Written by Scott Kier
Final Score: Keiser 76, Drexel 71
Drexel Player of the Game: Sammy Mojica
Key to the Game: Attitude
Next Game: November 11 at Monmouth
It has been 237 days since the Drexel Dragons set foot on the hardwood in front of a building full of basketball fans and boy, has a lot changed. Before taking a closer look at the happenings on Wednesday October 27, it should be noted that there have been some cosmetic and practical improvements made to the John Daskalakis Athletic Center during the off season.
Off the Court Changes
The entrance on Lancaster Way now has a glass front which adds more of a feeling that you are entering a sports venue and not a gym. On the western side of the building behind the benches Drexel has added bathrooms, so no more trips around the court and down stairs for those fans who choose to sit on that side of the building. Lastly, season ticket holders were invited to a pregame event in the new media room. According to Coach Zach Spiker, the program is going to do their best to have coaches available during pregame events for the fans.
Just prior to the start of Thursday night’s game, along with women’s coach Denise Dillon, Coach Spiker addressed the crowd, laying out expectations for the night. “Nobody is more excited to be here than we are,” Spiker said, speaking on behalf of his coaching staff. He went on to say that they expected the players to make some mistakes, but they hoped that they would not make the same mistake twice. The goals for the night, and for the season, Spiker said, were to rebound well, control possession and win the battle at the foul line. He likened these necessary efforts to the San Antonio Spurs 129-120 victory over the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. The coach said with a smile, “As long as we can play like the Spurs, we should be good.”
Along with the exciting changes to the DAC, Spiker announced another big change: the team would be adding third jerseys. Anyone who followed the team some twenty years ago most assuredly remembers Malik Rose patrolling visiting courts wearing his gold away jersey, well, these jerseys are coming back. Coach Spiker said that they will be worn for rivalry games and against the other Philadelphia schools on the schedule this season.
Let’s Talk about the Game
While the Dragons ultimately lost to Rollie Massimino’s Keiser University Eagles by a score of 76-71, the game was full of bright spots, the brightest of which was the play of returning Junior Sammy Mojica who started and had a very quiet 18 points on 6-11 shooting. Mojica, who had initially announced that he was transferring from Drexel, changed his mind and decided to return to the program and the fan base should be excited that he did. Mojica is the only returning guard to a previously guard heavy program, other than Major Canaday, who spent all of last season injured (and indications are dim for this season as well).
Because of their general inexperience, the Drexel backcourt featured two freshman starters. Kurk Lee started at the point and put up a respectable 15 points on a not-so-respectable 4-14 shooting. He had a great first half where he committed just one turnover but late in the game with the team behind he started to try to do too much which seemed to be a theme. Everybody wanted to be “the guy” but what they need to realize is they are going to have more success as “the team.”
The third guard to start the game was Icelandic freshman Kari Jonsson who went 3-9 and 1-6 from three. The lanky 6’3 guard also missed a three at the end of the game that would have sealed things up for Drexel when they trailed 73-71 in the closing seconds.
The frontcourt, on the other hand, has returned. As expected, Rodney Williams was on he floor in the opening minutes. He put in a very Rodney-like double-double scoring 16, and adding 12 rebounds. The team’s fifth starter Mohamed Bah played just 13 minutes, but his presence was felt off the court too. As Dan Crain described him, Bah was “the best cheerleader we’ve ever put in uniform.” He was enthusiastic and energized on the bench, and that positivity is what is going to help this team through the season.
Miles Overton made his much anticipated debut on the floor for Drexel. Again, quoting Dan, “Everyone has a bad night” well, that night was this game for Overton who went 3-21 overall from the field and 1-10 from three. He’s going to have to become more consistent, and make shots when needed: in the clutch. His only two missed free throws, for example, were with the team trailing 73-71 with less than a minute to go. Overton was also dealt a technical foul which appeared to be for taunting another player after scoring a basket. That was an infraction that he was warned about by an official just minutes before. Overton’s technical was the second served to Drexel, and the first one needs to be talked about for all of the right reasons.
About four minutes into the game one of the Dragons, drew a charge in the lane. It was the kind of play that a basketball fan loves to see a player make, and apparently the bench loved it too. About a dozen players flooded the court, cheering their teammate on all rushing to pile on top of him and help him up. The refs “T’d” up the Dragons bench and the coach stood there with a smile on his face.
Since we have addressed the positives, let’s talk about the negatives. The first, and this should be no surprise to anyone, was the shooting. The team shot 32.8% from the field and attempted 67 shots. It should be mentioned, however, that they topped 67 attempts just three times last season and equaled that number twice. The also attempted 29 three pointers making just 8. Those 29 attempts were more than they shot in any game last season. Their 8 makes was topped just once last season.
The offense is going to take a little while to figure out. The new additions to the team are certainly going to add a new dimension. For example, on one play, Austin Williams received the ball on the wing. Jonsson started to come towards him as if to receive the ball on the handoff, but then made an abrupt back door cut, something rarely seen in years prior. Austin looked a tad lost, but with some adjustment the team will be able to add this sort of play to their offensive arsenal.
So how did Spiker’s Dragons fair on their established goals for the night? Rebounding can be called a win as the team out-boarded their opponents 50-43. Possession was a slim victory for our opponents. Keiser made more of their time with the ball as evidenced by their shooting percentage victory with 40% compared to Drexel’s 33%. Turnovers were almost equal at 14 and 13 respectively, and Keiser also won in the steals column 8-6. Where the Dragons really lost the game though was on the free throw line. The Dragons went 19-29 (65.5), as compared to Keiser’s 20-28 (71%). A few more made free throws would have sealed up the game for the home team.
This game was played with less than two weeks until the season begins, and there is definitely a different, more positive air around the program. As one season ticket holder commented after the game, “We just lost, and I’m not even mad.” Things just feel different. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this Drexel program won’t be rebuilt in a season, but more about that later this week. Until then, let’s just prepare ourselves for what is bound to be an interesting season, win or lose.