Pregame – Bowling Green

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This is a website about Drexel basketball.  It’s certainly not about us.  And yet here’s a story about me, to tell you about Drexel basketball.

Ultimate Frisbee was invented in New Jersey.  When I was a junior in high school, I was one of five captains on the ultimate team.  That team became the first ever co-ed team to win the New Jersey state championship.  It wasn’t because we were the most physical, or the most talented, or the quickest. It was because we were brothers and sisters.  We knew the cut that our teammate was going to make before they made it.  We could communicate with our teammates during the flow of the game and our opponents would have no idea that we were.   Because of that, no matter how strong you were, you couldn’t defend the attack.

I played against many of those teammates when I was in college, sporting the blue and gold.  Then I lost contact with a lot of them over the years.  But years later, I called a bank, and the person on the other end of the phone had a familiar first name and a familiar voice.  I conducted my business but at the end of the call, I asked for his full name, and then I asked if he was my teammate.  And he was.  And we caught up like no time had passed.  That’s what brothers, and sisters, and champions do.

It’s been five long years since Drexel basketball had a better than .500 conference season.  No one on the current roster has been within sniffing distance of champions.  The culture was a family, but a family in which the father left, and even when he was here, it was 15 years of being behind the times.  That doesn’t change overnight.  It doesn’t change in a year.  The current roster is a mashup of transfers, players recruited by the old regime, late signees and well, Kurk Lee.

The truth is that Kurk, alongside a senior spot up shooter like Sammy Mojica, and a senior center who shot 60% from the field as a junior like Austin Williams, make a pretty solid big three in the CAA.  And names like Overton and Isabell are alleged to be much more than just pieces around that core.  Tadas Karaninas showed as many post moves as Drexel fans have seen in a decade during the Vilanova exhibition and Jarvis Doles showed the first three point stroke that a big man has had in this program since Matt “Mad Dog” Stevenson in the mid aughts.  Sam Green and Ty Myles bring size and experience and Alihan Demir and Troy Harper are names that every DU fan will know by the end of the season.

The question that looms largest for this team as they take the floor against Bowling Green tonight isn’t what most fans think it is.  It’s not about whether or not this team has any talent.  This team has pieces. The question is can this jigsaw puzzle of pieces all fit together?  Will a Bruiser recruit sacrifice his body so that a JUCO can set the right pick for a sophomore Spiker recruit point guard to penetrate?  Before anyone answers, they need to remember that the last time this squad played, they were missing a player in the CAA Tournament due to a coach’s decision.  While we don’t know what caused that decision, it doesn’t seem to matter:  it certainly wasn’t a selfless act, selling out for his teammate.

The 16-17 Drexel men’s basketball season was about a new coach and bringing in new bodies.  The 17-18 season seems set to be defined by culture.  Can this rich supply of pieces come together, or will they fight for themselves?  Picked 9th in a 10 team conference, with their last winning season well in the rearview mirror, it’s easy to dispose of the thought of success this season.  It’s easy to see this mish mash of pieces not fitting together and finishing exactly where the rest of the league thinks they will finish.  Conversely, if they come together, if they build their talents and become more than the sum of the parts, they could easily surprise over these low expectations. They don’t lack skill, or upperclassmen, which is why the biggest question is heart.

Tonight at the DAC fans will start to see what this band of teammates decides to be.

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4 Comments

  1. I don’t know if the off-season has rejuvenated your writing spirit or mine as a fan, but this pregame is downright inspirational. Let’s hope this feeling lasts and that you’re correct!

  2. Last year Drexel crew showed flashes of what could be. Spiker’s 2nd yr Army squad showed huge improvement. I would expect similar to happen here, especially with a terrific point guard now a sophomore. They play a rather inexperienced Bowling Green squad that is also trying to define their program. Think Drexel starts well here. I also think they will a bigger threat in the CAA than most would expect.

    Drexel 80 Bowling Green 70

  3. Good post. Nice to see you writing again. Scott and Eric have done a good job with the previews but its a team right.

    I think you are right that chemistry is a key for this team especially when there will be almost always 2 and sometimes 3 point guards on the floor at once. I also like that you didn’t focus on Lee/Harper/Isabell but go to the guy who is probably least likely to be all in. As a senior who doesn’t necessarily fit the system, if he can buy into the team and do his role, I think you are right that this team can go a long way.

  4. Just another comment to nitpick a bit. First I realize you have been off getting married and stuff so you might not be up-to-date on your Lithuanian surname spelling, but you need to be able to spell Kararinas. In addition I think Rodney WIlliams and Sammie Givens (and really probably Kaz, Dartaye, and even Bah) might take some offense to your comment on post moves given that only 1 or at most 2 of Tadas’ baskets came from a post move.

    While we didn’t see much of them at Drexel, I think both Jeremy Peck and Casey Carroll were examples of big men in the Drexel program who could shoot threes. Peck was 2-5 last year, certainly not a big sample size but word out of practice was that at times he was lights out from three. While Carroll’s injuries only allowed him to have his 1.000 shooting percentage to be limited to 2pt field goals (or rather field goal), during his continued career at DII Nova Southeastern, he shot more than 40% on three point field goals. It will be something different to have big guys who can shoot the three. Even if you look back at Matt Stevenson (he had 9 threes his entire career), only one season did he made more threes (5) than Tadas did in the exhibition against Villanova.

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