2008-09 Fairleigh Dickinson Basketball Preview
Where the Knights end up in NEC is anyone's guess
By Raphielle Johnson
The Knights ran into their fair share of trouble last season, suffering from a lack of depth and frontcourt experience. The end result was an eight-win season and missing out on the NEC Tournament. But even with three starters gone from that team, there's still room for optimism for head coach Tom Green and his staff. Sean Baptiste, one of the NEC's most versatile players, is back after averaging 18.5 points per game a season ago. And the Knights will welcome back guard Cameron Tyler, who missed last season for academic reasons. Combining these two with a few transfers and some young but talented frontcourt performers and you have a team that could have an impact on the NEC race. But how much they improve will depend upon team chemistry above anything else.
2007-08 Record: 8-20 (4-14 NEC; t-8th)
Head coach: Tom Green (400-328 in 25 seasons at FDU)
Assistant coaches: Ron Brown, Jared Stephans
Home court: George & Phyllis Rothman Center
PPG: Sean Baptiste (18.5)
RPG: Baptists (6.3)
APG: Baptiste (1.4)
FG%: DeJuan Pursley (54.9%)
FT%: Baptiste (76.3%)
3PT%: Baptiste (35.6%)
Assist/TO ratio: Baptiste (0.8)
The man who will set the tone for the Knights this season is junior Sean Baptiste. The fact that he's the leading returnee in so many categories is an indicator of what Manny Ubilla, Bernell Murray and Eric Hazard meant to the program. He may only be 6-3 but Baptiste is a perimeter threat who backs down from no one and led the team in rebounding last season. He's the known commodity in the backcourt for Coach Green. At the point, senior Cameron Tyler returns after missing last season due to academics. In 2006-07, Tyler was FDU's second-leading scorer and leading assist man. He can make some things happen on the offensive end of the floor.
Two transfers from Division I schools will also be asked to contribute this season, and they've got the talent to do so. Junior Eric Moore (Dover, NJ) averaged 12.5 points per game in his final season at Buffalo and should chip in at both guard spots. Sophomore Terence Grier (Cranford, NJ), who played sparingly in his one season at Rhode Island, is a 5-11 guard that is capable of exploding offensively. Ron Brown, Michael Blackgrove and Jordan Stasyszyn are three more guards looking to crack the rotation after playing sparingly last season. Also looking for minutes will be freshman Sam Fernly (Sheffield, England), who could be in the running for minutes as a backup at the point. The backcourt will be deep enough to compete in the NEC this season, and there will be more scoring options as well.
This is the area where the Knights got into trouble last season, with Coach Green having to rely on a pair of freshmen along with Hazard to take care of business. The good news now is that those two youngsters, John Galvin and DeJuan Pursley, are ready to contribute even more to the Knights' attack this year due to that learning experience. Galvin missed the last ten games of the season due to a concussion, but there was no mistaking his progress before the injury. And Pursley came on late in the season, averaging nearly ten points and two blocks per game with Galvin out. Even better for these two is that they'll have some help up front, led by a junior transfer.
6-8 Alvin Mofunanya (Englewood, NJ) didn't get to play a whole lot at St. Joseph's, but a year of practice with Coach Green combined with his two years receiving coaching from Phil Martelli should have him ready to make an impact in the NEC. But the addition of size doesn't stop with Mofunanya, with the Knights also welcoming in sophomore Kamil Svrdlik (Czech Republic) and freshman Anaclet Mulumba Mbayi (Montreal, Quebec). Svrdlik is a 6-8 big man with a soft shooting touch who can score in a variety of ways, while Mbayi will add versatility to the lineup. Also looking to earn some minutes this season is 7-2 junior center Lawrence Brown, who didn't play much in his first two seasons in Teaneck.
After missing out on the conference tournament last season, Coach Green's team should be a safe bet to get back to the postseason this year. What kind of seeding they end up with and how far they go will depend on the development of team chemistry, and what they can get from the frontcourt. With their progression should come an improvement on the defensive end of the floor, for the Knights were the worst in the NEC in points allowed and ninth in field goal percentage defense. The guards are capable of holding their own with any other backcourt in the league, but guards alone don't win championships.
Team Stats (conference ranking in parentheses)
PPG: 70.0 (6th)
PPG allowed: 78.2 (11th)
FG%: 41.9% (7th)
FG% defense: 47.0 (9th)
3PT%: 35.5% (4th)
3PT% defense: 40.6% (11th)
FT%: 71.3% (4th)
Rebound margin: -7.3 (10th)
Assist/TO ratio: 0.83 (8th)