Date: Monday, January 22, 2001
Written by Michael Douglas


MEDFORD -- The Tufts University Men's Basketball team, the defending Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) New England Champions, are having a terrific season thus far. Head Coach Bob Sheldon's squad sports a 12-2 overall record and is ranked third in the January 23 Northeast Region.

Senior leadership has been a key part of the team's success thus far. Senior co-captain and center Dan Flaherty (Fairfield, CT/Fairfield) is in the midst of another outstanding season. He is currently third in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) in scoring with 18.4 points per game, fifth in rebounds (8.4 per game), and second in field-goal percentage (57.1%). He scored his 1,000th career point on December 10 in a 33-point effort at Cazenovia College, the 21st player in Tufts history to do so.

Senior co-captain and guard Bobby Mpuku (Westport, CT/Fairfield Prep) is averaging 5.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game, which place him second in the NESCAC in both categories. Senior forward Fred Pedroletti (Miami, FL/Gulliver Prep) is averaging 10 points per game, while classmate Tom Bernier (West Roxbury, MA/Catholic Memorial) has 3.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game off the bench.

Sophomore guard Brian Shapiro (Swampscott, MASwampscott), the 1999-2000 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, is eighth in the league in scoring with 16.1 points per game and leads Tufts with 38 threes. Freshman phenom Phil Barlow (Arlington, MA/Arlington) is having an excellent debut season, averaging 10 points per game from the bench, and leading the NESCAC in three-point shooting percentage (25 for 47, 53.2%). He is also fourth in the league in steals per game (2.2). Sophomore forward Kyle Van Natta (Northfield, MA/Pioneer Valley) is starting and putting up 4.9 ppg while pulling down 3.4 rpg.

"We have a lot of offensive weapons, but we're coming together as a good defensive team," Sheldon said. "That's been the key. If the offense is off, our defense carries us through the games. Since the start of the second semester, we've allowed less than 70 points in four of five games."

The Jumbos have won eight straight and hope to continue this season's success in an upcoming match-up at UMass-Dartmouth, the number-one team in that same Northeast Region poll (Jan. 25).