Sacred Heart Pioneers, 14-18 (8-10 NEC), Lost 1st Round of NEC Tournament to LIU
F Stan Dulaire, 21 mpg, 4.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.0 apg
PG Steve Zazuri, 2 games played
With good reason, Dave Bike and the Sacred Heart (SHU) coaching staff made it a priority to recruit frontcourt depth for the 2012-13 season. The Pioneers struggled to score inside and defend the paint, especially when junior Justin Swidowski missed time due to injury or foul trouble, thereby forcing co-captain Nick Greenbacker and the now graduated Stan Dulaire to play extended minutes. As a result, Bike felt the need to use all three of SHU’s available scholarships on skilled big men that should bolster their front line and bench in the short-term and improve the long-term outlook of their inside play.
Leading the group is early commitment Tevin Falzon, who at 6-foot-7 has an opportunity to make an impact right away in the Northeast Conference. Heading into his senior season at Newton North High, Falzon reportedly drew the interest of a few Division I schools, which included Robert Morris and Quinnipiac. Unfortunately for Falzon, a broken wrist in the preseason plummeted his stock, so much so that Falzon didn’t have a single Division I offer to mull after the season. Despite this, SHU assistant coach Johnny Kidd saw enough in Falzon’s comeback from the wrist injury to offer him an early scholarship this past summer. The gamble paid off. Since signing his National Letter of Intent with SHU, Falzon had an excellent post-graduate season at Winchendon School, impressing many with his improved conditioning and explosiveness. Now with a season of post-graduate under his belt, Falzon has made it clear he’s ready to compete at the college level.
Falzon profiles as a versatile big man who’s comfortable both on the perimeter and in the paint, which fits well into SHU’s perimeter oriented offense. His ability to stretch the defense – by using his range to pull post defenders out of the paint – gives him an opportunity to play right away, specifically as Swidowski’s back-up. In this role, he should provide scoring off the bench and could be part of a very respectable four man rotation in the frontcourt including Swidowki, Greenbacker, and junior transfer power forward Mostafa Abdel Latif. At the very least, Falzon’s insertion into this rotation should push Louis Montes back to his more natural position, small forward.
Size can be difficult to acquire in the NEC, yet SHU was able to sign 6-foot-11 center Cole Walton from Bellevue High in Washington State. Walton has solid athleticism, good hands, and decent range as a big, but as is the case for most lanky high school seniors, Walton will need to bulk up considerably and improve his offensive arsenal to compete in the low block with the likes of NEC up-and-coming big men Jalen Cannon and Ousmane Drame. Because of this, Walton probably translates as the biggest project of the recruiting trio, albeit a project with very good upside. If the SHU coaching staff can transform a skinny and less athletic 7-foot-0 Liam Potter into a near double-double machine his senior season, then perhaps Walton can realize his potential much earlier into his Sacred Heart tenure. Given the glut of big men on Bike’s roster, it certainly makes sense to redshirt Walton this upcoming season and have him ready for the 2013-14 campaign, when Swidowski, Greenbacker, and seldom used Femi Akinpetide are off the roster. After all, Walton hasn’t even turned 18 yet and an extra year to allow the freshman to physically mature surely couldn’t hurt.
The final piece of the recruiting puzzle was completed last Tuesday, with SHU acquiring the services of 6-foot-6 power forward De’Aires Tate. Tate had verbally committed to SWAC doormat Grambling back in the February, yet he most likely reneged on his commitment when head coach Bobby Washington was dismissed after a 4-24 season. Grambling’s loss is Sacred Heart’s gain. The Pioneer coaching staff describes Tate as an athletic, yet undersized, high-energy rebounder (or as Jay Bilas would say, “this kid has a nice motor”) who could contribute on the glass and the defensive end of the floor right away. Other than this grainy Youtube video however, there is hardly any information out there on Tate, so for now, we’ll have to take the coaching staff’s word that this was a recruiting coop. Only time will determine if Tate’s ceiling is closer to Stan Dulaire, or in a dream scenario for the red and white, Joey Henley.
All in all, the Pioneers addressed their urgent need for big men of the future. They signed three players who each possess unique talents and should compliment each other well in the years to come. With four players scheduled to graduate after next season, including the greatest Pioneer of them all Shane Gibson, SHU will have four more scholarships to offer with the focus shifting to finding a top of the line wing playmaker. For now though, this incoming class will add some much needed depth to SHU’s front line, and with any luck, could help catapult the Pioneers into the upper echelon of the NEC for the 2012-13 season.