Thursday, April 22, 2010

Off-Season Report: Loyola Moves Forward

Here's another in the "10 teams in 10 days" look at MAAC men's programs.

Up now ...

LOYOLA (6-12 in the MAAC, 13-16 overall)

RECAP: The Greyhounds opened the season with a 13-point victory over Vermont, the America East's eventual representative to the NCAA tournament. Not long after that, it secured arguably the biggest win in program history with a 72-67 victory at Indiana. And, then, things started to go in the other direction. Senior guard Brett Harvey, its best guard, suffered a variety of injuries missed several games and played the second half of the season at less than full strength. Swingman Jamal Barney, the conference's 2008-09 leading scorer, missed five games with "family issues" and didn't approach his play of the previous year. Freshman forward Anthony Winbush missed the second half of the season with injuries. From midseason on the Greyhouunds were too often undermanned, but still managed to reach double-digits in victory totals for the fifth straight season, the longest stretch of at least 10-victory seasons in the program's Division I history. Loyola was close to being better, suffering seven losses by six points or fewer.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A core of young players stepped in effectively. Freshmen Robert Olsen (6.4 points, 3.6 assists) was named to the conference's all-Rookie team. Frosh forward Anthony Winbush (7.3, 3.9) was on his way to that honor before an injury forced him to miss the team's final 12 contests. Another freshman forward, 6-9 Julius Brooks, started 24 games. Sophomore Shane Walker, a 6-10 transfer from Maryland, showed improvement as the season went on and finished with averages of 8.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Harvey, despite injuries, was among the better backcourt performers in the conference.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Too many injuries, the Barney situation that had him step away from the program for several weeks (and, his absence led to season-long conditioning issues), and too many young players kept Loyola from being better.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Better days. Everyone of significance except Harvey returns. Olson, Brooks and Winbush all have a season of college experience. The team will be among the tallest in the conference, starting with the 6-10 Walker and 6-9 Brooks up front. If Harvey comes close to approximating his previous year's form, he'll provide another boost. Senior-to-be Brian Rudolph is an effective point guard, but needs to hone his shooting range to join the league's elite at that position. There's also depth, including 6-2 sophomore guard J'hared Hall, who averaged 5.7 points and just 14.5 minutes per outing. Erik Etherly, a 6-7 transfer from Northeastern where he was lightly used as a freshman, will also be eligible in the coming season. Head coach Jimmy Patsos demands much of his players, and gets plenty from them, Patsos has already signed three recruits _ 6-6 forward David Samuels and guards 6-4 Justin Drummond and 6-1 Dylan Cormier, all big-time scorers in high school.

PREDICTION FOR 2010-11: The only thing lacking is veteran experience. It should be fun to watch the team grow, and improve as the season progresses. The Greyhounds certainly have the talent to cause problems for any conference opponent. A .500, or better, finish in conference play seems likely. If all goes well, Loyola could easily find itself in the upper half of the league standings.

No comments: