By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – After losing three seniors from the starting lineup, the Bridgewater State University men’s basketball team had openings this season.
Captains Rocky DeAndrade and Joseph Carty were returning for their final seasons, but coach Joe Farroba needed three new starters to go with them.
The newcomers turned out to be a trio of sophomores who have made a combined 72 starts and helped the Bears reach the NCAA Division 3 tournament.
Plymouth North High graduate Rayshon Ward, a forward, made the All-Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference second team after averaging 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Ryan Carney of Easton is second on the team with 35 3-pointers and is averaging 12.5 points, and Dimitri St. Louis of Brockton contributes 9.2 points and 4.3 rebounds.
DeAndrade and Carty have led the way for Bridgewater State, which plays at fifth-ranked Williams College in the opening round on Friday night, but the three sophomores have played key roles.
“That’s big,″ said Farroba, whose team is 18-9. “Hopefully that’s a good sign of things to come.″
Ward averaged around 10 minutes as a freshman last season, getting 2.7 points and 1.7 rebounds off the bench.
This season, he ranks sixth in the MASCAC and second on the team in scoring and rebounds while playing 34.5 minutes.
“I came in with pretty high expectations for myself,″ said Ward. “I wanted to be a big part of the team. So far I’m doing a good job. We’ve got to keep it going.
“I played a pretty good amount for a freshman last year, so it helped a little bit coming in this year.″
Carney appeared in 25 games, making three starts, as a freshman in the 2015-16 season. The Oliver Ames High graduate and former Enterprise All-Scholastic, who did not play last season, averaged 8.6 points and made 34 shots from 3-point range while in a reserve role.
This season, Carney has started 26 of 27 games, playing 27.3 minutes, and he is second on the team and 11th in the MASCAC in 3-pointers made.
“My role’s a lot bigger this year,″ said Carney. “I knew coming in talking to coach and just the work I put in during the offseason that I’d have a bigger role.
“Having already played, it definitely takes away the first-year jitters. It’s easier to play and not worry about it.″
St. Louis, a former Enterprise All-Scholastic at Cardinal Spellman High, spent his freshman year at Johnson & Wales in Providence, where he played only 24 total minutes in 11 games.
He has started 19 games for BSU and provides versatility in the front court.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming in,″ said St. Louis. “I knew they had a good group of guys returning, but I didn’t know where I was going to fit in.
“I used (sitting on the bench last season) more as motivation to get back out there and play. If you put the work in, good things usually happen.″
When the Bears’ postseason run comes to an end, DeAndrade and Carty will be moving on, but the three sophomore starters will be back for two more seasons together.
“I feel like it’s going to be good,″ said Ward of the future. “We can make a run this year and we’ve got two more years. It’ll be very interesting to see what we can do. We have a lot of talent coming up as well.″
Said Carney: “We’ve grown a bond over the year where we’re closer now. We all know how each other plays. It’s good to have two years left together. I think we can have a good team for a couple of years.″