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New Hampshire, Albany look to Division II for three-point punch

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The America East pair will both welcome two potent shooters from down a level.

St. John’s vs New Hampshire Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images

There are plenty of differences between Division I and Division II. As of last season, 22 feet and 1 34 inches wasn’t one of them.

The three-point line being moved to the international distance — 22 feet and 1 34 inches — became the requirement across both divisions in 2020-21, after Division I had moved forward with it a season prior. That may well bode well for a pair of America East teams looking to supercharge their offenses by adding two of the best shooters from Division II.

New Hampshire’s most reliable outside threat last season came from the most unlikely place: it’s primary big man. Rising senior Jayden Martinez was the only player in the Wildcats’ regular rotation to shoot over 35 percent from deep, while also being the team’s best rebounder and rim protector. That made him one of the most versatile players in the AE, but also didn’t bode well for a three-point attack that was among the worst in the country (266th).

Marco Foster would seem charged with boosting that.

By adding Foster, Bill Herrion is importing a player coming off an impressive freshman campaign for Oklahoma Christian. The 6-2 guard finished last season as the joint leader in three-pointers made (62) by freshmen in Division II, and did so at a dangerous clip (42.8%). While the Wildcats return plenty of off-ball perimeter production — including AE Newcomer of the Year Nick Johnson — Foster should figure to aid an offensive attack built around the team’s forwards.

Herrion talked about the addition of Foster in a release.

“We really like the team we have coming back next season, but we felt an area that we had to improve upon in order to take the next step in our continued pursuit of an America East championship is perimeter shooting –especially from 3-point distance.”

The Wildcats have built back up under Herrion after a quality run between 2015-17, where they finished fourth or better each season and made two CITs. After a pair of rebuilding seasons, UNH has gone 17-14 in AE play over the past two campaigns, including a third place finish last season that gave the program its best league tournament seed in 25 years. With Martinez (13.6 PPG, 8.5 RPG), Johnson (7.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG) and junior forward Nick Guadarrama (14.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG), the team looks set up to continue pushing for its first NCAA Tournament in school history.

Albany, on the other hand, is not chasing that sort of first.

The Great Danes made the tournament five times under Will Brown, but not since 2015, which may have contributed to the program parting ways with the longtime coach after 20 years. That led to heavy roster turnover, and first year coach Dwayne Killings has turned to his past to fill parts of the roster.

Killings — who was a Temple assistant from 2011-16 — has leaned into his Philadelphia area connections in the transfer market. That’s included bringing on former Owl De’Vondre Perry to presumably anchor the front court, as well as Philly area native Matt Cerutti from Division II Lock Haven (Pa.). Like Foster, Cerutti lit up Division II from deep (46.2%) in his most recent season in 2019-20, as Lock Haven had its campaign cancelled due to the pandemic last year.

His high school coach talked to City of Basketball Love about Cerutti’s move.

“By senior year I thought he was definitely a Division I player. I still feel a few people missed the boat on him,” Wood coach John Mosco said, jokingly adding, “hopefully he has a good year [at Albany] and makes me look good.”

Having missed last season, Cerutti didn’t get a chance to shoot on the expanded international three-point line. But he and Foster will both next season in Division I, as they both try to bolster outside attacks within the AE.