#57 St. Mary's: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #57
Conference Rank: #2 West Coast Conference
2009-10: 28-6, 11-3
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Randy Bennett (183-103 at St. Mary’s, 183-103 overall)
The 2009-2010 St. Mary’s team may not have been the most talented group Coach Randy Bennett has had during his nine year tenure in Moraga, California, but it was the first to reach the Sweet Sixteen. The Gaels hope to build off that success, but they will have to do it with the dynamic interior duo of Omar Samhan and Ben Allen. And like years past, the stars will emerge from the backcourt.
Key Losses: C Ben Allen, G Wayne Hunter, C Omar Samhan
St. Mary’s failed to grab a great recruit this year, but point guard Stephen Holt has the size and speed to develop into a consistent player and power forward Brad Waldow could be forced into action with the absence of Samhan and Allen. More valuable than Holt and Waldow is the return of redshirt freshman Tim Harris who was injured last year and saw action in one game and the eligibility of transfer Kenton Walker.
Mickey McConnell is the new star of the team. After being overshadowed by Patrick Mills two years ago and Omar Samhan last year, 2010-2011 belongs to McConnell. The 6-0 senior averaged 13.8 points and 5.1 assists during his first year as a starter and should only be better this time around. McConnell may be a great ball handler who rarely commits too many turnovers, but he is also a superb outside shooter who connected on 51.0 percent of his attempts from long range. Matthew Dellavedova will start beside McConnell again after having a great freshman season. Dellavedova was not nearly as consistent from beyond the arc, but he is a fine outside shooter who will also use his size to attack the basket. Dellavedova’s other great asset is his passing ability and rarely will St. Mary’s turn the ball over with those two in the backcourt. Jorden Page was another freshman who showed plenty of potential. He did not nearly put up the numbers that Dellavedova did, but Page showed promise and should be ready to give McConnell and Dellavedova a break so they do not have to play over 36 minutes per game again this season.
It is obviously in the frontcourt where the Gaels have concerns. The presence of Samhan and Allen made things so much easier for the backcourt. Mitchell Young, Tim Williams and Walker have the unenviable job of trying to replace the departed big men. Young, a 6-9, 225 pound sophomore, played the most last year and did pretty well when given the opportunity. The question is if he can go from 13.5 minutes per game to 25 to 30 minutes per game. Williams, another sophomore, saw even less playing time, but he will be given the opportunity to compete for major minutes. Walker may be the wildcard of the group. The transfer from Creighton is a strong rebounder and the most experienced player of the bunch. Even if he does not start, St. Mary’s expects Walker to at least make a pretty big impact off the bench.
Who to Watch:
Due to necessity, the Gaels may start Clint Steindl and Harris at the three and four spots. Harris can bring another shooter to the team and has the athleticism to turn into a very good player. Steindl started on the wing last season and averaged 6.9 points and 2.6 rebounds. Steindl does have the size to play at the power forward position, but the Australian will lack the strength to battle with some opposing power forwards. However, Coach Bennett may not have much of a choice if he cannot find two starters among Young, Williams and Walker. That would make this a smaller team, but it would also continue St. Mary’s traditional use of a power forward who can shoot the long ball.
Are McConnell and Dellavedova good enough to carry this team? Last year we were wondering if Samhan was good enough to be a leader without Mills and Diamon Simpson to help him out. The answer that time was a resounding yes. This time the Gaels may not be as fortunate. The backcourt shot so effectively because they were almost always open as the opposition was forced to collapse around Samhan. Now they will likely have to create those shots for themselves.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Mickey McConnell, Senior, Guard, 13.8 ppg
Matthew Dellavedova, Sophomore, Guard, 12.1 ppg
Tim Harris, Freshman, Forward, 6.0 ppg
Clint Steindl, Junior, Forward, 6.9 ppg
Mitchell Young, Sophomore, Forward, 3.9 ppg
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