Thursday, August 29, 2013

Team Reports: Monmouth Men In Rebuilding Process

Here's another in the series, looking back and ahead at conference teams ... with a caveat. Your Hoopscribe has not personally seen league newcomers Quinnipiac and Monmouth play. These reports are based on research and interviews with league coaches and school publicists.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 5-13 in the Northeast Conference (10th in a 12-team league), 10-21 overall.

2012-13 RECAP: A good start in non-league play with a 5-3 beginning, followed by an 0-6 stretch, followed by a 5-7 mark and, then, 0-4 down the stretch. The team's top player, sophomore forward Andrew Nicholas, injured a foot in midseason, missed four games, came back for one and, then, missed the final nine. Without him the team struggled and failed to make the NEC's post-season tournament (only the top eight teams qualify). The team took on some high quality opponents in non-league play, losing games to Notre Dame, Syracuse, Maryland and Villanova by an average margin of 34.7 points per game.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Nicholas (13.9 points, 3.6 rebounds) established himself as one of the better players in the NEC before foot woes cost him 13 of the team's final 14 games. Jesse Steele, a 5-8 guard, showed that height isn't a necessity and averaged 12.2 points and 3.6 assists. After the season he signed to play professionally in a league in the Dominican Republic. The Hawks, despite their sub-par record, did some things well on the court. Their 8.8 steals per game as a team was 22nd best nationally while their turnover margin of 3.2 fewer per game than opponents was 19th best.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Monmouth struggled with two key aspects; not enough offensive firepower, and not enough height/rebounding. Nicholas' absence for nearly half the season left only Steele as a double-figure scorer. No team member averaged more than 4.8 rebounds per game. By late in the year Monmouth often had a starting five whose tallest player was 6-foot-5. It meant that the team got outrebounded by a margin of 5.6 per contest, and only 14 teams nationally had a larger rebounding deficit. The year was just the latest in a tough stretch for the program that hasn't had a winning record since 2005-06. Every year since has seen at least 18 losses with loss totals of 21, 20 and 21 the past three seasons. And, after the season, two solid players with remaining eligibility opted not to return. Dion Nesmith, a guard, transferred to Hofstra for his final year of eligibility while forward Marcus Ware moved to league rival Niagara, where he'll also be immediately eligible.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Hawks might be more competitive this coming season in the MAAC than they were the past seven years in the NEC, despite joining a better league than its previous affiliation. And, that assessment comes despite the loss of players who ranked second through sixth among team scorers this past season. But, Steele's graduation is the only major loss and there's not only a slew of new players (seven) coming aboard, but it looks like one of the better incoming groups in the league. Nicholas will be a junior and is an all-MAAC quality player, but he'll need help. Some of that should come from Deon Jones, a 6-6 sophomore swingman who becomes eligible after transferring in from Towson, whee he averaged 7.0/4.5 as a freshman there in the 2011-12 season. After that the incoming group is made up of freshmen, but they fill key needs. Monmouth needed height/inside play last year and, now, has four "bigs" coming in. They are 6-10, 280-pounder Zachary Tillman, 6-10, 260-pounder Chris Brady, 6-9, 225-pounder Marcelo Deschamps (a native of Brazil) and 6-8 forward Greg Noack. We've seen Noack play when he was with the high-powered Jersey Shore Warriors' AAU program (which also produced Nicholas), and he's a good one ... a hard-nosed, yet athletic and multi-talented forward. Plus, the cupboard of returning players, beyond Nicholas, isn't entirely bare. Khalil Brown, who played at 190 pounds over his 6-9 frame as a sophomore and battled knee issues, should get significantly more time this season. His face-up style at his size makes him a tough matchup. And, 6-5 sophomore forward Tyon O'Garro (2.5, 3.8) was in the playing group, primarily because of his tireless work and rebounding ability off the bench, last season. With Steele gone, the Hawks also need a point guard, and found a good one in 5-8 Justin Robinson of Kingston, who your Hoopscribe also saw play several times when he earned the Most Valuable GymRat award for his play in the 2012 GymRat AAU Tournament.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: Head coach King Rice's first two seasons with the Hawks haven't been real good (12-20 in 2011-12, and 10-21 last season), but his recent recruiting should help turn things around. The turnaround, though, probably won't come this coming season. There's more talent in place, yet there's only one returning starter. Jones, who was able to practice with the team a year ago, is a strong second piece to the starting lineup. The rest of the playing group will be last year's role players with a heavy dose of incoming freshmen. The good news is that there's not a single senior on the roster. That might not be good news for this season, in a league that relies on players developing and, then, creating team success when the roster is composed of veteran players. But, there should be plenty of signs that 2014-15 should be a good one for the Hawks. Still, the program is likely destined for a bottom-three finish this season and will be picked, by most prognosticators, to finish last in the 11-team league.

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