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The pillars of the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks men’s basketball team stand firm.

Regardless of assistant coach and player turnover, the pillars, laid by ninth-year head coach Chris Harney, are there.

“We just have some things that we use as a permanent foundation for us, which are hard work and a championship attitude,” Harney said. “That really means be a good person and carry yourself like a champion. Don’t focus on a championship, but focus on being a champion. Mental toughness is another one and integrity and being true to yourself and to your teammates.

“I think if you believe in those things year in and year out, then everything else will fall into place.”

Harney will need those pillars to stand their firmest entering the 2013-14 basketball season as he welcomes 11 new players to the roster — eight freshmen, two red-shirt athletes and one transfer — and after losing all of his assistant coaches to other jobs, which he proclaimed a good thing.

But helping usher in the new season and new players will be a pillar in the player form in junior guard Nick LaGuerre, who Harney says already had the foundations of St. Mary’s basketball before arriving.

“Nick really, before he ever got here, probably already led his life to some degree with those values,” Harney said. “He was a leader pretty much before he got here, and now that he is a junior, he is definitely a vocal leader on the team.”

LaGuerre was named to the All-Capital Athletic Conference and NABC All Mid-Atlantic District teams last year as a sophomore, averaging 13.4 points and 3.9 assists in leading the Seahawks to CAC regular season and tournament championships and a NCAA Division III Elite Eight visit in the national championship tournament.

With all of the recent successes of the Seahawks, expectations continue to grow year after year.

This year is no different with the Seahawks being ranked No. 2 in the nation in Division III by Basketball Times and ranked 10th in the nation by D3hoops.com.

“We usually try not to let outside forces dictate what we do and how,” LaGuerre said. “Usually coach just tells us that we have to work hard from the bottom, and that’s us taking it one day at a time and not looking at the big picture, but trying to stay focused on the small details.”

All-CAC senior guard Donn Hill with his 12.4 points per game and senior forward Brendan McFall with his 10.5 points per contest also return alongside LaGuerre as the trio were three of four players who averaged double-digit points last season. The other, Devin Spencer (10.7), was lost to graduation.

And LaGuerre understands how each of the three, along with the team, will get better and be better than last season.

“Really, it’s just competing every day,” LaGuerre said. “Coach always tells us that we have to stay competitive, and if we don’t have the drive and the hunger then we’ll never get better. Really, it’s just going after each other in practice and being competitive.”

And on bettering himself individually, he said, “It’s just, outside of practice, coming in here and working on stuff that I know I need to work on. I’ll never perfect anything or master anything, but I want to try to stay consistent and working hard, getting shots up and working on ball handling.”

The Seahawks will start the season Monday at Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham (N.J.).

jmccray@somdnews.com



St. Mary’s College of Maryland men’s basketball

Head coach: Chris Harney (ninth season, CAC COY, NABC COY)

Last year: 27-4, 10-2 (CAC regular season champion, CAC tournament champion, NCAA D-III national tournament quarterfinalist)

Players to watch: G Nick LaGuerre (Jr., All-CAC, NABC All-District), G Donn Hill (Sr., All-CAC), G Chris Hutchinson (Sr.), F Brendan McFall (Sr.), G Kyle Wise (Sr.)

Key personnel losses: G Devin Spencer (All-CAC)

Strengths: Harney believes a not-so-secret secret to his team’s success is his bench. Harney said his second five is what helps wins games through the season, and this season is no different, led by sixth-man and senior guard Kyle Wise. He believes that his bench and depth, which can run 10 players deep can outmatch opponents as it has in the past and as he hopes it does this season.

Weaknesses: Coming into the season, Harney said, “I feel like I am juggling 20 balls with one hand tied behind my back.” He lost his entire assistant coaching staff to other jobs, which he calls a good thing, but it has left Harney to transition in not only a new staff but 11 new players with it.

Coach’s comments: “The goal is to wake up tomorrow and be better than I was today. Everything that I ask the guys to do I try to put on myself. I tell them to lift weights and get stronger, and I need to go out and study and ready books and watch film and become a stronger coach. I have to wake up tomorrow and be a better coach, and they have to wake up tomorrow and be further along in their development.”

Key games: Dec. 4 at Salisbury, Jan. 4 vs. Marymount (Va.), Jan. 18 at Wesley (Del.)

JAMES A. McCRAY III