DUDLEY– When Marcos Echevarria began his sophomore season with the Nichols men’s basketball team last winter, the Lynn native expected to have a big year.
After a 2016-2017 campaign that saw him average 23.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and four assists while shooting 40.2 percent from beyond the arc, “big” is certainly an understatement for the type of season he had.
Now a junior, Echevarria is gearing up to lead the Division III Bison to another strong season. Last winter, Nichols finished the season at 24-6. The team won the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament and appeared in the NCAA Tournament but fell short with a second round exit at the hands of CCC rival Endicott.
“Last season was pretty much about defining ourselves and making a statement,” Echevarria, a guard, said. “My freshman year we lost to Endicott in the conference tournament. Last season we beat them but they got the better of us in the NCAA Tournament. We’re using that as motivation to go further in the NCAA Tournament.”
For his efforts on the court last season, Echevarria was named the CCC Player of the Year.
“It was justification for all the hard work I put in during the offseason and the season,” Echevarria, a St. Mark’s alum, said. “It was a great accomplishment and a great accolade. It felt great to be able to celebrate that award with my teammates and family.”
Now that it’s time to turn the page on the 2016-2017 season, the Bison are ready to move forward to 2017-2018. Nichols was tabbed to finish first in the CCC by the preseason coaches’ poll.
“The attitude’s definitely about playing our best game and being a family,” Echevarria said. “The preseason polls come out and everyone has a shot. For us, it’s about sticking to our goals and staying together throughout the season.”
With last season’s second-round exit in the NCAAs, the Bison are motivated to take things one step further this winter. If Nichols can focus on playing its style of basketball and properly handling adverse situations, Echevarria feels the Bison will be back where they left off.
“We definitely want to play our style of game,” Echevarria said. “We want to handle adversity the way we know we can. If we can do those two things, I think we’re capable of making it back to the CCC Championship Game and hopefully make a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament. Our goal is to take it one game at a time but we’re looking to get back to where we left off.
“There’s no shortage of competition in this conference,” Echevarria added. “Including ourselves, every team has talent. It’s going to be like that all season and moving forward. The conference is always competitive. We just have to work as hard as we can to get wins.”
In terms of following up the individual success he reached last year, Echevarria’s looking to add strong leadership to his list of skills. The Bison carry a core group of underclassmen on their roster and they’ll need Echevarria to serve as their general on and off the court.
“It’s his second year as a team captain,” Bison coach Tom Glynn said. “We’re looking for him to continue to grow as a player. The big thing for him is leadership. Our roster this year has 12 combined freshmen and sophomores. All eyes are on him this year. We’re looking for him to lead by example for us this season.”
Glynn, in his fourth season at the helm of the program, feels as though the talent’s there for the Bison to go on another NCAA Tournament run. With Echevarria’s leadership and consistent team improvement throughout the season, Nichols should be in good position to make noise again.
“We know we can perform on the court,” Glynn said. “This is the most talent we’ve had in my four years here. Marcos is playing with great players this year. They complement his game. It’s about his leadership and bringing the team together. We’ll get better game by game and play our best basketball in January and February.”
Echevarria’s success at Nichols hasn’t been limited to his efforts on the court. Academics, Echevarria said, have also been a priority throughout his career as a student athlete.
“I pride myself on working hard and getting good grades,” Echevarria said. “I’m trying to establish an example for my younger brother (Jalen) in terms of excelling in academics and on the basketball court. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now.
“I’m thankful for everything Nichols College and the coaching staff has done for me,” Echevarria added. “I’m thankful for everything my family has done for me. I’m trying to set a positive example for Jalen who’s at St. Mary’s and I hope he has a big season.”
Nichols opens the season on Wednesday night when the Bison host Newbury.