The Raiders ended the season 23–7 behind PSAC East Athlete of the Year and Shippensburg University men’s basketball all-time leading scorer Dustin Sleva, earning the fifth seed in the Atlantic Region. The Raiders took down the fourth-seeded West Liberty Hilltoppers in the opening round of the tournament and upset the Virginia State Trojans, which stood No. 1 in the region, in the second round before falling to the East Stroudsburg Warriors in the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship game — the furthest the team has advanced in the tournament in school history.
● Forward/center Dustin Sleva: 21.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game
● Guard Justin McCarthur: 17.0 points and 3.7 assists per game, 42.9 percent from three
● Guard Clay Conner: 8.4 points and 4.6 assists per game, team-high 151 assists
What to expect:
With the scoring combo of Dustin Sleva and Justin McCarthur graduated, the Raiders look to a new duo to take over the reins. Senior guard Antonio Kellem and junior forward John Castello — the only two returning starters from the Raiders’ successful 2017-2018 campaign — project to be the new leaders of the Shippensburg squad, both on and off the court.
Replacing Sleva, Shippensburg University’s men's basketball all-time leading scorer, is a hard enough task on its own, but replacing the production of McCarthur, the school-record holder for career three-pointers, makes Raiders coach Chris Fite’s job even harder.
Last season, Kellem averaged 11 points per game and hit a career-high 63 three-pointers while shooting 36.4 percent from deep. Castello turned in 11.8 points per game, grabbing the second-most rebounds per game at 7.9, and finished with the highest field goal percentage of the starters at 54.4 percent. With Sleva and McCathur gone, both Kellem and Castello should see upticks in production with more shots at their disposal. Other returners, such as Manny Span, Jake Biss, Lamar Talley and Dom Sleva are expected to have expanded roles as well.
The Raiders enter the season voted third in the 2018-2019 PSAC East Preseason Coaches Poll behind West Chester University and ESU. Shippensburg opens the season with the 2018 Wolf’s Bus Lines Classic, hosting Virginia Union today at 8 p.m. and Lincoln tomorrow at 5 p.m. from Heiges Field House.