2008-09 Old Dominion Basketball Preview: #83
Old Dominion Monarchs
Overall Rank: #83
Conference Rank: #3 Colonial
2007-08: 18-16, 11-7, 4th
2007-08 postseason: CBI
Do not let the overall record fool you; the 2007-2008 version of Old Dominion was a quality team who played a very difficult schedule. Yet, if they want to reach the postseason again they will have to replace some solid players in the backcourt. The most important player could end up being Darius James. The 6-1 point guard worked his way into the starting lineup half way through the season as a freshman and did a solid job running the show. He is not a great scorer, but he will take care of the ball and create plenty of opportunities for his teammates. As long as James can continue to develop and become a leader on the floor, the Monarchs backcourt will be in good hands.
Brian Henderson, Brandon Johnson and Abdi Lidonde accounted for the majority of the starts in the backcourt. Henderson and Lidonde were the most effective outside shooters on the team and finding somebody else who can hit the three-pointer will be a big issue. Johnson tallied 4.6 assists per game and was a decent scorer as well. He might not have the quickness of James, but Johnson was still a senior leader and a solid defender who will be missed. Center and crowd favorite Sam Harris earned 13 starts during his senior year, but the big man never really developed into a consistent impact player.
The ODU backcourt hopes to replace a couple average shooters with some better athletes who will slash to the basket. As long as the returning players and some key newcomers can play some defense, the backcourt could be better this year. Speaking of defense, that is where point guard Marquel De Lancey excels. In certain situations he will be a valuable asset to the team. Kent Bazemore, Etoile Imama and Trian Iliadis will add to that depth and athleticism on the wings. Bazemore, who redshirted last year, is a good athlete who can get to the basket and use his 6-5 size to his advantage. Iliadis is not the same caliber athlete, but he is a good shooter and that is what this team needs. Chris Cooper and Nick Wright can grab some rebounds and block some shots and will add some depth to the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
Cooper and Wright will have some time adjust to life in the Colonial Athletic Association since Gerald Lee, Frank Hassell and Jonathan Adams are back in Norfolk, Virginia. Lee was the only player who averaged over ten points per game last year. The 6-10 forward is also the best rebounder on the team and is prepared to jump into superstar status as an upperclassman. At 6-8, Hassell has plenty of size and is a good shot blocker. With a year of experience under his belt, Hassell will be an even better complimentary player next to Lee this year. Whether he starts or not, Adams will provide the frontcourt an experienced option who can do some scoring and be effective on the glass.
The frontcourt is one of the best in the conference and the difference between a good and a great year for the Monarchs will be in the backcourt. James and De Lancey can handle the point guard spot, but the team needs Marsharee Neely and Ben Finney to step into bigger roles and provide some experience to the young group on the perimeter. Neely can be a solid scorer and a decent shooter, but he has not proven that very much as an underclassman. Finney, a 6-5 wing, had a fine freshman season and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup at the small forward spot. If he can develop a more consistent outside shot, Finney could emerge as a superb scorer.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Darius James, Sophomore, Guard, 6.9 points per game
Marsharee Neely, Junior, Guard, 3.0 points per game
Ben Finney, Sophomore, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Frank Hassell, Sophomore, Forward, 5.3 points per game
Gerald Lee, Junior, Forward, 12.9 points per game