The Drexel men’s basketball team began the 2012-13 season with sky-high expectations. The Dragons were predicted by their peers to win the Colonial Athletic Association and seen as capable of making some noise near the top 25 in the nation.
Instead, Drexel finished 13-18, and with its previous campaign not going as planned, the team will seemingly start anew this upcoming fall. The stars have aligned to give the Dragons one more go at fulfilling the season that was meant to be.
They will not enter the season as the conference favorites, lining up behind the tall, black and yellow shadow of Towson University. However, head coach James “Bruiser” Flint’s squad will, minus a couple of important yet replaceable graduating players, remain intact.
However, there is always room for improvement, and making use of fresh talent is always one way to see accelerated success. The Dragons are bringing in three key recruits for the 2013-14 season, all three of whom could have an immediate impact with the team.
One key recruit that Drexel was able to pull in is power forward and center Mohamed Bah from Quincy, Mass. Originally from Bamako, Mali, the 6-foot-9-inch Bah has the potential to be a serious player in the Dragons’ offense in the short and long term.
Bah’s size will be key in both grabbing precious rebounds and growing his post moves, which have already seen evolution from the summer of 2012 to this past season. His mastery of the pump fake, a move lost on Drexel big men Daryl McCoy and Dartaye Ruffin this season, is encouraging. With his improvements, Bah could become a pre-eminent force in the paint, both next season and into the future.
Another addition to the frontcourt is 6-foot-7-inch power forward Rodney Williams from Richmond, Va., a player described by ESPN’s RecruitingNation as “built to be a block player and play in the lanes.” Williams averaged a double-double during his senior year with 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, with three blocks each night to boot.
If Williams and Bah can rise to their respective potentials in the next year or two, the Dragons could have one of the most intimidating frontcourts in the CAA.
The team’s third incoming recruit is guard Major Canady, a Pennsylvania product who played for The Kiski School on the western side of the state. Canady will slide into the bench rotation at a good time. With this upcoming season being Frantz Massenat’s last and junior Aquil Younger transferring out of Drexel in search of more playing time, Canady can expect to get quality experience in game situations during his freshman year.
Most importantly, all three players should be able to have an impact on the Dragons’ offense. One big problem the team encountered this past season was offensive inconsistency. The Dragons were able to score 75 or more points in only five of their 31 games last season, while failing to eclipse the 60-point mark 10 times.
It was hard to pin the offensive woes on one factor when the entire team was seemingly to blame, but the loss of Chris Fouch in the third game of the season certainly dealt the offense a tough hand. Through his first two and a half games, Fouch was averaging 18.5 points per 30 minutes, a metric generally used to measure raw scoring potential of a player’s given playing level.
Theoretically, giving Fouch 30 minutes of a possible 40 each night, he could have produced nearly 19 points per game, good for best on the Dragons as well as 2.7 points per 30 better than the CAA’s leading scorer last season, Devon Saddler of the University of Delaware.
It is hard to overstate the importance of Fouch’s return to the team this fall for his sixth year. He will give the Dragons a much-needed third head in a backcourt that was so often a one-man Massenat show last season while Damion Lee nursed an injured knee.
The Dragons can expect to use this elevated guard play to their advantage come this fall. With the graduation of the aforementioned Saddler, along with the departure of James Madison University’s Devon Moore and Georgia State University’s move to the Sun Belt Conference, Drexel’s backcourt is primed to be the best in the CAA.
The big challenge ahead will be how the Dragons’ forwards play against the best player in the conference, Jerrelle Benimon of Towson.
If the Dragons hope to make the NCAA Tournament next March, the road to the conference championship looks like it will run through the Tigers and the versatile Benimon. With the loss of Daryl McCoy to graduation, the Dragons’ premier big man becomes Ruffin, who showed marginal growth in production while tag-teaming the big-man duties with McCoy last season. However, his 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game will not cut it if he plans on defending the paint at the DAC this fall.
Besides growing his occasionally inefficient inside offense — specifically, making sure he makes layups with regularity — Ruffin will look for help from teammates to contain Benimon and the rest of the conference’s power forwards and centers.
This is where Bah and Williams might be able to see solid minutes on the floor, Bah in particular. His size and ease of movement will be put to use against the equally big and slippery Benimon, whose shiftiness around the hoop created numerous problems for the immobile McCoy and Ruffin last year. With Delaware’s Jamelle Hagins and the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Keith Rendleman both out of the conference after graduation, Bah and Williams have a chance to create the most fearsome frontcourt in the CAA next year.
When you pair the most fearsome frontcourt with the most talented backcourt, it’s hard to think of a better team on paper. The end results, however, come only from execution.