This past season was supposed to build up similarly the way that the 2011 cycle of building produced an NCAA tournament team for Saint Peter’s.
Instead a slow start got worse when the team lost senior Desi Washington to an injury to his shooting hand in their season opener at Brown. Quadir Welton tore his meniscus in the preseason and struggled out of the gates, while Elias Desport played through a sports hernia all year long. An 0-4 start appeared like it could be a permanent setback until they dispatched of Rutgers and, by January were a game over .500.
“We managed to dig ourselves out of each hole, but kept digging another one,” head coach John Dunne said. “We were playing catch up for the entire season, but we never quit.”
Every time it appeared that the Peacocks made progress, they hit a new roadblock. Even when they turned it around in March, winning senior day against Iona followed by two MAAC tournament wins, they could not get out of a hole against Manhattan in the semifinals.
A season that began with promising expectations ended at the hands of the eventual MAAC champions and a 16-18 record.
“I think we were disappointed with our overall record because we knew we were a better team than what our record indicated,” Dunne said. “I think our guys are resilient and they continued to fight and dig themselves out of a hole and they never quit, for that I’ll always be very proud of this group.”
Now that group will lose seniors Marvin Dominique, Tyler Gaskins, Desi Washington and Jamel Fields, but won’t search far to find their new core. Trevis Wyche and Welton have both started all but four games in their two-year careers. The two, plus rising junior Chazz Patterson and rising senior Desport will represent the upperclassmen experience on a group that will have plenty of young players. Sophomores Elisha Boone and Rodney Hawkins showed potential in their playing time as well and will have to carry that over as they add more experience.
Dunne said he hopes that his freshmen will have to have an impact to help retool this team quickly.
“Every one of them have seen time, some more minutes than others, but they all have to take steps,” Dunne said. “But clearly we’re not going to be able to do it without our freshmen being able to make some sort of impact and I think Mamadou Ndiaye, Antwon Portley, I think those two really have a chance to be very good.”
“I also think Cam Jones and Sam Idowu both have a very good chance to see playing time as well, so clearly multiple freshmen have to step up. If they do, and our returners certainly have to make big steps, if we do that I think we’ll be fine.”
The Peacocks will be in the position to rely on freshmen next season as they have allocated three scholarships towards transfers, who will each sit out next season and be eligible for the 2016-17 season. Houston transfer Cavon Baker will have one season left after he sits out, while George Washington transfer Nick Griffin and Samford transfer Nnamdi Enechionyia will each have two seasons left to play. In the meantime, Dunne said he will hope to form the core of a group that the three transfers can easily fit into – as a way of hopefully retooling faster – to try and replicate their 2011 MAAC championship.
“If our freshmen can grow with experience and our returners also grow, some of which become upperclassmen, most of which become upperclassmen and you add that to the few transfers sitting out, I think we’re going to have a chance to be set up for multiple years after this year,” Dunne said. “I’m not going to sell this year short. I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’m looking forward to the new group. I’m looking forward to seeing what this new group, what they can accomplish. We clearly understand that there’s going to be some growing pains and there needs to be some chemistry building.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.