Overall Rank: #143
Conference Rank: #4 MAAC
2008-09: 17-15, 9-9
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Ed Cooley (44-50 at Fairfield, 44-50 overall)
The 2008-2009 campaign was certainly an odd one for Fairfield and Coach Ed Cooley. Seemingly everybody got hurt at one point or another and the team had to reach deep down its bench to fill some of those holes. And then superstar point guard Jonathan Han, who led the team with 12.5 points and 5.3 assists, was kicked off the team. Yet, somehow the Stags managed to win 17 games and come away with a surprisingly good season despite all the turmoil.
Key Losses: G Herbie Allen, G Jonathan Han
Han and fellow guard Herbie Allen are the only two departures, so Coach Cooley only has two new players coming into town. But those two will be key players on this team. Nobody on the team will be more important than Derek Needham. The 6-0 point guard will immediately be thrown into the fire and could be starting from day one. He is quick, but as long as he plays under control and keeps the turnovers down, Fairfield will be happy. The other newcomer is Colin Nickerson. The shooting guard will compete for playing time right away.
The reason the newcomers will be forced into action is because Allen and Han played a majority of the minutes on the perimeter last year. Junior Lyndon Jordan is the experienced player in the backcourt and he only averaged 4.6 points per game last year. Fairfield will also need last year’s freshmen to step up and play a much bigger role. Sean Crawford could develop into a decent scorer, but it was Jamal Turner who started most of the games after Han was kicked off the team. Yet, Turner, despite averaging 12.6 minutes per game, averaged less than one point per contest and committed too many turnovers.
The Stags were a frontcourt orientated team last year and will be even more so this time around. Greg Nero is a great scorer who can even step outside and knock down the three-pointer. Anthony Johnson might be the most talented player on the team if he is healthy enough to play after missing time last year due to blood clots. Johnson averaged 9.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks during his 21 appearances last year. Warren Edney is a quality slasher, but he too is coming off of an injury. While all those guys were out hurt, Yorel Hawkins, Mike Evanovich and Ryan Olander stepped up and did a superb job. There is a whole lot of talent in the frontcourt and Coach Cooley will have a tough time keeping them all happy, but he will be happy if they can all stay healthy.
Who to Watch:
Lyndon Jordan could end up being a very important piece of the puzzle, even if the stats do not show it. It will be Jordan’s job to keep the youngsters in the backcourt under control and step up himself if the underclassmen struggle, especially early in the year. Jordan is not a true distributor, so he probably will not handle the ball very often, but he is the only upperclassman on the perimeter that will see any significant playing time and has to be a leader.
How long will it take for the young backcourt to come around? With so much talent in the frontcourt the group on the perimeter will not be asked to score much. All they need to do is play solid defense and keep the turnovers to a minimum. Hitting a three-pointer here and there would be nice as well. This is a group that might struggle early in the season, but it will not take long for them to develop into a unit that can make some noise in conference play.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Derek Needham, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Lyndon Jordan, Junior, Guard, 4.6 points per game
Warren Edney, Junior, Forward, 9.1 points per game
Yorel Hawkins, Junior, Forward, 8.4 points per game
Greg Nero, Senior, Forward, 12.4 points per game