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2018-19 Preview: Guards

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This is the first of a two-part series previewing the 2018-19 Bryant University men's basketball team. Friday, will look at the Bulldog frontcourt.

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – "Play fast" are two words often heard on the Bryant campus.

One year after the mantra was adopted by Bryant's football team, new head men's basketball coach Jared Grasso looks to bring an up-tempo system to the Chace Athletic Center this winter.

Grasso enters his first year in Smithfield with four returning guards who made at least seven starts a year ago, including two who averaged double-figures and ranked in the top 10 in the NEC in minutes per game. That group, joined by a graduate transfer with experience in March and a collection of freshmen, will allow Grasso to implement his system in year one.

Juniors Adam Grant (Franklin, Va.) and Ikenna Ndugba (Boston, Mass.) make up the second-highest scoring returning backcourt in the NEC from a year ago. Grant was an All-NEC selection at 15.6 points per game, while Ndugba did a little bit of everything for the Black and Gold as a sophomore, scoring 13.8 points per game and ranking in the top five in the conference in assists and steals.

"Adam and Ike have been phenomenal," said Grasso. "They've bought into our style of play, and I think our style of play is a really good fit for them. They're excited about the way we're playing and the pieces we've added to the group. They're the kind of guys who will lead by example."

Ndugba, who is the NEC's returning leader in assists, looks at Grasso's system as a great opportunity this season.

"The system helps us get the shots we want to get," said Ndugba. "It creates more lanes for guys to be able to dribble, shoot and pass the ball. It makes the playing style a lot more fun. Everyone's scoring, everyone's sharing the ball, and that creates a great culture within the team."

The duo is joined by senior point guard Taylor McHugh (Centreville, Va.), whose season was cut short by injury in early January after entering the starting lineup, and junior Tanner Johnson (Lexington, Ky.), who ranked in the top 10 in made three-pointers in NEC play.

The backcourt adds graduate transfer Byron Hawkins (Fort Washington, Md.), who played on Murray State's NCAA tournament team a year ago. The fifth-year guard averaged double-figures for Towson as a sophomore before transferring to Murray.

Three freshmen will enter the mix, headlined by Joe Kasperzyk (New Haven, Conn.), who played a postgraduate year at Woodstock Academy after winning two state championships at Hillhouse Academy in New Haven. Kyle Cardaci (Holmdel, N.J.) and Nino Hernandez (Gardner, Mass.) will round out Coach Grasso's options in the backcourt in his first year at the helm.

Season and single-game tickets for the 2018-19 season are available by clicking HERE or calling (401) 319-TIXX.

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