This season was the first of Saint Peter’s next cycle. John Dunne and his staff added a large group of new players to the mix, which led to a double-digit win season for the first time since their NCAA tournament bid in 2011.
The newcomers included Fordham transfer Marvin Dominique, who was named third team All-MAAC, as well as freshman point guard Trevis Wyche and forward Quadir Welton. Both of the first-year players became fixtures in the lineup.
Things really started to come together though during the final month of the season, when the Peacocks won six of their final nine games.
“I thought we had an improved team from the year before, and a more talented team, but it just took us some time to gel and come together,” Dunne said. “Certainly we hit some rough patches in the middle of the year, but the guys kept fighting and we were fortunate to win a bunch of close ones down the stretch and definitely ended our year on a positive note.”
Saint Peter’s was an A.J. English three-pointer at the buzzer away from forcing overtime at Iona in the middle of February. Even dropping that heart breaker, the Peacocks scored better than a point per possession in seven of their final nine games and won their first MAAC tournament game since 2011.
Next season SPU will return almost every contributor with the exception of senior Chris Burke. The last time Dunne brought back so many contributors his team won three games in March and clinched the league’s NCAA tournament berth. The Peacocks will look to fill the wing position void created by Burke’s departure, which might be filled from Lincoln High School verbal commit Elisha Boone.
The Peacocks core consists of the building blocks of Wyche and Welton, who both started every game this season.
“I think as far as the point guard position goes he’s going to have a very solid career,” Dunne said of Wyche. The freshman point guard had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.8 on a team that made just over 40% of their field goals this season. “I think, he’s a guy if he moves forward in his career, that can be a very good assist guy.”
Welton averaged 4.5 points per game, registered a team-high 41 blocks, and grabbed five rebounds per game. Dunne said he thought the package they got in Welton, from Math, Civics and Science in Philadelphia was exactly what they expected.
“He, at times rebounded the ball very well, he actually finished and has a little even more inside touch than even what we thought we were getting,” Dunne said. “We were really pleased with that and I think that bodes well for the future for him. I just think at times our league was a lot of upperclass bigs and at times he just got a little out matched because of the experience and size and strength of other guys, but I think at times he really really held his own and we look forward to his development.”
Scoring was a problem for the Peacocks at time last season. Saint Peter’s ranked in the bottom third in field goal percentages from three-point range and two-point range, while making just over 70% of their free throws.
“We had some great shooting nights, but they just weren’t consistent enough,” Dunne said. “If we can become more efficient offensively with shot making, in the paint and from behind the three and get ourselves to the foul line better, even if we stay status quo on defense, I think that bodes really well for us next year. With the experienced group coming back, right from the beginning, I expect to even be better defensively next year.
Next year will be the year this core has to put it together. Dominique and Desi Washington will both be seniors after transferring in, and the core of Dunne’s roster will be on campus with him from season to season for the first time since their MAAC tournament championship run.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.