Saturday, June 21, 2014

Team Report: Better Days Ahead for Monmouth Men

Here's another in the series looking back at the 2013-14 season with a crystal-ball look at what might be ahead for conference teams.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 5-15 in MAAC play, 9th place; 11-21 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Monmouth had to reload and adjust to a new level of play, moving from the NEC to the MAAC for 2013-14. It wasn't the perfect transition, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. Coach King Rice had a strong recruiting class that brought in guard Josh James (8.4 points per game) and a team-high 101 assists, Justin Robinson (7.1 ppg., 83 assists) and three quality "bigs" in 6-10 centers ac Tillman (4.4, 3.1 rebounds) and Chris Brady (3.1, 2.9) and 6-8 Greg Noack (2.0, 1.5). In all, five freshmen were among the nine-member playing group. Upperclassmen 6-6 Deon Jones (15.1, 6.9) and 6-6 Andrew Nicholas (14.3, 3.3), both wing juniors this past season, had strong seasons. Max DiLeo (6.9), a 6-1 junior, was the team's fifth-leading scorer as the team's top sub. And, a 6-5 sophomore wing, Ty O'Garro (4.0, 6.0) also played well and was the Hawks' second-leading rebounder. But, the preponderance of youth ensured 2013-14 would indeed be little more than a "rebuilding" year, as the record indicated. Still, Monmouth showed signs, with five losses in league play by nine points or fewer and with two of those in overtime contests. There was also a nice start to league play when the team won four of its first nine MAAC contests. Mostly 2013-14 provided a glimpse at a strong core of young players who should continue to develop and, eventually, lead the program to bigger and better things.

WHAT WENT WRONG: After a 4-5 league start, Monmouth lost its next eight games and only got one more victory the entire remainder of the season. While the season's strong influx of young players lent itself to hope for the future ... youth is most definitely rarely served, when it comes to success, at this level. Only a very rare few first-year players come to mid-major level programs as finished products. It usually takes a couple of years for young players to continue to develop before they're capable of major contributions, and that was the case here. Plus, one of the best freshmen, Robinson, suffered a late-season foot injury, played through it for several games and, then, was shut down with five games remaining. Both point guard, Robinson and James, were freshmen, although both had far more assists than turnovers. While the Hawks were the tallest conference team overall, its three tallest contributors were freshmen and none averaged more than 3.1 rebounds per game. And, then, four players from the program transferred out after the season, which made way for a another strong incoming group. The only contributor who is moving on is O'Garro who was the team's second-leading rebounder.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The team's top six scorers and eight of the top nine return, almost assuring that next year will be better. Jones and Nicholas, the top two players, will be seniors. The "bigs" are a year older and, theoretically, a year better. Plus, there's more front-line help coming with Providence transfer 6-9 forward Brice Kofane and freshman Nikola Vujovic. Kofane didn't play much at Providence (4.4 minutes per game last season), but graduated and is immediately eligible for his last season. He should provide some help, plus some experience that the front line needs. One other incomer, guard Micah Seaborn from a Texas prep school looks like a good one. And, there's another transfer, 6-4 guard Je'lon Hornbeak from Oklahoma where he was a key role player this past season (5.1 points, 2.6 assists, all off the bench). He will sit out the upcoming season as a transfer before becoming eligible, with two remaining years to play, for the 2015-16 season.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Monmouth isn't likely to contend for the regular-season title right away, but that might be on the horizon at some point. Rice is doing a nice job bringing in quality talent that will ensure better things ahead. We'd expect the Hawks to close in on .500 league and overall records this season and finish somewhere in the 6th-to-8th range in the coming season.

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