Women’s Basketball Finishes Sixth in Coaches’ Poll

Image credit: nuhuskies.com

By Milton Posner

The Northeastern women’s basketball team placed sixth in the annual CAA preseason poll released Thursday. Unlike the men’s poll, in which coaches, media relations directors, and media members vote, the women’s poll asks only the coaches, who are barred from voting for their own team.

TeamPoints (First-Place Votes)
James Madison Dukes81 (9)
Drexel Dragons70 (1)
Towson Tigers65
Delaware Blue Hens59
UNCW Seahawks47
Northeastern Huskies40
William & Mary Tribe32
Elon Phoenix28
Charleston Cougars15
Hofstra Pride13

James Madison, the unanimous title favorite, showcases a formidable lineup headlined by Preseason Player of the Year Kamiah Smalls and three second-team members: Lexie Barrier, Jackie Benitez, and Kayla Cooper-Williams. Benitez earned Sixth Player of the Year accolades last season; Cooper-Williams led the conference in blocks and rebounds en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year.

The Dukes won a program-record 29 games last year, went 17–1 in conference play to notch the first seed, then were unexpectedly bounced in the tournament quarterfinal by ninth-seeded Hofstra, the first time a one seed had ever lost so early.

James Madison cast its first-place vote for Drexel, which features last year’s Player of the Year Bailey Greenberg and four other returning starters, including CAA All-Rookie selection Keishana Washington. Drexel boasted the best defense in the nation last year, but ultimately fell to Towson in the CAA title game. Towson returns four starters, including preseason first-teamers Kionna Jeter and Nukiya Mayo.

First TeamKamiah Smalls, James Madison
Bailey Greenberg, Drexel
Kionna Jeter, Towson
Nukiya Mayo, Towson
Nicole Enabosi, Delaware
Second TeamLexie Barrier, James Madison
Jackie Benitez, James Madison
Kayla Cooper-Williams, James Madison
Samone DeFreese, Delaware
GiGi Smith, UNCW
Honorable MentionShannon Todd, Northeastern
Deja Ford, Charleston
Niki Metzel, Drexel
Victoria Reynolds, William & Mary
Lacey Suggs, UNCW

Last season, led by guard Jess Genco and forward Gabby Giacone, Northeastern led the CAA in field-goal percentage (42.3) and three-point percentage (36.6). The Huskies fared well in non-conference play, posting an 11–3 record, but won only nine of their 18 CAA games to finish sixth. The program made its first ever WNIT but lost in the first round to Butler.

Head coach Kelly Cole will have to overcome the graduation of Genco — the program’s all-time third-leading scorer and its record holder in minutes, assists, and three-pointers — and Giacone. Shannon Todd, who averaged 11 points per game last year and earned preseason honorable mention, will be asked to do more offensively, as will Ayanna Dublin, Katie May, Stella Clark, and Kendall Currence.

Northeastern opens its season at home against South Dakota at noon ET on November 5.

Men’s Basketball Finishes Third in Preseason Poll

Image credit: nuhuskies.com

By Milton Posner

Ahh, the CAA Preseason Poll. That wonderful time of year when the conference’s coaches, media relations directors, and media members (including a few from your favorite Northeastern student radio station) gaze deep into their crystal balls and relay the results of the upcoming season. The results of this annual divination ritual, released Wednesday, were among the closest ever, with five teams receiving first-place votes.

TeamPoints (First-Place Votes
Hofstra Pride331 (14)
Charleston Cougars323 (18)
Northeastern Huskies291 (4)
James Madison Dukes253 (3)
Delaware Blue Hens241 (2)
Towson Tigers194
William & Mary Tribe131
Drexel Dragons125
UNCW Seahawks118
Elon Phoenix48

Hofstra, the defending regular-season titleholder, narrowly topped Charleston despite receiving fewer first-place votes. Northeastern finished third without immediate neighbors, and James Madison squeaked ahead of Delaware.

Charleston senior guard Grant Riller took home Preseason Player of the Year Honors and headlined the All-CAA First Team.

First TeamGrant Riller, Charleston
Nathan Knight, William & Mary
Brian Fobbs, Towson
Eli Pemberton, Hofstra
Matt Lewis, James Madison
Second TeamJordan Roland, Northeastern
Ryan Allen, Delaware
Camren Wynter, Drexel
Desure Buie, Hofstra
Darius Banks, James Madison
Honorable MentionBolden Brace, Northeastern
Kai Toews, UNCW
Kevin Anderson, Delaware
James Butler, Drexel
Marcus Sheffield II, Elon

Hofstra, Charleston, and Northeastern, the top three finishers in the poll, were the top three finishers in the regular season last year, albeit in a different order. All three lost major contributors — Justin Wright-Foreman, Jarrell Brantley, and Vasa Pusica, respectively — to graduation. They, along with fellow first-teamer Devontae Cacok of UNCW, signed pro contracts. This was a familiar theme during the CAA offseason; many of the conference’s most talented players graduated or transferred, including William & Mary’s Justin Pierce, Drexel’s Alihan Demir, and Northeastern’s Shawn Occeus.

Hofstra will look to defend its regular-season crown behind a trio of guards: second-teamer Eli Pemberton, third-teamer and Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie, and the sweet-shooting Tareq Coburn. Charleston will lean heavily on Riller and hope for increased contributions from their maturing role players, namely Brevin Galloway. Northeastern, the defending CAA champion, offers second-teamer Jordan Roland, versatile guard/forward Bolden Brace, and a mix of returning role players and freshman recruits. James Madison and Delaware look to rebound from losing years behind star guards and, in Delaware’s case, two high-powered transfers in Dylan Painter and Nate Darling.

WRBB will post detailed previews for each CAA team the week before Northeastern’s November 5 opening again Boston University. Michael Petillo and Milton Posner will be on the call; coverage begins at 6:45 PM ET.

CAA Class of 2019 Goes Pro

Picture credit: nuhuskies.com

By Milton Posner

On April 7th, four CAA basketball players stood on a speedily assembled court in America’s largest shopping mall as dollar bills fluttered around them.

Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman, Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley, and UNCW’s Devontae Cacok had won the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship — and its $100,000 prize — after seven straight wins over teams representing other conferences.

It was an entertaining, financially rewarding experience for two-thirds of the CAA’s 2019 First Team. But it would pale in comparison to where they were headed.

Pusica went first. Two weeks after the 3X3U Tournament, he signed a contract with KK Partizan, the winningest team in his native Serbia’s top basketball league. Since joining the team, he has averaged eight points, two rebounds, and two assists over 12 games. Pusica possesses the deliberate ballhandling, mature decision-making, and versatile scoring skill to isolate or to attack in the pick-and-roll.

Brantley and Wright-Foreman went next. The Indiana Pacers drafted Brantley with the 50th pick, then flipped him to the Utah Jazz for Utah’s 2021 second-round pick and $2 million. The Jazz also nabbed Wright-Foreman 53rd with their own pick. It marked the first time since 1992 that two CAA players were chosen in the same draft.

Both have great upside; Brantley is a 6-foot-7-inch, 255-pound powerhouse boasting strong athleticism, positional versatility, and a diverse offensive skill set. Wright-Foreman is an electric combo guard who displays blazing quickness, on-the-catch and off-the-dribble shooting, and strong drives courtesy of deft handles and space-consuming spins.

On Tuesday, the Jazz signed both of them to two-way contracts. These contracts allow players to alternate between the NBA and G League (minor league basketball). Brantley and Wright-Foreman will likely spend most of their time with Utah’s G League affiliate (the Salt Lake City Stars), but they can spend up to 45 days with the Jazz.

They will make about $80,000 (prorated) for their G League time and about $900,000 (rookie minimum, also prorated) for their NBA time. The Jazz can make either contract into a standard NBA contract at any time, provided they have a free roster space. Should the pair finish their two-way deals, they would be eligible for qualifying offers and restricted free agency.

Brantley played four Summer League games — he was limited by a hamstring injury — averaging nine points (38 percent shooting) and five rebounds in 22 minutes. Wright-Foreman also played four games, averaging 12 points on 33 percent shooting, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 26 minutes per game.

But it was Devontae Cacok who shone brightest in Summer League. The 6-foot-7-inch, 240-pound dynamo averaged 23 minutes across eight contests, logging 12 points on 60 percent shooting, nine rebounds, and two steals a game for the Los Angeles Lakers. His Summer League coach and teammates have praised his defense, rebounding, energy, and toughness.

On July 9th, the Lakers signed Cacok to an Exhibit 10 contract, essentially a training camp invite with a bonus attached. It incentivizes Cacok to remain with the Lakers’ G League affiliate by paying him $5,000 to $50,000 if he is waived by the NBA club, signs with the G League team, and remains there for at least 30 days. The Lakers can also convert the deal into a two-way contract, allowing Cacok to transition between the NBA and G League clubs.

Just 100 days ago, these four athletes donned glitzy plastic sunglasses, gold-colored chains, and shot dollar bills from guns as they celebrated a win in a high-octane but mostly-for-fun tournament. Now they’ve all got real jobs, and how they develop and expand their skills will determine their longevity in an ever-changing sport.

Men’s Basketball Overthrows Dukes 76–60

By Milton Posner

Northeastern hasn’t always clicked this year. Three starters have missed significant time. The offense can stagnate. They’ve often struggled against CAA cellar-dwellers.

But when they click, they put on one of the best shows in mid-major Division I basketball. Their versatile pieces click into a smooth, balanced offense. Their perimeter defense hounds opposing guards and steers them into the waiting jaws of Anthony Green. They steamroll less talented teams.

The Huskies clicked Thursday night, besting James Madison, 76–60, and reasserting themselves after a tough loss to Charleston last Saturday. Save for an eight-minute mid-game JMU run, the Huskies overpowered, overmatched and outhustled the Dukes.

Northeastern has dealt with faltering health over the past week-and-a-half. Multiple players have dealt with illnesses, with head coach Bill Coen half-jokingly referring to his available players as “semi-healthy” after the game.

Eight Huskies saw the floor Thursday night. All of them converted a field goal. Six hit multiple shots and logged at least seven points. Vasa Pusica led the way with 19 points (7–13 FG), four rebounds and seven assists, while Anthony Green powered his way to 17 points (7–8 FG), and 11 rebounds.

Northeastern’s lead rose to 18 by the midpoint of the first half, largely due to a relentless stream of inside shots. Dwight Wilson, JMU’s 260-pound center, left the game with two fouls after two minutes. He wouldn’t return until the second half, and the Huskies, particularly Green and Pusica, took advantage in the meantime.

JMU cut the margin to seven by halftime and to one by the first timeout of the second half. Coen switched tactics.

“We went to a little bigger lineup because I thought they were hurting us on the backboard. They got some second-chance points,” Coen observed. “We went to both Anthony and Tomas [Murphy] up front and then came with Bo [Brace] at the three. That’s as big as we get. That settled us down on the defensive end.”

The Husky offense was a sight to behold for much of the second half. Green and Murphy — the tallest and slowest players on the floor — displayed adept ballhandling and passing. The Huskies made five of 10 three-pointers after halftime, keyed by frequent off-ball movement and Anthony Green’s pindown screens. They overcame what Coen described as JMU’s “really good size and length on the perimeter” by forcing switches, attacking the basket on the catch and not allowing the defense to set up.

The Huskies played without Shawn Occeus, who missed his sixth consecutive game with a leg injury, and Jeremy Miller, who injured his ankle against UNCW last Thursday. Coen didn’t give a timetable for Occeus’ return but said that he conditioned again today and that the workout went well.

“He’s getting close,” Coen said. “But we want to be extra careful with him and make sure he’s good to go when he’s in there, that he’s fully confident and trusts his body.”

The win gave second-place Northeastern (11–4) a 1.5 game lead over Charleston, which fell to William & Mary, 86–84, behind a combined 57 points from Nathan Knight and Matt Milon. Northeastern remains two games behind first-place Hofstra, which toppled Towson in double overtime, 91–82. CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman led the way with 28 points and, along with Eli Pemberton, played all 50 minutes.

If Northeastern wins two of their three remaining games, they will lock up the second seed. They will go for the first of those wins Saturday at 12:30 PM ET, when they face Towson. Matt MacCormack and Justin Littman will have the call beginning at 12:15.

Huskies end Hofstra’s 16-game winning streak

by Justin Littman

BOSTON, Ma. — With the hottest team in the nation coming to Matthews Arena, Northeastern (13-9, 7-3 CAA) was able to take care of business, snapping Hofstra’s (19-4, 9-1 CAA) 16 game winning streak by a final of 75-61. The Huskies, shorthanded without Shawn Occeus, were able to contain the Pride’s offense and get revenge on a loss from last month. Back in January, Justin Wright-Foreman knocked down a game-winning three just in front of half court as the buzzer sounded.

This game was back and forth early, with 10 lead changes in the first twelve minutes. A tightly officiated half resulted in both leading scorers Vasa Pusica (16.0 ppg) and Wright-Foreman (26.0 ppg) picking up two fouls early on. Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich opted to keep Wright-Foreman on the bench with the foul trouble, while Pusica continued to see time on the court. Pusica’s role was pivotal, and he helped the Huskies build an eight point lead going into the half. Pusica scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half.

“He’s an experienced player…if you let a player like that sit and marinate on the bench sometimes they don’t get it going again so you want to make sure they stay in touch with the game”, remarked head coach Bill Coen after the game.

The Pride shot just 32% from the field in the first half, and struggled to get anything going in the second. Hofstra did not make a three for the first 18 minutes of the second half, and frustration mounted as Northeastern extended the lead to double digits. Technical fouls by guard Eli Pemberton and Mihalich helped Northeastern get additional points at the free throw line, and the Huskies lead swelled to as much as 21 points.

Northeastern did an admirable job defensively, and much of the effort was led by Donnell Gresham. Gresham drew the primary matchup with Wright-Foreman, and contained him throughout the night. Northeastern limited second chance points and transition opportunities, and Hofstra finished with zero fast break points.

Gresham also had a big game on the offensive end, scoring 18 points and knocking down 4 three pointers. Bolden Brace scored 11 points and added 10 rebounds, and Jordan Roland, who was held scoreless through the first 33 minutes, finished with 10 points.

For Hofstra, Wright-Foreman was unable to find a rhythm, finishing the game with 15 points (5-14 FG). Second leading scorer Eli Pemberton also struggled, and finished the game with just 9 points. Senior guard Desure Buie did his best to keep Hofstra in the game, but his 22 points were not enough with the struggles of his teammates.

Northeastern has now won 6 of their last 7, and they gain a game on Hofstra in the CAA standings. The Huskies trail the Pride in the CAA standings by two games. Next week, Northeastern will play two more at Matthews Arena, hosting William & Mary on Thursday and Elon on Saturday.

Injury-riddled men’s basketball looks to stay afloat

Northeastern point guard Vasa Pusica. (Photo courtesy Northeastern University)
Northeastern point guard Vasa Pusica will miss the next four to six weeks with injury. (Photo courtesy Northeastern University)

by Milton Posner

Northeastern men’s basketball is having a thoroughly weird season.

After dropping the season opener to beatable Boston University, they dismissed Harvard behind Jordan Roland’s hyper-efficient 35 points. It was Roland’s second game as a Husky.

They blew Alabama off the floor, 68-52, in the first game of the Charleston Classic, then lost their next three games by a combined 49 points.

On Wednesday night, the Huskies (3-4) dismantled Bucknell 96-78, besting their season scoring average by 27 points and their previous season best by 15. Sophomore forward Jason Strong–who didn’t even record a point last season –, contributed 15 points (7-9 FG) and five rebounds in his second consecutive start.

But Northeastern wasn’t done surprising. A slew of injuries to key contributors has given Head Coach Bill Coen’s rotation an extreme makeover — and shed some doubt on the Huskies’ status as the clear-cut favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Now it’s up to other players — both proven and unproven — to carry the load until some key cogs return.

Before Wednesday’s game, star redshirt-senior point guard Vasa Pusica was ruled out for four to six weeks after a slight left wrist fracture suffered in a first-half fall against Alabama, per Steve Hewitt of the Boston Herald. He played the next two games but clearly wasn’t himself, posting just 10 points (3-16 FG) and eight turnovers in 50 minutes.

Back in Boston, X-rays revealed the fracture, a serious blow to the CAA Championship favorites who returned most of last year’s expectations-exceeding, major-injury-free squad. Pusica started all 33 games, averaging 17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists while logging a 50/43/80 slash line and earning CAA Player of the Year runner-up honors.

Pusica isn’t the only returning starter sidelined. Versatile junior guard/forward Max Boursiquot is out indefinitely with a hip injury and hasn’t seen the court this year. Neither has junior guard Shawn Occeus (ankle sprain), though Coen expects Occeus to return within two weeks, possibly Dec. 4 at Syracuse. Occeus was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year and averaged just under 11 points per game last year — second best on the team

In the meantime, expect redshirt junior guards Donnell Gresham Jr. and Jordan Roland, junior swingman Bolden Brace and sophomore forward Tomas Murphy to pick up the slack. Coen also cited the injuries as an opportunity for younger, less-experienced players to play against elite competition.

The injuries, combined with Northeastern’s difficult non-conference schedule — including seven games against last year’s NCAA Tournament teams — could result in a losing record heading into CAA play. Given that the Pusica-Occeus one-two punch won’t play together until mid-December or later, the team’s roster consistency from last year to this year will certainly prove useful. They won’t have to build chemistry from scratch.

Last month, Northeastern was easily named the odds-on CAA Championship favorite. Three injuries and a whole lot of weird later, the season is more in doubt than anyone expected.

Roland Goes For 35, Northeastern defeats Harvard 81-71

By: Justin Littman

After falling to Boston University on Tuesday, the Huskies faced another difficult cross-town rival on Friday. Northeastern was ready for the challenge, and took down the Crimson 81-71. The Huskies struggled early, falling behind 21-11 after with 7:06 to go in the first half. From there, the Northeastern offense caught fire. The Huskies went on a 14-0 in the span of two minutes, knocking down three after three. This run started a stretch where Northeastern shot 10/11 from behind the arc. They ended up shooting 56 percent from downtown in the game.

The Huskies were led by the stellar play of guard Jordan Roland. In only his second game with the program, the junior transfer from George Washington went off for 35 points, and made seven three pointers. Roland, who came off the bench for the Huskies in this one, provided the team with a huge spark. While Roland may have surprised some observers, his stellar play came as no surprise to Coach Bill Coen.

“We’ve seen Jordan shoot all preseason and last year. He can really shoot the ball and he got it going tonight.”

Northeastern needed the offense, as Justin Bassey held Vasa Pusica in check throughout the game. After scoring 31 in the opener, Pusica was held to just 10 points on 2-10 shooting. Contrasted with the first game, tonight was a total team effort from the Huskies. Donnell Gresham had 13 points and hit a big three to put the Huskies up eight with 1:16 to go. Bolden Brace, Anthony Green, and Tomas Murphy each contributed six points as well.

“That’s what the team game is all about…I thought Vasa did a good job of letting the game come to him and directly our club and giving others confidence”, Coen remarked after the game.

Next up for the Huskies is a trip down to Charleston for the Charleston Classic. They will square off against Alabama in the first round, in the first of three games in the event. That game will tip on Thursday, November 15th at 2 PM.

 

CAA Preview: Towson Tigers

Image result for towson tigersBy: Justin Littman

Head Coach: Pat Skerry (8th season)

Last Season: 18-14 (8-10, 5th in CAA); lost to William & Mary in CAA Quarterfinals

Losses:

  • G Zane Martin (20 ppg; transferred to New Mexico)
  • F Justin Gorham (transferred to Houston)
  • F Mike Morsell
  • F Eddie Keith
  • G Brian Starr
  • G Deshaun Morman
  • G Jordan McNeil
  • G Travis Ingram
  • G Van Rolle
  • Jeffrey Prophete

Newcomers:

  • G Allen Betrand
  • G Chris Caliguiran
  • G Jakigh Dottin
  • G Quinton Drayton
  • G Brian Fobbs (transfer from Genesee Community College)
  • F Juwan Gray (transfer from San Diego)
  • G Tobias Howard (transfer from Chipola College)
  • F Nakye Sanders (transfer from Duquesne)
  • F Yagizhan Selcuk
  • G Nicholas Timberlake
  • F Solomon Uyaelunmo

If you take a look at the Towson Tigers this season and wonder whether the CAA added a new team this year, you are not alone. After an offseason filled with graduations and unexpected transfers, head coach Pat Skerry faces a challenge that few other tenured coaches have ever had to bear. Unprecedented roster turnover has left Towson with just two returning players from last year, Dennis Tunstall and Alex Thomas, who accounted for just 7 percent of the team’s scoring output last season (each averaged 2.7 ppg).

While Towson lost 5 players to graduation, it was the loss of two blossoming stars, Zane Martin and Justin Gorham, that truly provided the knockout blow. Martin, one of the leading scorers in the CAA as a sophomore last season, initially declared for the draft before withdrawing and transferring to New Mexico. Gorham, another sophomore, had seven double-doubles in conference play, and seemingly improved in every game he played. For a program that seemed like they were on the cusp of building something great, the loss of these two was a devastating blow.

While the outlook may seem bleak, keep in mind that Pat Skerry has dealt with a trickier situation before. When Skerry took the program eight seasons ago, the Tigers had won just four games in the previous year. Sure, it wasn’t all sunshine and blue skies at first, as the Tigers won just one game in his inaugural season. But Skerry’s positive demeanor persisted, and the Tigers quickly climbed the CAA ranks to finish second in the league in each of the next two years. Since that first season, the Tigers have finished in the bottom half of the league just once.

Skerry has a lot of new faces to balance, 11 to be exact, and it’s anybody’s guess to see exactly how this rotation plays out. Nakye Sanders, a transfer from Duquesne, and Juwan Gray, from San Diego, are the only two newcomers with Division I experience. The Tigers bring on seven new freshmen, who will have plenty to play for as Towson looks for the players to usher in a new era. The other two are Junior College transfers, a  path we have seen most recently with Kevin Keatts at UNCW, though that success was likely the exception to the rule.

So what’s the moral of this story? Just because the names are new and unfamiliar does not necessarily mean it’s all bad for Towson. A clean slate means they have an opportunity to redefine their identity. While size and strength was good enough to fend off mid-major foes in the CAA, this program never really had much of a chance against major programs with bodies just as big. With the game of basketball trending more towards a pace and space style, perhaps Towson will head in a similar direction.

Bottom Line: There’s no denying the fact that this program has been totally depleted. Coach Skerry will do his best to build this program up once more, but in the short term there are far more questions than answers. This should lead to a competitive practice environment, and the young players may very well be better off in the long-run. While this team lacks talent, they most certainly will not lack heart. Don’t expect the Tigers to finish in the top half of the CAA, but teams will have to be ready to go when they face this team.

 

CAA Preview: Drexel Dragons

Image result for drexel dragons

By: Matthew Neiser

Head Coach: Zach Spiker (3rd season)

Last Season: 13-20 (6-12, 7th in CAA); lost to Charleston in CAA Quarterfinals

Losses:

  • G Tramaine Isabell (21 ppg; transferred to Saint Louis)
  • F Miles Overton
  • F Austin Williams
  • G Kris Alford
  • G Sammy Mojica
  • F Tyshawn Miles

Newcomers:

  • G Trevor John (Transferred from Cal Poly)
  • F Zach Walton (Transferred from Edmonds Community College)
  • G Matey Juric (Lake Forest Academy)
  • G Coletrane Washington (Quaker Valley High School)
  • G Camren Wynter (DME Academy)
  • F Tim Perry Jr. (redshirted last year)
  • F James Butler (sat out last year due to transfer rules)

Coming off a season where they finished in a four-way tie for seventh in the CAA, the Drexel Dragons are going to be an interesting team to follow this upcoming season. While the team has dwelled at the bottom of the CAA for the last few years, improvement has been the name of the game for Dragons.

Having increased the team’s win total in both seasons since arriving and bolstered by the signing of a multi-year extension this summer, head coach Zach Spiker will look to continue the trend in 18-19. However, improvement this season will be quite the task.

Losing important players is never easy for any team. Losing your top scorer and assist-maker as a sub-.500 team in a mid-major conference? That’s about as difficult as it can get. The Dragons find themselves with this exact dilemma coming into the 2018-2019 season, as CAA All-Conference Second Team guard Tramaine Isabell (21 pts, 7.5 reb, 3.4 ast) graduated this past summer and transferred to Saint Louis. To add to the Dragons’ troubles, they also graduated guard Sammy Mojica (third leading scorer) and CAA All-Defensive Team forward Austin Williams (first in rebounds).

Luckily for the Dragons, they will still return three 10+ ppg scorers from last season, led by Junior guard Kurk Lee. Lee led the team in minutes last season at just under 36 per game, and is poised to be the team’s main playmaker in the absence of Isabell.

Drexel will look to replace much of the lost production with returning players, but that certainly won’t be the only source. Incoming transfer forward Zach Walton has impressed in Drexel’s recent preseason tour in Australia, highlighted by a 22-point game in his debut for the team. New guards Trevor John and Camren Wynter also contributed a little under ten points apiece during the tour.

Shooting has been a major issue for the Dragons, who finished dead last in 3PT% last season. If they want to drag themselves up from the bottom of the league, improving their accuracy from deep is going to be absolutely key. The addition of John is bound to help, as he shot a whopping 45% from beyond the arc last season for Cal Poly.

One bright spot for the Dragons this season will be their depth. Though they lost major contributors, the rest of the team has stayed mainly intact. Add onto that the transfers of John and Walton, as well as the addition of forwards Tim Perry Jr. and James Butler, who both sat out last season, and the Dragons will be a team with lots of  experience throughout the squad.

Bottom Line: Losing Isabell, Williams, and Mojica leave Drexel with an abundance of question marks. The Dragons will have to develop leadership and shooting quickly to find success this season. Expectations aren’t high for the Dragons, but new additions and improvement from some familiar faces might help them surprise some people.

CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

Image result for elon phoenix

By: Rachel Santo

Head Coach: Matt Matheny (9th season)

Last Season: 14-18 (6-12, 7th in CAA)

Losses:

  • F Brian Dawkins (12.2 ppg)
  • G Dmitri Thompson (12.3 ppg)
  • G/F Collin Luther (0.4 ppg)
  • F Jack Anton (1.2 ppg, )
  • F Jack George (1.3 ppg)

Newcomers:

The beginning of last season was full of hope for the Elon Phoenix, with all five starters returning and a projected third place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Ultimately, though, they could not live up to the hype, tying for last place in the regular season with a 6-12 conference record, and losing in the first round of the conference tournament.

This season, they’ll be missing two of their star players in F Brian Dawkins and G Dmitri Thompson. Dawkins had won Preseason All-CAA Second Team honors, and finished the season with 12.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG. Thompson, ranked 28th on Elon’s all-time scoring list, tallied 12.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG. The Phoenix also graduated Collin Luther, Jack Anton, and Jack George, who combined for 2.9 ppg.

With Dawkins and Thompson moving on to professional ball, it looks like Normal, Illinois native Tyler Seibring will have to have a better-than-normal season. After leading the team in points and rebounds per game (15.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg), all eyes are on the 6-foot-9 senior forward to lead the team to a winning season. His junior campaign brought him numerous honors, including being named to the All-CAA Second Team for the second consecutive year.

Two more returning starters are senior guards Dainan Swoope (12.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Steven Santa Ana (9.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Swoope has already carved his name in program history, ranking 35th in all-time scoring, 8th in three-pointers made, and is currently tied for 11th in career assists. Assuming he feels an added motivation to move up in the leader boards, you can expect Swoope to step up his offense.

Santa Ana also has history to make – he’s only 87 points away from the 1,000 point mark. He also had the third-highest 3-point percentage last season at 36.1%, improving from 32.7% in 2016-2017. If he can continue to increase this percentage, he’ll be on track to get those last 87 points quickly, and help lead his team to some wins.

The Phoenix are welcoming three freshmen to the squad this year, and with their not-so-experienced bench, there’s a shot these newcomers will get some decent playing time. Six-foot-six forward Chuck Hannah is “a prototypical Elon guy” according to Coach Matheny, and at 230 pounds, it seems like he’ll be able to hold his own against veteran CAA players. Summerfield, NC native Andy Pack, who has attended Elon’s summer camps throughout his early career, and Coach Matheny has deemed him a good fit as well. Kris Wooten, a 6-foot-3 guard, led his hometown high school to a state championship his freshman year before transferring to Arendell Parrott Academy.

Bottom Line: The good news is, there’s nowhere to go but up for the Elon Phoenix. If Seibring continues to take charge on offense and improves his defense, he has the ability to lead his team to a better record. And with veterans Swoope and Santa Ana continuing to improve, there is no doubt the Phoenix will be more competitive than last season. While you can’t expect this team to make a serious run at the conference title, they will get out of that last place position and move up to the middle of the pack.