By: Jeremy Leopold (@Jeremyleopold)
Head Coach: Louis Rowe (1st season)
Last Season: 21-11 (11-7 CAA T-3rd place)
- G Ron Curry (17.3 ppg, 3.6 apg, First Team All-CAA)
- G Winston Grays III (5.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
- G Matt Risse
- G Kevin Kangni
- G Terrence Johnson (South Mountain Community College/Tuscon, AZ)
- G Vince Holmes (Otero Junior College/Jupiter, FL)
- F Gerron Scissum (VCU/Huntsville, AL)
- G Stuckey Mosley (Toledo/Orlando, FL)
Last year was considered a disappointment for many in Harrisonburg after the Dukes, who were a popular pick to win the CAA, finished third and lost to William and Mary in their first game of the CAA Tournament With the lofty expectations and postseason disappointment, Head Coach Matt Brady was let go. For 2016-2017, JMU turns to Louis Rowe, a former player and graduate assistant for the Dukes. Rowe has never been a head coach at the collegiate level, most recently spending time as the top assistant at Bowling Green.
The team Rowe will inherit will be without its star player from a year ago. Point guard Ron Curry was a 1st Team All CAA selection last season despite battling injuries late in the season. He led the Dukes in scoring and assists and was fourth on the team in rebounds. While he leaves big shoes to fill, he is the only major contributor from last season who is no longer on the team.
Although Rowe won’t get his superstar, he will inherit a solid base, including a dynamic one-two punch in seniors Shakir Brown and Yohanny Dalembert. Brown, a 6’6 swingman, played his first season with Dukes last season after transferring from Iowa Western CC and was a solid second option averaging 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Dalembert, a 6’8 center from Haiti, was selected to the preseason 2nd team All CAA last season and had a solid year, averaging 9.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game.
The Dukes are also a deep team with a number of key role players returning. Dimitrije Cabarkapa, Jackson Kent, Tom Vodanovich, and Joey McLean all contributed significant minutes last season. If the CAA had a 6th man of the year award, Cabarkapa likely would have won it, or at least been in contention. The Serbian big man was the third leading scorer for the Dukes despite coming off the bench all season. Kent will look to forget a poor shooting season last year where he shot just 34% from the field and 31% from deep. Known around the conference as a knockdown 3pt shooter, he may struggle to find his shot again this season without Curry drawing the defensive attention. Vodanovich and McLean will likely contribute in a similar role to last year as valuable players who can come of the bench or start and give solid minutes.
While JMU doesn’t have any incoming freshman they do have a number of transfers eligible to play this season. Ramone Snowden sat out last season after transferring from Niagara after the 2014-2015 season. The combo forward saw some success as a Purple Eagle, averaging 10.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in his last season with the team. The Dukes may be deep but expect Snowden to be a big contributor. Rowe also brought in two junior college transfers who are eligible to play right away. Guards Terrence Johnson and Vince Holmes both had a lot of success in junior college with Johnson as a scorer and Holmes as a playmaker. Without Curry, the Dukes don’t have a dominant ball handler returning, so both could have opportunity to run the point for Rowe’s squad this season.
Bottom Line: As a first time head coach, Rowe is a huge unknown in the CAA this year despite his close ties to the league. The Dukes have a lot of good players but no one that jumps of the page. Both Brown and Dalembert have the potential to be All-CAA players. Best-case scenario is Rowe comes in and takes the league by storm like UNCW head coach Kevin Keatts did a few years ago. If Rowe can coax Brown and Delembert to play up to their potential to fill the big void left by Curry, and translate the success his three transfers had from their former teams, this is a team that could easily finish top three in the CAA. More likely, Rowe will hit a few bumps along the way, the transfers will have an adjustment period to the CAA, Brown and Dalembert remain very solid (but not spectacular) players, and the Dukes finish firmly in the middle of the pack in the CAA.