CAA Preview: Drexel Dragons

drexelHead Coach: Zach Spiker (2nd season)

Last Season: 9-23 (3-15), 10th place CAA

Projected Finish: 9th

Preseason All-Conference Selections: G Kurk Lee; All-CAA Second Team

 

Departures:

  • F Rodney Williams (15.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
  • F/C Mohamed Bah (4.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
  • G Kari Jonsson (10.1 ppg, 43.6% 3 pt)
  • G John Moran
  • F Jeremy Peck
  • G Major Canady

Newcomers:

  • F Alihan Demir (Central Wyoming College/Ankara, Turkey)
  • F James Butler (Navy/Burke, VA)
  • F Jarvis Doles (Mount Zion/Columbia, MD)
  • F Tim Perry (The Phelps School/Cherry Hill, NJ)

by Michael Petillo 

Despite a difficult 2016-17 campaign and the graduation of star forward Rodney Williams, Drexel fans have reason to be optimistic heading into the upcoming season.  Head coach Zach Spiker enters his second year at the helm after guiding the Dragons to a meager 3-15 conference record in what was always going to be a rebuilding year.  This year’s team features a nice mix of young talent and reliable veterans as Drexel looks to begin its ascension up the ranks of the CAA.

In order to begin that climb, Drexel is relying on their young star ball handler, Kurk Lee. Lee, who was Spiker’s first recruit at Drexel, is coming off a stellar freshman year in which he finished in the top 10 in the conference in scoring at (14.9 ppg) and was 4th in assists (5.0 apg) while converting on 40% of his threes.  The diminutive point guard ( 5’10, 150 lbs) runs the show for the Dragons and is their most important player.  Lee’s ability to create for himself and others will be essential to keeping Spiker’s offense running smoothly, and look for him to assume more of the scoring load now that Williams is gone.

Drexel’s season prospectus took a blow when sophomore guard Kari Jonsson announced he was returning to his native Iceland, and wouldn’t be rejoining the. Dragons. Jonsson knocked down a scorching 43.6% of his shots from long range last year, good for 1st in the conference. Pairing the knockdown shooting of Jonsson with the drive-and-kick ability of Lee would have been exciting, but alas, the Dragons will have to look elsewhere for complementary production. 

The lack of depth in the frontcourt leaves many skeptical that Drexel can make a serious leap this year.  Losing Rodney Williams and Mohamed Bah leaves the Dragons with little experience down low outside of senior forward Austin Williams.  Williams chipped in 7.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year in just 21 minutes a night, and his physicality and presence on the glass will be essential to Drexel’s success.  

Aside from him, however, Drexel will be relying on senior swingman Sammy Mojica and a myriad of young bigs to get the job done on the backboards.  Mojica is a jack of all trades type of player who rebounds well (5.3 rpg) for his 6’3 frame, but doesn’t bring the type of physical presence Drexel will need when Williams is off the floor.  That responsibility lies with an intriguing yet unproven group of young big men.  

The team brought in Jarvis Doles and Tim Perry Jr. as freshman and acquired Alihan Demir as a JUCO transfer from Central Wyoming College.  Doles is the most intriguing prospect; mix his 6’8 size and length with good handles for a big man, range out to the three point line, and a pretty fall-away jumper from the baseline and you’ve got the makings of a prototypical stretch four.  But there are questions about his strength and athleticism which must be answered before he can become the interior presence Drexel needs.  Perry Jr. is the more traditional big out of the two, with a mean streak on the glass and some solid post moves, and he has a decent chance to step in and play spot minutes when Spiker wants to go big or when Williams needs a rest.  Demir was a standout at the JUCO level, notching 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a night in just a shade over 20 minutes a game.  He’s a sound rebounder and with work could develop into a three point threat as well.  Look for him to find a way into Spiker’s rotation and maybe turn some heads with his energy and scoring touch.

Bottom Line: With a dynamic young point guard and an energetic young coach, Drexel is a team on the rise in the CAA.  They’ll without a doubt have to overcome the significant challenge of replacing the shooting of Jonson, as well as Williams and (to a lesser extent) Bah in the frontcourt. But, if one or more of the new additions steps up this could be an exciting team to watch and one to keep an eye on come tournament time.

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