CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

Last Season: 11–21 (7–11 CAA, eighth place), lost in CAA first round

Coach: Mike Schrage (first season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Tenth

Losses

  • G Dainan Swoope
  • G Sheldon Eberhardt
  • G Steven Santa Ana
  • G Nathan Priddy
  • F Tyler Seibring
  • F/C Karolis Kundrotas

Additions

  • G Hunter McIntosh
  • G/F Zac Ervin
  • G/F Hunter Woods
  • G/F Jerald Gillens-Butler
  • G/F Marcus Sheffield II

By Gabe Bibliowicz

A disappointing 2018–19 season sent Elon head coach Matt Matheny from the hot seat to unemployed. In his 10 years as Elon’s head coach (151–169 record) Matheny suffered through five losing seasons, last year’s being his worse since his inaugural. A disappointing CAA finish and three players entering the transfer portal was enough to end Matheny’s tenure.

Director of Athletics Dave Blank took only a month to replace Matheny, settling on Mike Schrage (SHRAW–gee). The Atlanta native spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State under Chris Holtmann and worked under college basketball legends Mike Krzyzewski (nine seasons) and Bob Knight (four seasons).

Along with a new coaching perspective, Schrage will look to improve Elon’s recruiting. Over his years as an assistant, he helped recruit multiple nationally ranked classes, including a top-25 class at Ohio State in 2018 and a top-10 class in 2019.

In May, Schrage announced the addition of the 6’5” forward Zac Ervin to Elon’s 2019 recruiting class. Ervin was awarded the 2018–19 Mountain 7 District Player of the Year after averaging 33 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. He was a three-time First-Team All-State selection.

The Phoenix graduated their top four scorers from last season, including Tyler Seibring, a perennial all-conference forward who led the team in points and minutes. The 6’9” forward was an efficient scorer and a deft passer, and his departure leaves a gaping hole in Elon’s offense. Sheldon Eberhardt snagged the CAA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last year and finished ninth in the CAA in assists. Steven Santa Ana, Elon’s second-leading scorer, won Player of the Week on March 4th after averaging 27 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists that week. Elon was a bottom-tier team with them, and now they’re gone.

Guard Nathan Priddy (seven ppg last year) was expected to be the Phoenix’s top returning scorer. But Priddy has decided to leave school and work for his brother, per Brian Mull.

The only returning rotation players are sophomores Chuck Hannah and Kris Wooten. The 6’6”, 230-pound Hannah is a defensive asset and rebounds well, but lacks Ervin’s offensive upside. Guard Kris Wooten was fourth on the team last year with 43 three-pointers, though he shot just 34 percent from beyond the arc. Guard Marcus Sheffield II, a grad transfer who averaged six points per game in three years at Stanford, is perhaps their best hope for a consistent top scorer.

Bottom Line: Schrage’s hiring is a move in the right direction, and his recruiting skill means the program is primed for a speedy rebuild. But this year’s team is short on talent and experience. Anything besides a last-place finish would be a surprise.

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