Overall Rank: #56
Conference Rank: #3 Missouri Valley
2007-08: 28-5, 15-3, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
The 2007-2008 season was magical for the Bulldogs of Drake. Coach Keno Davis parlayed that success into a head coaching job in the Big East and Drake was forced to find a new head man. They ended up with Coach Mark Phelps, a former assistant at North Carolina State who will bring his brand of the Princeton offense to Des Moines, Iowa. More important than any changes in philosophy is the change in player personnel.
Adam Emmenecker won the Valley Player of the Year award last season and was the catalyst behind Drake’s amazing season. The point guard tallied 8.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest and finding a new point guard is the main issue facing Coach Phelps. Starters Leonard Houston and Klayton Korver have also run out of eligibility. Both were decent three-point shooters and averaged over ten points per game. Little used Tyson Dirks is also not returning this season.
Replacing that productive trio will not be easy, but the Bulldogs have some experienced newcomers who are ready to make an impact. Adam Templeton was named to the Big West All-Freshman team in 2005-2006 and averaged 8.0 points and 3.9 rebounds the following season before transferring to Drake. The sharpshooter will help replace the shooting production of Houston and Korver. The search for a point guard could end with junior college transfer Craig Stanley. The 5-11 junior will need to work on his shooting consistency, but as long as he can handle the ball, he will be a vital asset to Drake. Transfer Brett Spiker and incoming freshman Sean Jones will provide some depth to the frontcourt. Jones, at 6-11, has nice size, but he will need some time to gain strength and get used to playing the level of competition he will see in the MVC.
Who to Watch:
If he has not already, Josh Young will give opposing coaches, players and fans nightmares this season. The 6-1 junior knocked down nearly three shots per game from beyond the arc and hit 43.4 percent of his attempts last season. He might be asked to do even more this time around. But it is not like Young just takes three-pointers. He will get to basket as well and made over four trips to the charity stripe per contest, ranking second to only Emmenecker on the team. Speaking of Emmenecker, Josh Parker will join Stanley in attempting to replace the point guard. Parker, who only averaged seven minutes per contest as a freshman, has plenty of talent and potential, but he will have to quickly step out of Emmenecker’s shadow if he wants to be successful. Jacob Baryenbruch is a smart player and could earn more playing time this year if his shot starts falling.
Last year it was basically four guards and Jonathan Cox. That worked with the 6-8 Korver playing at the four spot, but can the 6-5 Templeton play there? He is a better rebounder than Korver, but his size might make the team a little too small. Either way, Cox will be on the floor after averaging 12.3 points and 8.5 rebounds last season. Brent Heemskerk could start beside Cox. The 6-8 senior is a good scorer in the paint and will grab plenty of rebounds and block plenty of shots. His minutes were limited last year and some of that is due to his knack for picking up fouls. If Heemskerk does play 25 or 30 minutes per game, he will have to learn to stay out of foul trouble. No matter who starts and at what position, Drake has talent and options. The most important position is at point guard. Nobody will be like Emmenecker, but somebody needs to at least be a consistent ball handler or the magic of Drake will end as quickly as it began.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Josh Parker, Sophomore, Guard, 2.1 points per game
Josh Young, Junior, Guard, 15.9 points per game
Adam Templeton, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Jonathan Cox, Senior, Forward, 12.3 points per game
Brent Heemskerk, Senior, Forward, 4.7 points per game