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William and Mary's young players have to be quick studies

Brandon Britt is fast.

That's the first thing that strikes an observer about William and Mary's freshman point guard, watching him drive the lane for a layup or a dish to an open teammate.

He's also young, as his occasional concentration lapse on the floor and at the free-throw line revealed in the Tribe's easy 72-44 win against Shenandoah on Thursday.

But when you consider that Britt is five months out of high school and less than two months removed from a broken wrist, the main thing he may be is promising.

Britt, a 6-foot-1 guard, and 6-9 freshman forward Tim Rusthoven provided glimpses of the Tribe's future against the Hornets, and though the opponent was overmatched, that future looks bright.

Britt and Rusthoven combined to score 26 points, with Britt leading all scorers with 15. Rusthoven also had a game-high eight rebounds, while Britt had two assists and no turnovers.

"They're going to be really great players," said sophomore forward Kyle Gaillard, who had 11 points and five rebounds. "From the minute they got here, I've been excited about what they're going to be able to do for this program. Brandon, he's one of the quickest guys I've seen, and he's really an up-tempo guy. And Tim, with his long arms, he's always a big presence in the post. Right now, they're even contributing a lot, and I'm excited to see what they're going to do down the road."

The Tribe's young players — including Gaillard, a reserve last year and now a starter — will have to contribute early and often for a team that lost four seniors from last season's 22-11 team. That squad won the third most games in school history and advanced to the NIT for William and Mary's second-ever postseason appearance, but was picked to finish eighth in the Colonial Athletic Association and got off to an 0-3 start, including a 63-60 loss at Syracuse on Nov. 21.

"I definitely think we can be a real good basketball team," said Britt, averaging five points in 11.4 minutes per game. "I really think we can compete in our league. It's a tough league. We got young players, but we got good players."

Those young players are blending with the Tribe's two returning starters, forwards Quinn McDowell and Marcus Kitts, as William and Mary (4-5) seeks the chemistry that carried it to a surprise appearance in the CAA tournament title game last season.

"I think this team can have a great year," said McDowell, a junior forward averaging a team-high 14.6 points." I'm not going to compare it to last year. I don't know specifically what this team can do, but I think we can have an unbelievable year, and I think our best times are only ahead of us."

Tribe coach Tony Shaver has been most impressed with newcomer Rusthoven, averaging 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13 minutes. Rusthoven showed energy on the offensive and defensive boards against Shenandoah, stretching to tip rebounds he couldn't reach to teammates.

"Tim's very good at all phases of the game," Shaver said. "He's one of our better defenders. He's got great touch and great feel. You play (nine) games with so many young players and so many new faces, you've got to figure out your rotations, and one thing we figured out is, Tim Rusthoven's gotta play."

The newcomers' learning curve needs to continue at a rapid pace. After Saturday's game at Liberty, the Tribe travels to North Carolina on Tuesday in a rematch of last year's first-round NIT game, which the Heels won 80-72.

"We're young, but I don't want to use young as an excuse not to be successful," Shaver said. "I like this team a lot. I think we've got a lot ways to go, but I really think there's some good pieces here."

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