Saturday, February 27, 2016

Senior Day - Northeastern

In November, the Drexel Men's Basketball team took the court with a sense of optimism, a coach that would talk up this team to anyone who would listen, and a belief that the prior season was a bump in the road, that the offseason turmoil with Damion Lee could and would be overcome.  And then began a season that wasn't bumpy at all, just one flatline from start to finish.  The final game of the season pits a Dragon team coming off of a season high two game winning streak against a Northeastern squad that needs a win to try and avoid the CAA's Baltimore Pillow Fight Friday.  While the Huskies season has been disappointing to the Boston brethren, they still hold the current CAA Title Belt and will roll to a .500 CAA record with their likely win in Philadelphia today.  With that known, we shift our focus to the outgoing Drexel players, an ambidextrous 6'7" guard and a "6'7" (quotes are very much intentional) Master's Degree candidate forward.

Tavon Allen sat out his first year at Drexel as a redshirt.  When he finally stepped foot on the DAC court as a player, Drexel's returning guard corps included Frantz Massenat, Damion Lee and Derrick Thomas.  That's an elite point guard, an elite shooting guard, and a defensive specialist.  Tavon.  Did.  Not.  Give.  A.  Fuck.  He may have only seen 15 minutes a game on the court, but in those 15 minutes he was taking as many shots as Damion Lee was, and considerably more than Frantz Massenat or any other DU player.  That green light only turned yellow during his senior year when the coaches put a lid on his shot selection and sent him back to the bench for long stretches.  And that is the real story of Tavon's Drexel career.

Prior to Allen's arrival at campus fans heard regularly about how this coaching staff did not believe in making major changes to a players shot by the time they had gotten to college.  With Tavon, they asked him to change hands.  Generally coaching staffs will work on a players shot selection early in their careers.  With Tavon, they didn't begin to have an effect on his shot selection until he was the team's senior leader.  While the careers of players such as Gerald Colds, Damion Lee and Dominic Mejia are known to have been held back by the system that they chose to play in, Tavon is a bit of a different story.  He was the ultimate project, and the staff became frustrated and so did he, and it just never worked for anyone.  Even that is half true.  In his senior season, he is shooting the ball well from the stripe and the three point line, it's just the ill-advised midrange shots and soft play in the paint that's holding him back from being one of the teams better players.  Every year it's been something, but many of the lessons learned this season should have been learned much earlier in a five year career.

At the end of the day, you hope that Tavon's experience at Drexel has been educational.  For himself, for the staff and administration and for fans.  While his eating habits were questioned (eat a steak Tavon!) his work ethic never was.  And when he was on fire, he would light up the DAC like almost no one else has been under Bruiser, on par with his classmate Damion, Dominic Mejia or Robert Battle.  Tavon's great was very great, and his talent was without question.  There are plenty of professional teams out there that will light up for a 6'7" player who can ballhandle and shoot 35% from deep.  If Tavon wants to play at the next level it's likely he will have the opportunity, and to a man, here at the Blog, we wish him the best.

If ever there was an opposite to Tavon Allen, it came in the package of Kazembe Abif.  While Tavon was an oversized guard, Kazembe was an undersized forward.  Both came in like string beans, but in his graduate season Kaz comes closer to resembling a refrigerator than a string bean.  There was talk of Abif leaving the team after the 14-15 season.  He had his degree and had left the team midseason when the coaching staff was asking him to play sooner than he felt healthy.  It came on the back half of an injury plagued career, only 20 games played as a freshman, 16 as a junior and a completely washed out senior season.

Kazembe returned to Drexel for this season, showing loyalty that was incredibly kind to his coaches and teammates, even while classmate Damion Lee turned to allegedly greener pastures.  And during this season, not only has he been able to play cover to cover, the 5th year player has been a leader to his frontcourt mates and has put up significant numbers.  If there was one brightspot in Drexel's flatline season, it's been the double double machine up front (he has six this season).  He is putting up the best rebounding numbers of his career and showing a Samme Givens' like nose for the ball, and despite taking more shots this year than he had in the rest of his career combined, his shooting percentage did not fall off.  Even when there was pressure on him to fill out the stat sheet, he played smart, didn't force things and played within the flow of the offense.  His season this year was a dream this coaching staff desperately needed, an ironic twist after last seasons disagreements.

Kaz's performance goes much further than his own numbers however.  Watch the team come off of the court during timeouts and you will see him coaching up his teammates.  It's likely that having a friend and constant partner alongside him in the frontcourt has been a part of Rodney Williams' late season renaissance, as well as the always eager Tyshawn Myles growth.  That degree of learning and appreciation from his teammates rivals the leadership of almost any team member that was walked out of the DAC in the Flint era.  It's no wonder that he is staring down the barrel of a Masters Degree and the likelihood of a very successful post Drexel career.

In 2011, a five man class his campus.  Aquil Younger, and Casey Carroll didn't last long, Damion Lee's four years weren't nearly long enough, and Kazembe and Tavon's spent 5 seasons getting frequent flyer miles in the trainers room.  They represent what is without question one of the most dramatic classes that will ever come through the program.  The two that were strong enough to make it through, those two are Dragons.  They embody the campus spirit and ideals and have not just accepted an invitation to represent the Blue and Gold, they earned both that jersey and the fans appreciation.  Their scars are both visible and invisible, and represent the mental and physical strength that they brought to this program.

For that, this fan thanks them.  I genuinely hope for, look forward to, and expect their future success.

Congratulations to the Drexel Basketball Class of 2016.

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