Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Team Report: Marist Men Need Quick Development

Here's another in the series "Team Report" series taking a look back at this past season and a crystal-ball look at what might be ahead for conference teams.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 9-11 in MAAC play, tied for 6th place; 12-19 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A lot of intestinal fortitude and overall resiliency shown by players under the guiding hand of first-year head coach Jeff Bower. The Marist coach had been in the NBA in a variety of capacities for the previous 15 years, and there's no doubt his past experience earned him considerable respect and the belief, within the team, that what he was trying to do would eventually work. Signs of that came after a horrendous 0-9 start to the season, a stretch that could have tested the will to keep plugging away within a lot of programs. But, Marist bounced back with five straight victories and an 11-6 stretch after the poor beginning. The Red Foxes then lost three more times in succession, but finished off regular-season play with a stirring 103-72 victory over a strong Quinnipiac team ... There was considerable player improvement, too. Chavaughn Lewis, a 6-5 junior swingman, continued to provide versatile excellence (17.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and team-best totals of 88 assists and 60 steals). Khalil Hart, who missed 2012-13 after a preseason knee injury, was the MAAC's Rookie of the Year (14.7 points, 2.3 assists) and should be among the conference's best guards for the next three seasons. Jay Bowie (12.1, 5.2) was an above-average "glue player." Adam Kemp, the 6-10 big man, was solid (10.1, 7.6, 58 total blocks). And, there was some addition by subtraction when point guard Isaiah Morton (6-for-46 from the field, 13.0 percent) left the program after the first semester. It moved junior T.J. Curry into the starting lineup. Curry was hardly a star (5.1 ppg, 65 assists vs. 40 turnovers), but a steadying factor who played within himself and, at times, added a long-range shot, or two. The regular-season victories included ones over Canisius and Quinnipiac, teams that finished tied for third in the MAAC standings this past season. And, there was a dramatic closing-seconds victory over Siena in which Bowie stole a Saints' in-bounds pass with 2.1 seconds remaining and drained an off-balance three-pointer that gave the Red Foxes a late-season 65-64 victory.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Marist got everything it could out of its roster, but the talent level just didn't match up with the five teams that finished ahead of the Red Foxes this past season. Plus, there was a considerable absence of inside play, other than Kemp. Marist got outrebounded by an average 2.9 per game. And, with mostly a lineup of perimeter players, its field goal percentage was below an effective rate (40.8), while opponents took advantage of the team's relatively soft middle to shoot 44.6 percent from the field ... There also wasn't a lot of depth. The top four players (Lewis, Hart, Bowie and Kemp) comprised a nice core, but the team really only went one deep (Manny Thomas) off the bench. Beyond the top six, only Peter Prinslo, a 6-10 senior forward, averaged more than 10 minutes per game. It didn't help that touted incoming freshman shooter Nick Colletta, who missed much high school time with back issues, only played three games this past season with Marist due to a foot issue. And, despite the nice second half and the season-ending statement victory over Quinnipiac, the Red Foxes got a surprise ouster in the play-in round of the MAAC tournament, losing 78-76 to Niagara when it couldn't stop the Purple Eagles' standout guard Antoine Mason, who scored 38 points in the contest.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Bower showed he knows how to coach at this level, despite being away from the college game for 15 years. Now, he needs some talent. Unfortunately, he loses, to graduation, his only dependable "big" in Kemp, and the team's "glue," in Bowie, a combined loss of 22.2 points and 12.8 rebounds. Lewis and Hart, which could be one of the best perimeter duos in the league, are the only returning sure things. Curry also returns, as does 6-5 senior swingman Manny Thomas (3.8), who hasn't yet had a real significant role. The team's top post reserve Peter Prinslo (2.2, 2.2) is also gone. It leaves very lightly used rising junior 6-10 Eric Truog (65 total minutes last season), and a pair of slender forwards, 6-8 Kentrall Brooks (1.0, 1.3) and 6-7 Phillip Lawrence (1.6, 1.1) as returning contenders for the power positions. There's a solid recruiting class coming in, including 6-7 power forward Obi Momah (who was the Player of the Year in the Hartford area as a high school senior), 6-9 post R.J. Coil and 6-4 point guard K.J. Lee. But, freshmen rarely make strong initial impacts.

REASON EXPECTATION: Lewis and Hart, almost by themselves, give Marist a chance in almost any game. But, to expect the program's first .500 season since 2007-08 ... that might be expecting a little too much. Bower will need big and unexpected contributions from the likes of Colletta, Brooks, Truog and freshmen Momah and Coil to have any chance of approaching this past season's 9-11 MAAC record. The likelihood is a a solid season with, potentially, a finish as high as seventh ... but, probably no higher than that. But if the incoming players develop as expected, this could be the real beginning of the program's turnaround.


MidMajorFan said...

Seems like you could write the same preseason outlook report for the Marist Men for the better part of a decade. The needle never really seems to move. Strange for a MAAC school that seems to be able to compete at a very high level within the league in every other sport.

Steve Amedio said...

You're right to some extent. But5, with Bower in charge ... plus, with what looks like a strong incoming group of freshmen ... my perception is that the needle is moving in the right direction. Maybe not so much this coming season, but in the near future.