Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One Door Closes

On Friday, November 11, 2016 a new era of Drexel Basketball officially kicks off.  I look forward to watching it, writing about it, and enjoying it.  I won't be doing that on this blog.  With this post, Dragons Speak is closing its doors.

This program hasn't been an easy thing to write about these past three years, and it makes one truly appreciate those who have subjected themselves to reading about it.  When this blog became more than I ever expected with the coverage near daily, there was no way one person could keep up.  I was bailed out by a number of Dragons who believed in the mission and donated their time to this page.  With that, this page stopped being a blog about one persons thoughts and became a team effort for a daily, higher level of coverage.

When that surge of enthusiasm was rising Scott Kier floated an idea that was worthy of this new group of colleagues.  A real home on the web for covering Drexel Basketball.  Today that home launches and we hope to make it a worthy face for analysis and opinion alongside this new beginning of Drexel Basketball.

Dragon fans if you are still reading about this team then this is the site that is dedicated to you.  Written by a staff that knows if you have stood with this University once, you are welcome to stand with us forever.

Please join us at the new project:  Always a Dragon.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Postgame - Drexel vs Keiser

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.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Welcome to 2016-17 Drexel Hoops: Dig In

With one hell of a World Series in the rearview mirror baseball has cleared the stage and a vital season of Drexel Dragons basketball lies in front of us.  With every build it is the foundation, the base that must be rock solid.  For Coach Zach Spiker and his colleagues, this year will be that foundation.  There are many more questions than answers, and how those questions are answered, what this programs base will be, seems as important as the wins and losses.

"Defense Wins Championships" is a mantra that all Dragon fans know as false.  Teams win championships, and part of that is how they defend.  In his career, Zach Spiker's Army teams have been in the top 200 of the country defensively just once.  All of the usual caveat's apply, it was a service academy, recruiting et al.  There's another side to that coin, those Army teams were playing weak Patriot League schedules and making those opposing offenses look good.  The only year they were in the top 200 was his first year, which was also the only year he slowed down the tempo.  That should be a predominant concern about the foundation to be built.  This teams defensive effort was lacking under Bruiser last year, which makes one really question what is in front of them for this season.

On the offensive side of the court, we know they will run.  Their exhibition game on October 27th would have been one of their top five most uptempo games last season.  Fans may break their necks trying to keep up with the action when the team faces off against Elon or Wilmington.  And with big men who haven't shown aggressiveness in the past, and a rookie point guard, there's only so many plays that can be drawn up.  An emphasis on hitting the offensive glass makes sense.  If they can take care of the ball and hit the offensive glass, they can only be so bad, and those things are in their control.  These are pillars for every successful team that isn't coached by John Calipari.  After that, for this season, it may well be the Mojica and Overton show, and a trip to a little place called jump shot city.  With jump shots comes inconsistency.  With a new offense to learn comes inconsistency.  With freshman point guards comes inconsistency.  With...  the reader gets the point.  And that is why Spiker will preach what he can control: rebounding and turnovers.

Coach Spiker also controls much more than just his team on the court.  A Drexel fan linked to a video here, and towards the end of the interview Bruiser Flint notes, repeatedly, that some Athletic Directors are basketball guys and some are not.  And the ones that are not use Search Firms.  It's not hard to connect those dots and make an assumption to Bru's thoughts on Eric Zillmer.  That may not be a shot at Flint's former AD, but more a statement of fact.  Somewhere at the top of every Division I coaches job wishlist is autonomy: being given the job of running his team without interferance from above, or from boosters, or anyone else.  Dr. Zillmer provides that.  What that also means is that this program, from the bottom up, is in Zach Spiker's hands.  It will take his image, which seems to point towards a rah rah, up tempo, exciting atmosphere.  But when building this foundation it's the substance, not the style that will matter.

Welcome to another season of Drexel Dragons basketball.  It's unlikely to be the best of seasons.  It's unlikely to be the worst of seasons.  It's quite likely to be one of the most interesting, thought provoking and exciting seasons.  It's not a reload, it's a full rebuild.  And together, team, department, and supporters, this build can be anything we make of it, nothing is off the table.

See you at the DAC.