The squeak of a sneak, the bounce of a ball, the reverberating echo of an F-bomb in the rafters;
that’s right Dragon fans, Drexel basketball is back for what should be another interesting (surprising successful?) campaign of college hoops. The Bru Crew begins its quixotic quest for a prom invite (20 years?!) with a short trip (unless you're stuck behind a trol) up Lancaster Ave for a city battle at Alumni Memorial, NutriSystem Centre, er, Hagan Arena against the SJU Hawks. After alternating wins with the Hawks for eight years, the Dragons now find themselves on a four game losing streak against the perpetual molting, arm flappers, including last year’s ugly 52-49 loss at the DAC. In that game, only one Dragon managed to score in double figures, and he’s taken his talents elsewhere. In his stead, we have some old friends returning from injuries (Major Canady and Kazembe Abif) and new friends to meet and watch grow into their roles with the program (Ahmad Fields and Terrell Allen).
First games can be tough to forecast, and this year that should be doub so. Beyond the year addition/subtraction of players, this year also sees the tweaking of several rules – most notab the elimination of 5 seconds from the shot clock. However, it doesn’t take an SJU education to understand the Hawks main source of offense will once again fall upon the luscious, luscious fro of one DeAndre Bembry. The 6-6 junior enters the year with an impressive list of pre-season awards and the potential to find himself in the NBA by this time next year. Odds are that he will get his, although the Drexel D did a decent job of limiting him last year, holding him to only 13 points, so the main focus is to not let him explode and instead lock down on the supporting cast.
That supporting cast shot the ball only a little bit better than Drexel was able to last year. Running the point will be 6-0 Sophomore Shevar Newkirk who posted a seemingly solid 1.6:1 A/TO ratio that helped mask a TORate of 26% last year as a freshman, but only hit roughly 28% of his shots from the field. The other starting guard will be 6-5 Senior Aaron Brown. He, with Bembry, will challenge their defender by driving the ball towards the hoop to finish or draw the foul. The Hawk starting forwards will challenge their Drexel defenders by stretching the floor out to the arc. Issah Miles was actually SJU’s leading three-point shooter percentage wise, and freshman Pierfrancesco Oliva is expected to hit from distance as well.
For Drexel, the goal will be to see how you take a team that averaged 59.6 PPG (good for 331st in the nation) and replace 36% of those points in order to score more than a Dungeon Master on a Friday night. Luckily, they enter the season with full Health and higher Experience XPs. It’s hoped that Utah transfer Ahmad Fields, who sounds as though he’s had a strong offseason, will take up a lot of that scoring slack. From limited data from Utah, he seems to be a driver and finisher at the net. He also appears to be relative competent from three. The remainder is going to need to come from the hopeful freshman to sophomore growth of Rashann London and Sammy Mojica as well as a much stronger post scoring presence, aided by the return of Kazembe Abif.
With two poor shooting teams, it should be apparent that he who controls the glass should control the game. It’s been reported that Phil Martel is looking to run a smaller lineup out on the court this year. A strong rebounding presence by the Drexel bigs is going to be a must if the Dragons are to launch their season with an impressive win. Another advantage should come from the charity stripe. St. Joe’s was one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country last year hitting only 61.5% while Drexel was top 25. If Drexel can run their offense through the post and see the guards drive instead of settling for two-point jumpers, those free points combined with strong rebounding could see Drexel grab their first win at SJU since 1978.
If you’re heading to the hill, remember to bring some aspirin for the drum headache, sunglasses to protect you from the glare (like the Sun, DO NOT stare at the top of Martel’s head) and be sure to comment on Phil’s contract extension to any Hawk fans. That last one is sure to provide you some entertainment whether Drexel is winning or losing. Most of all, remember that it’s opening night and the possibilities are endless. Sure, Drexel was picked to finish 8th in the CAA and some would argue that the Pope walking on their campus blessed SJU making tonight’s game a mere formality, but secretly we know whom he’s rooting for tonight:
Bless you Father.
You may have noticed a lack of the use of ly’s or li’s or, really, anything sounding like Lee. Well, he’s gone; and yet you, like the team will have to figure out how to get through it. It may not have been as easy as you are accustomed to or visually pleasing, but it can get done. Go DU Dragons!
Prediction: SJU 66, Drexel 57