New guys show promise at Catamount Tip-Off

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I stopped by the Catamount Tip-Off today, eager to scout this year’s University of Vermont basketball team during the preseason scrimmage — the newcomers, in particular.

The four freshmen on the Catamount men’s team look like they belong at the college level, a nice mix of athleticism and size that should help the Catamounts sooner rather than later.

Simeon Marsalis is a crafty, pass-first point guard, who will likely play behind Nick Vier and Joey Accaoui this winter but is  a player who gives the Cats depth. Forward Luke Apfeld is powerful, ultra-athletic, and is going to be a impact player as soon as he shakes the rust from spending the past year rehabbing a knee injury. Brendan Bald will be another crowd-pleaser, a player who isn’t shy about attacking the rim.

Based on the brief sample provided at Patrick Gym on Saturday, the player who seems most likely to get minutes right away was center Ben Crenca, a Rhode Islander who is every bit of his listed 6-foot-10, 260 pounds, and appears to have a nice touch in the paint.

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Joey Accaoui caught fire late and won the 3-point shooting contest, beating out Maurice Joseph, Kelli Hier and Courtnay Pilypaitis. Hier was the runner-up.

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Here’s a stunner: Marqus Blakely didn’t win the dunk contest. An even bigger shock: The victor was Pat Bergmann, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Burlington who spent pretty much all of last season on the bench.

Bergmann faced Blakely in the championship round, and the former Rice Memorial standout put the preasure on Vermont’s human air show. Bergmann stood on the foul line, back to the basket, and bounced the ball hard off the floor, caromming it high off the backboard. He turned, elevated and flushed it home hard — perfect timing, perfect execution.  Blakely had an encore planned — letting teammate Evan Fjeld go up for a routine dunk, then in mid-air, catching the ball at the bottom of the net and attempting to tomahawk it homebut missed all three of his attempts.

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