Top 68 Team Previews: #51 Drexel Dragons
By Mark Cunningham
Friday, August 05, 2011
Last Season: 21-10 (11-7 Colonial)
Key Loss: Gerald Colds
Head Coach: Bruiser Flint
PG: Frantz Massenat 6-4 So.
SG: Derrick Thomas 6-4 Jr.
SF: Damion Lee 6-4 Fr.
PF: Samme Givens 6-5 Sr.
C: Daryl McCoy 6-9 Jr.
Key Reserves: Chris Fouch 6-2 Jr. SG, Dartaye Ruffin 6-8 So. C, Tavon Allen 6-7 Fr. SF, Casey Carroll 6-8 Fr. PF, Aquil Younger 6-0 Fr. PG
Rewind the clock a year ago and Drexel basketball was reeling. Their all-CAA rising senior point guard, Jamie Harris, would not play another minute at the Daskalakis Athletic Center after being charged with robbery (alongside teammate Kevin Phillip). A 10-day trip to Turkey last August helped the Dragons develop chemistry that was instrumental in a win over No. 21 Louisville early in the season. Fast forward to March to find out that Bruiser Flint's young Dragons overachieved before losing a heartbreaker to VCU in the CAA tournament quarterfinals. If not for Jamie Skeen's lay-up with a second left, perhaps Drexel finally ends their NCAA tournament drought by playing in the First Four in Dayton.
Alas, the tournament drought was extended to 15 seasons since Bill Herrion and Malik Rose led the Dragons to three consecutive America East championships – and an upset of fifth-seeded Memphis in 1996. (Herrion has yet to guide East Carolina or New Hampshire to the Big Dance since he left Drexel.)
As it turned out, the NIT didn't even send an invitation to the West Philly campus as a reward for last season. This year, however, Flint and Co. have their sights set much higher than the NIT; their eyes are set on the NCAAs. Rumors were swirling in May that Flint was a candidate to replace Ed DeChellis at Penn State, but he was never interviewed. The three-time CAA Coach of the Year will be patrolling the sidelines for his 11th season at Drexel.
Combo guard Gerald Colds is the only impact departure for the blue and gold. Colds dropped 1,049 points during his four years as a Dragon and was the model of consistency; he never scored over 300 points in a season. With Colds exiting, Flint has some choices to make regarding a starting five that should have a little more depth than last season's seven-man rotation.
Chris Fouch was arguably one of the best sixth men in the country last year. Will Flint continue to use the sharpshooter as a sparkplug off the bench or does the New York native start alongside Frantz Massenat in the backcourt? After being named CAA Rookie of the Year in 2009-10, Fouch only got better during his sophomore campaign. His 14.9 points per game were good enough to be named to the All-CAA 3rd Team. If Flint loosens the reins on Fouch, an All-CAA 1st Team nod isn't out of the realm of possibility.
This year's edition of Drexel basketball could earn the nickname, "Flint's Bruisers." The Dragons exhibited a stifling defense last year that doesn't leave much room for improvement. Derrick Thomas is one of the best shutdown perimeter defenders in the conference, which is why Flint can afford to bring Fouch off the bench. If center Dartaye Ruffin can continue to spell Daryl McCoy effectively, visitors to the DAC are in trouble.
Power forward Samme Givens is the lone senior suiting up for Drexel. Fouch was a part of the 2008 recruiting class with Givens, but received a medical redshirt after suffering a knee injury. Givens was All-CAA 2nd Team last year. If his statistical trends continue, expect 15 points and 12 rebounds night in and night out from the local product.
If Flint is to have the luxury of a deeper rotation this year, a few freshmen – out of a five-recruit class - have to step up. Damion Lee decommitted from Towson to become the most highly-touted Dragon frosh. "I was told that I can come in and contribute immediately," he said. Drexel fans will certainly be pleased if the versatile swingman does just that.
To have a shot at an at-large bid come March, Bruiser's bunch needs to capitalize on their trip to Saint Thomas for the Paradise Jam Tournament in November. Big Six schools in the field include Marquette, Ole Miss and Virginia. Of course, none of those teams participated in the Final Four last year. VCU lost a few key pieces, but the Cinderella Story will pay a visit to the DAC this year. You know the "DAC Pack" will be circling that date on their calendars.