One has consistently logged a few key minutes in almost every game. The other hit four three-point shots in a game against Alfred University on Jan. 21. Both are compensating for an injured player on the men’s basketball team.
The South Hill squad has found a tenacious pair of freshmen guards with Max Masucci and Connor Rogers. Masucci became the first freshman to start in a game for the team this season after sophomore guard Christian Jordan suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Jordan was averaging six points per game for the Bombers, but Masucci filled the hole in the backcourt with his 19-point performance during 33 minutes of action in the Bombers’ 84-80 loss to Alfred.
Head Coach Jim Mullins said he did not predict that Masucci would be so effective early in his career.
“We thought there was going to be a growth phase for him, but the kid has worked his butt off every day in practice,” Mullins said. “And he just gets better and better.”
Since his outburst in his first game in the starting lineup, Masucci has played in all three Empire 8 Conference games and averaged more than five points per game.
But Masucci is not the only freshman providing solid minutes for the South Hill squad. Connor Rogers has logged more than 10 minutes in 15 out of the 16 games he has seen action in. He netted a career high of 12 points in the Bombers’ loss against La Roche College on Dec. 17.
Junior guard Sean Rossi said the coaches expect more of Rogers because of his ability to become a hybrid player on the court.
“He’s one of those kids that can play the point guard position and then go down low and guard a big man underneath,” Rossi said.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Rogers’ size came in handy in Saturday’s loss against Hartwick. Rogers scooped up a key offensive rebound in the post with 1:30 left to play, extending the Bombers’ possession in a tight ball game.
Mullins said Masucci and Rogers have handled the mental and emotional aspects of transitioning onto the team as freshmen with poise. They don’t get frustrated or lose confidence when they’re on the bench.
“With Connor and Max, that never occurred,” Mullins said.
Masucci said the winter break period helped him and Rogers transition into Division III.
“We were staying at an off-campus house two days after Christmas,” he said. “We lived together and kind of grew together, and you can tell because our team chemistry is better on the court now.”
Rossi said the two freshmen’s attitudes will determine how the team finishes the regular season.
“Hopefully they don’t get too complacent knowing that they’re going to be playing more and lose that edge of hard work,” Rossi said. “I don’t think either of them are like that.”