CAA Preview: Elon University Phoenix

elonHead Coach: Matt Matheny

Last Season: 18-14 (10-8), 5th in CAA

Projected Finish: 3rd

Preseason All-Conference Selections: F Tyler Seibring (First-Team), F Brian Dawkins (Second-Team)

 

Losses:

  • G Luke Eddy (7.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
  • F Christian Hairston (2.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
  • G Ryder Bowline (0.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg)
  • G Patrick Ryan (1.8 ppg, 0.5 rpg)

Newcomers:

  • F Duje Radja (Fr./Split, Croatia/Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshiref)
  • G Nathan Priddy (Fr./Argyle, Texas/Argyle High)
  • F Simon Wright (Fr./Minneapolis, Minn./Hopkins)

by P.J. Wright

With just one freshman, last season’s fourth-place Elon squad was already pretty experienced. The Phoenix finished in the middle of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) with a 10-8 conference record.

Now, with all five starters returning, Elon is poised to make some noise in their fourth year of CAA play.  The Phoenix play a smart, fundamental style of basketball — and with their core another year older, there is reason to believe they will be able to challenge defending champion, College of Charleston.

Last season, Elon was first in the CAA in field goal percentage defense (.417), defensive rebounding (29.1 per game), and second in free throw shooting percentage (.732). And despite their fifth-place conference finish, they were third in scoring margin at +2.4.

The main losses from last year’s team are guard Luke Eddy and forward Christian Hairston, who both graduated in the spring. Eddy found himself in a lesser role than his junior year, but finished his career at Elon with 296 career assists, which ranks 8th in program history. Hairston was one of the most efficient scorers on the team, shooting 56.9 percent from the field in his four years.

This season, the Phoenix will be led by Second Team All-CAA junior forward Tyler Seibring (14.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and senior forward Brian Dawkins (12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg). The two shot 39.5 and 44.6 percent, respectively, from beyond the arc a season ago.

The x-factor for this year’s team might just be junior Steven Santa Ana (11.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg). The 6-foot-4 junior hit a team-high 71 triples last season but only on 32.7 percent shooting. Improved three-point efficiency from Santa Ana to go along with Seibring and Dawkin’s scoring could be exactly what Elon needs to put them over the top.

Returning junior guard Dainan Swoope was the fourth player on the Phoenix to average double figures last season at 11.7 points per game to go along with a team-high 37 steals. He was second on the team in minutes a year ago (31.7 mpg), so expect Elon to continue to rely on his playmaking and defense.

Also expected to play a key role this season will be senior guard Dmitri Thompson, who started in 30 of Elon’s 32 games last year. He was the only Phoenix player to record back-to-back 20-point games during the season and was third on the team in rebounding at 5.0 per contest.

The Phoenix will be challenged right away when they travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium for their season opener against the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. The Phoenix then play a schedule without any currently-ranked opponents before beginning CAA play on Dec. 30  at home against Drexel.

Bottom Line: Continuity will play a major role in Elon’s success this season. The Phoenix have the experience and chemistry, and if they can string together a strong offensive attack to go along with last season’s stifling defense with an improved backcourt of Santa Ana and Swoope, watch out. Expect Elon to finish near the top of the CAA and potentially make a run of the title if all the pieces come together.

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