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New season means fresh start for Tyler, Shepherd men's team

November 17, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A new day has dawned for the Shepherd University men's basketball team.

It is a time for the Rams to turn the page to a new chapter for less than conventional reasons. It isn't because all of Shepherd's stars graduated. It is more a case of rising from some ashes.

"This is a cleansing," Tyler said Thursday at Shepherd's annual winter sports preseason media day. "We are starting new. We have new uniforms. New shoes - we are wearing Nikes and I have always been an Adidas man. It's an exciting time. We will be maintaining our principles, but injecting them with a new vibe."

Thursday's media event signified the last days of turmoil in an emotionally rocking offseason for Tyler.

Last spring, a number of players signed a petition asking for his dismissal. There were claims of heavy-handed tactics and a lack of communication by the coach. It became a time of worry, astonishment and personal reflection for Tyler.

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And after it all, Tyler is ready to start it again with a feeling that he - and the Shepherd program - might end up being better for it in the long run.

"I have made a conscious effort to move forward," Tyler said of the ordeal. "I was so disappointed last spring, to hear Shepherd's good name and this basketball program dragged through the muck. Shepherd is my life and my family's life. Coaching has been my profession for 20 years and it was scary, for it all could have been taken away. I feel like the program has been cleansed ... there's been a lot of changes ... and that's good."

It all gets unveiled today at 2 p.m. when Shepherd hosts Columbia Union in the first round of the Clarion Hotel Tip-Off Tournament at the Butcher Center.

On the court, the major change will be the starting lineup, which will consist on one returning player (Yves Moliva), another coming back after missing last season with an injury (Danley Shank) and three brand new players. It's a mix, and the opening face, of a new team and attitude aiming for big things in the difficult West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

"We have eight - kind of nine - new players this year," Tyler said. "We have as much talent as we've had at any time at Shepherd. We are more like Salem and Charleston than we've ever been before."

Moliva and Shank are only the tip of Shepherd's talent iceberg.

Moliva, the shooting guard, made dynamic strides for the Rams last season, scoring 15.1 points per game while assuming the centerpiece role in Shepherd's attack after Shank was lost to a foot injury.

"I feel confident in Yves Moliva. I feel confident putting the ball in his hands," Tyler said. "He's a great player with all-conference potential. He's going to have a great year."

Shank returns with a new look at a new position. The Chambersburg, Pa., native is being moved from wing forward to the power forward slot, to help stir up the Rams' revamped motion offense.

"Danley is back and he is better than ever," Tyler said. "He has gained 10 pounds of muscle and his foot is healed. We moved him to his best position - power forward - because he causes problems down there and he is great running the secondary break."

The Rams brought in three high-caliber players to round out the starting lineup - point guard Fred Lymas, small forward Levi Osby and center Berry Cornish, all three transfers.

Lymas gives Shepherd a big presence at point guard after moving over from Morgan State. The 6-foot-5 Osby comes from Siena via Frederick Community College. And Cornish is a physical player coming from Garrett Community College.

"Lymas gives us a lot on the defensive end," Tyler said. "All the best point guards in the league look like Lyman. We had a lot of smaller points, but now we can challenge other teams. Osby is big, strong and explosive. And Cornish was our No. 1 recruiting target. He provides a prescience inside that demands attention. He loves contact and can shoot foul shots."

The Rams have local representation from Hedgesville with Matt Deaner, a dangerous shooter, returning, Mark Manspile coming and Duncan Williams, who played two years of soccer at Winthrop, transferring to Shepherd. Chambersburg also is represented by Jonathan Motichka.

Shepherd's secret weapon will be Davon Deans, a 6-5 forward who Tyler rated as "our most explosive player."

And in Shepherd's new world, the sky's the limit for the Rams.

"I'm not laying out any specific goals," Tyler said. "I figure if we finish in the top third of the league, we will get some national playoff consideration. Everyone knows who Cornish and Osby are - they were all recruiting them - and they all keep telling me we are loaded. There is a buzz. We haven't had that buzz before."

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