Run-and-gun William and Mary basketball out to make CAA statement

WILLIAMSBURG (WAVY) – If you take a trip to Kaplan Arena looking for fast breaks, dunks and three-pointers, you’ll get your money’s worth. The College of William and Mary is currently the top shooting team in the country. The Tribe (11-4, 4-0 Colonial Athletics Association) leads the nation in three-point shooting (46.2 percent), is second in free-throw shooting (80.4 percent) and third in field goal percentage (52.1).

“It’s one of the most balanced offensive teams we’ve ever had. There’s not a guy on the floor who can’t score, and can’t shoot,” said head coach Tony Shaver, who’s team faces James Madison University on Thursday night.

William and Mary’s undefeated league record to this point marks the best start in the CAA since the 1997-1998 team, which won a share of the regular season league title. There’s no denying the Tribe are doing it with their offense.

Two of the top five three-point shooters in the country wear green and gold jerseys. Connor Burchfield is second in the country, shooting 54.5 percent from the bonusphere, while teammate Matt Milan, a transfer guard from Boston College, is just two spots behind, hitting on 53 percent from three.

“The fact that we have five great shooters on the floor, and then we have great team chemistry to find the open guy, whoever is open on the floor can make the shot,” said Burchfield, who hit a school record 10 three-pointers against Marshall.

Though the offense thrives on the three-point shot, it runs through senior guard David Cohn, who’s just 25 assists away from breaking the school record. “I’m surrounded with great shooters, and just knowing when to get the ball to the right hands at the right time is what it’s all about as a point guard,” said Cohn.

All of that, and we haven’t even mentioned Nathan Knight. The sophomore forward has emerged as a CAA Player of the Year candidate. “He’s a complete player. He’s helping us win in every phase,” said Shaver.

Knight is the second-best scorer in the CAA (19.8 points per game), the second-leading shot-blocker (2.7 per game), is sixth in rebounding (8.5 per game), and is third behind Milan in field goal percentage (56.3 percent). The 6-foot-7, 240 pounder from Syracuse was just named the conference player of the week for the second straight week, having recorded his fourth straight double-double in the team’s win against Drexel on Sunday night.

“I knew that my freshman year, I wouldn’t be playing as big a role as I am now, but that gave me a great opportunity to work on my body, and do what I needed to do to get ready for this season,” said Knight, who shed close to 40 pounds in the off-season.

All of this beg’s the question, is this the team to shed the title that has shadowed the program for decades? William and Mary is one of just four original Division I programs never to have made the NCAA tournament.

Shaver makes no promises, but holds plenty of promise. “This team’s proven right now that it has a chance to be pretty special,” he said.