Thanks to their commitment to each other and to a shared vision of success, the Rams presented a huge gift to the extended URI family–one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory. It was a run that put URI on ESPN for a nationally televised battle in the Atlantic 10 Conference tourney championship.
“I told the team all season long, that we would only achieve success if we came together as a team. We needed to be into each other – on the court and off.” said Baron. “If you look out for your teammates off the court, it really affects the things you need to do to win – make the extra pass, playing with an unselfish attitude. That was key to our success all season – spending much of the season in first place in the Atlantic 10.”
Picked to finish 11th in the 14-team Conference, Rhode Island gave fans a hint of its potential early in the season when it defeated Utah in overtime by a point. Once conference play began, the Rams nailed down victories in six of its first seven games and stood alone in first place. In mid-February, they racked up three straight blowouts over Duquesne, St. Louis, and Charlotte. Basketball was hot again in Kingston and big crowds featuring raucous students made the Ryan Center exciting again. Alumni, faculty and staff were talking about great teams of the past and whether this could be another special team.
“People doubted us all year.” said sophomore forward Kahiem Seawright. “We were picked 11th in the preseason and played all the way to the championship game. Everyday, every game, every practice, we came together as a team. We care so much about each other, our bond is so strong.”
So when the Rams entered play in the conference tournament in Atlantic City, Rhody fans donned their Keaney Blue shirts and chanted the Rams to victories over Fordham and top-seed Xavier at Boardwalk Hall.
“The turnout was great and our fans were spirited throughout the tournament,” said Gina Dei, assistant director of Alumni Relations who made the trip to New Jersey. “Alumni and many students rallied around this team because of its tenacity and teamwork. Our team was a great source of pride for all of us.”
In the conference championship, Rhode Island battled hard, but could not solve the tough George Washington defense. The season-ending loss put an end to the Rams’ hopes for a bid to a national tournament.
Still, the season had plenty of highlights—Jim Baron being named A-10 coach of the year, his second time since coming to Kingston; junior forward Will Daniels being named to the All-Atlantic 10 First Team and sophomore guard Jimmy Baron being named a conference honorable mention, as well as being selected to Atlantic 10 All Academic team. Daniels and Seawright were also named to the 2007 A-10 All-Championship team.
Who could forget senior Darrell Harris coming back from his ankle injury and hitting for seven straight points against Charlotte, and the student section chanting “Darrell Harris! Darrell Harris! Darrell Harris!” to the tune of Let’s Go Rhody?
And while coaches and teammates will say so long to Harris before he is presented with his degree at commencement in May, URI hoop fans know he was part of a great foundation, one that has many looking forward to next year.