2008-09 St. Francis (NY) Basketball Preview
Terriers hoping for better team chemistry
On paper, things were looking good for Brian Nash’s program considering the amount of experience he had returning for the 2007-08 season. But a not-so-funny thing happened on their way back to the NEC Tournament: guys decided that sharing the basketball and taking good shots was less of a priority than padding their stats, and what ensued was a bitterly disappointing campaign. So while it may hurt from a distance to lose so many experienced players, this team could be better in the win-loss department as a result. The Terriers welcome seven newcomers, and this team will look to play at a faster pace in order to increase the number of opportunities they get on the offensive end of the floor. But no matter the changes in philosophy and faces, the key to success won’t change at all: the players must be willing and able to play together.
2007-08 Record: 7-22 (4-14 NEC; t-8th)
Head coach: Brian Nash (26-63 in three seasons)
Assistant coaches: Clive Bentick, Allen Griffin, Andy Johnston
Home Court: Peter Aquilone Court
PPG: Jamaal Womack (12.2)
RPG: Kayode Ayeni (5.5)
APG: Ricky Cadell (2.4)
FG%: Ayeni (44.5%)
3PT%: Ayeni (36.4%)
FT%: Cadell (75.0%)
Assist/TO ratio: Womack (1.31)
The backcourt returns three players who should be the nucleus of this year’s perimeter attack. But like the players gone from last season’s team, they’ve got to become better shooters and ball handlers if the Terriers are to have any success this season. Senior Jamaal Womack started all twenty-seven games last season and led the team in assist-to-ratio. But he struggled from the field, shooting just 34.7% from the field. Sophomore Ricky Cadell started twenty-six games as a freshman and stands to play even better this season with the increased opportunities available to him. Classmate Rocco Rubino will also have more chances to make an impact this season after averaging just nine minutes per game in 07-08.
A pair of freshmen will also look to contribute this season: Tom Ward (Brighton, East Sussex, England) and Justin Newton (Brooklyn, NY). Ward is one of two Terriers with experience on England’s U-20 national team, so he may not come into this season as your typical freshman. Newton may only stand at six feet even, but he’s versatile enough to contribute on both ends of the floor. Junior Rainier Rickards played in just twelve games last season and will be hard-pressed to crack the rotation this year.
Kayode Ayeni will be the main man in the frontcourt for the Terriers, even though he weighs in at 6-5, 180. The junior from Brooklyn was St. Francis’ second-leading rebounder last season and will need to up his production in all areas this year. His primary sources of help will be newcomers, consisting of three junior college transfers and two true freshmen. Herman Wrice (Philadelphia, PA), Nigel Byam (Brooklyn, NY) and Nigel Lee (Glenndale, MD) are the junior college imports, with Byam and Lee being the two most likely to add some frontcourt scoring to the Terrier attack. Wrice will also have a chance to contribute, but he’s the least developed of the three on the offensive end.
Both freshmen come to St. Francis by way of Europe, with Richard Clark (Berkshire, England) and Stefan Perunicic (Belgrade, Serbia) looking to make contributions this season. Clark, like Tom Ward, was a member of England’s U-20 national team and has the size at 6-9 to be a solid player in the NEC. Perunicic was a coup for Coach Nash and his staff, originally slated to attend Rhode Island before changing his mind. Perunicic has a nice skill set and can make plays both inside and out.
Can the Terriers get back to the NEC Tournament? Yes, but it’s going to be a tough task for this team. The newcomers will bring with them depth and competition, two things that were lacking last season. With more bodies, Coach Nash and his staff can go with different combinations and have some sort of penalty for guys who stray too far away from the team concept. That’s another bonus to the roster turnover: accountability. They may not make it back to the postseason, but the Terriers should be able to establish the direction of their basketball program.
Team Stats (conference ranking in parentheses)
PPG: 67.3 (9th)
PPG allowed: 73.7 (9th)
FG%: 41.0% (8th)
FG% defense: 47.2% (10th)
3PT%: 30.8% (11th)
3PT% defense: 35.6% (7th)
FT%: 63.5% (10th)
Rebound margin: +0.8 (6th)
Assist/TO ratio: 0.77 (10th)