Another season of rebuilding ahead for St. Francis (PA)

St. Francis Red Flash – 6-23 (5-13 NEC), Did Not Qualify for NEC Tournament

Players Lost:
PF Scott Eatherton (transfer) – 14.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg, NEC Most Improved Player
PG Chris Johnson (expelled) – 8 games, 5.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2.3 assist/TO ratio
F John Taylor – 5.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.9 apg

Incoming Players:
Ronnie Drinnon, 6’7″ PF – Greenview High (OH)
Ben Millaud-Meunier, 6’3″ G – Vanier High (Quebec, Canada)
Greg Brown, 6’2″ PG – Archbishop Spalding (MD)
Aric Gresko (walk-on), 6’0″ G – Penns Manor (PA)
Zachary Vigneault (walk-on), 6’1″ G – Central Cambria High (PA)

Since the 2004-05 season, the St. Francis Red Flash have averaged 7 wins per season, forcing every subsequent offseason to feel like a rebuilding year.  This offseason is no exception.  After a tumultuous year that led to the unexpected firing of head coach Don Friday, the sudden hiring of Rob Krimmel, and the surprising transfer of future star Scott Eatherton, the Red Flash are once again starting from scratch.  It’s a difficult situation to be in, with the rest of the Northeast Conference improving, but first year coach Krimmel has no choice as he attempts to rebuild a long suffering program back to respectability.

The rebuilding effort, for the 8th season, begins this time around with skilled big man, Ronnie Drinnon.  The 6-foot-7 Drinnon was an accomplished player in high school, earning the honor of being named the All-Area DIII Player of the Year as a junior.  But then on Halloween night of 2011, Drinnon made the critical mistake of crashing his car while drinking.  He paid dearly for his mistake, as Greenview High suspended him for the 2011-12 season.  Despite the costly mishap, Drinnon has said and done the right things since his suspension.

Now with Eatherton’s gone, Drinnon will be expected to contribute immediately.  He has excellent footwork and a soft touch around the basket, and despite his reported lack of athleticism, Drinnon always found a way to rebound the basketball at the high school level.  He’ll need to add muscle to bang down low with the rising class of NEC power forwards, but his intensity and nose for the basketball should help him and his team, which finished a staggering 342nd in rebounds per game last season.  Playing time is plentiful in St. Francis’ thin frontcourt, so an All-NEC Rookie Team selection at season’s end certainly isn’t a stretch, given that most of the promising rookies from the NEC will be perimeter players next season.

Coach Krimmel and his staff next focused their attention on improving the backcourt.  With this in mind, St. Francis signed playmakers Greg Brown and Ben Millaud-Meunier, who should form a solid rotation of guards with captains Umar Shannon and Anthony Ervin leading the way.

Of the two backcourt recruits, Brown may have more of an impact his freshman season, because of his ability to play both the “1” and “2” positions on the floor.  Chris Johnson’s dismissal from the team last season leaves the roster devoid of a true point guard, so for the time being, Brown will be asked to partially fill this role.  Based on this Youtube clip, Brown possesses a tight handle, is very shifty in the open court, and has the ability to drain the three.  He led his high school team in scoring, but now in college, he’ll be asked to facilitate more often, especially when manning the point.  It’s a nice opportunity for the versatile Brown, who has the potential to carve out a productive career in the NEC, if developed properly.

The second playmaker was discovered by the Red Flash north of the border.  There, Millaud-Meunier used his excellent court vision, high basketball IQ, and solid outside jumper to dominate in the high school ranks.  Millaud-Meunier isn’t the first Canadian, or Vanier High student for that matter, to play for the Red Flash.  Former great Deon George also hailed from Vanier, and led St. Francis in scoring and rebounding for a couple of seasons.  Perhaps Millaud-Meunier can find the same magic that George did for the Red Flash in the early 90’s.

Finally, it’s probably worth mentioning 2 walk-ons, Aric Gresko and Zachary Vigneault, who were recently added to the Red Flash’s roster.  Both players could find limited minutes on the court, especially since Coach Krimmel’s roster is barren with upper-class talent, sans Shannon and Ervin.  After all, Mount St. Mary’s walk-on Kelvin Parker narrowly missed out from making last season’s All-NEC Rookie Team, and this St. Francis club is even less experienced than the Mount was last season.

St. Francis is obviously not expected to compete in the short term, therefore these incoming freshman can garner valuable on-court experience in the hope that they’ll someday serve as the foundation of a competitive team.  It’s the first step in what has proven to be a brutal rebuilding process in Loretto, PA.  Find lesser known DI prospects that can develop after a couple of seasons.  Then, maybe their moderate success will lure better high school prospects onto the St. Francis campus, which unfortunately is a difficult place to attract basketball talent.  Krimmel now has a mammoth challenge ahead of him, yet if he can somehow pull it off, he’ll be revered as a coaching god for the remainder of his St. Francis career.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s college basketball on Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter here.

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