6’6” freshman transfer has made a huge impact for the Beavers offensively and defensively over the past month averaging 9.4 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game, according to UMF Athletics.
Changing teams in the middle of the season can make it tough for a player to get comfortable, but Ripley, who was previously a Saint Joseph’s College Monk, said the changeover has been smooth. “Some of the players I’ve played with before,” said Ripley, “so it seemed like it’d be the easiest transition.”
Stepping on the court during a game this year for the Beavers wasn’t part of Ripley’s expectations coming into the new team. “At first I didn’t know if I was able to play,” said Ripley, “I was just expecting to practice.”
As soon as Ripley got his chance on the court, he proved to the Beavers he was going to be an important asset to the team. He was recognized as NAC Rookie of the Week for the last week of January, following another UMF Rookie of the Week, freshman forward Riley Robinson.
Ripley was recognized after a week of averaging 14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block, while also shooting an impressive 57.1% from the floor and going 5-for-5 at the free throw line. The team went 2-0 that week.
Ripley, who humbly accepted this accolade, said he is hoping for more of a team goal, such as going to playoffs and winning a championship. He said, “I actually didn’t know I got it until like way after everyone else.”
Head Coach Dick Meader explained that injuries have had a huge impact on the team this season. Freshman forward Billy Ruby suffered a broken ankle early in the season, and freshman center Anthony Owens has faced two sprains, according to Meader. Both players are known for their talented offensive and defensive presence on the court.
Meader explained that Ripley has helped make the team stronger where injury has made them weak. “He’s added some size, toughness, doing what’s right getting loose balls, and establish our defense,” said Meader, “he helped fill the gap of Anthony Owens.”
Although Riley came in halfway through the season, Ryan Camire, a senior captain on the team, explains that this isn’t apparent in his play. “He’s growing into his own,” said Camire, “he’s picked up right a way.”
“Tyus definitely is one of our most important guys,” Camire said, “he gives us a nice down low presence.”
The Beavers, who are now 8-6 and tied for third in the NAC, are looking to clinch a playoff spot and home court advantage.
“The big thing is we have some big road games, keeping that focus of what we need to do, trusting the coaches game plan and scouting reports, letting our instincts carry,” said Camire, “we always have to stay hungry and stay on our toes.”