After two straight seasons of fewer than 10 wins, Saint Peter’s and head coach John Dunne appear to be building the talent back up in Jersey City. A combination of transfers and freshmen give the Peacocks promise for the this season and beyond.
Last season didn’t go so well for the Peacocks. After winning their first three games – with a surprising upset of Rutgers – SPU went 6-21 the rest of the way, including 3-15 in the MAAC. The season ended rather unceremoniously with a seven-point loss to Fairfield in the MAAC tournament.
At that point it was obvious that things had to change. Some of the changes were already in the works. For instance, sitting on the bench last season were two pieces of Dunne’s rebuilding effort. Marvin Dominique and Jamel Fields had to sit out last season after transferring from Fordham and Fairfield respectively.
“It feels great to actually get back on the court and play with everybody,” said Dominique about getting back into action on Saturday. “The lights are on and everything. To play it’s just really nice. It’s been fun since last year when I sat. It was a good year, a learning curve. I learned a lot from these guys.”
Dominique was a part-time player for two seasons under Tom Pecora at Fordham. If his first game in Jersey City was any indication that’s all about to change. He scored 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in an impressive season debut against LIU. Also, while Dominique still has the jump shot that made him such an intriguing player with the Rams, he’s bulked up some more during the year off and also showed the ability to head to the paint. In fact, that’s something Dunne wants to see more of from his 6’7” forward as the season progresses.
“We need to post him up more in transition,” Dunne said about Dominique. “He’s a heck of a low-post player. I probably fell in love with the fact that he’s a good three-point shooter all fall and didn’t get him in the post enough.”
Fields struggled to get any playing time at Fairfield, so it was somewhat surprising when he transferred to Jersey City to continue to play in the MAAC. While he didn’t start, the 6’2″ redshirt junior wing played significant minutes down the stretch and did a little bit of everything during his 24 minutes on the court. One thing that Fields is definitely going to have to improve upon from his first game is his free throw shooting. He shot just 2-7 from the line against LIU. Given how many other options are going to be on the court for SPU, if Fields can find a niche as an athletic wing that brings energy off the bench and can slash a bit for scores it’ll be a nice addition to the SPU rotation.
The Peacocks also worked hard recruiting trail to bring in some new young. Dunne and his staff brought in three freshmen. Two of them, Trevis Wyche and Quadir Welton, started in the season opener on Saturday against LIU Brooklyn, while Howard Sellers played a few minutes off the bench.
Wyche, who came to the Peacocks from St. Peter’s Prep, already knew the area. He’s a quick point guard that gives SPU a true one that can allow last season’s leading scorer Desi Washington the opportunity to play off the ball. While Wyche spent too much time over penetrating against LIU, he did show a quick first step. Saturday wasn’t his best game, but Dunne has already seen things he likes out of the freshman point guard in two scrimmages.
“We have a really good freshman point in Trevis Wyche,” Dunne said. “He had two good scrimmages against Rutgers and St. Francis (NY), but he didn’t show his best. So we’re really excited about him and what he’s going to bring to the table for us.”
Coming out of high school Welton was regarded as a raw prospect, but at a long 6’7” he certainly has one of the attributes that you just can’t teach – size. Even as a freshman he has a grit to his game. That was certainly evident as he pounded a smaller LIU front line on the glass on Saturday. Welton scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass. When Dunne’s teams have been successful in Jersey City they’ve had intimidating, if slightly undersized players at the forward position. Welton could be that type of player someday.
Obviously there is still some work to do. Welton had some breakdowns on the defensive end against LIU on Saturday and he’ll need to work on becoming a better help defender, but that’s certainly where his length can be a useful asset. Welton had one block and three fouls in 30 minutes against the Blackbirds.
“He’s a rugged guy and as a freshman who has good hands and knows his role and just wants to get in there and fight and rebound,” Dunne said about Welton and added that he’s excited about the potential of Dominique and Welton working together this season.
Putting all four new players with some of the ones already in the program gives Dunne an opportunity to rebuild his rotation. Ten players appeared in the game against LIU on Saturday at the Barclays Center and five of them had never put on a Peacocks uniform in a competitive situation. It also might allow Dunne to play with a little more pace this season. The Peacocks went into a tight, defensive shell in most games last season and finished 273rd in the nation in adjusted tempo. Dunne has never been a coach to really push the tempo, but SPU will try and get some easier baskets this season.
“We definitely want to play faster,” Dunne said. “We want to push the ball, especially when we get stops.”
It’s going to take some time for the lineup to gel, but there’s definitely more talent – and the type Dunne can mold – in Jersey City this season. It won’t be easy, but expect the Peacocks to be more competitive than many expect in the MAAC this season.