Greg Vetrone attempts to revitalize Fairleigh Dickinson with young recruiting class

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights: 3-26 (2-16 NEC), Failed to Qualify for the NEC Tournament

Players Lost:
PF George Goode – 12.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.4 bpg
SG Briahn Smith – 6.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg
F Mohammed Lo – 3.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.7 apg
G Sam Fernley – 14 games, 0.9 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.2 apg

Incoming Recruits:
Kyle Pearson, 6’5″ SF – Woodbridge High (NJ)
Xavier Harris, 6’6″ PF – The Peddle School (PA)
Miles Mann, 6’6″ SF – Westlake High (GA)
Sidney Sanders, Jr., 5’11” G – Polk Community College (SC)
Sekou Harris, 5’11” PG – Plainfield High (NJ)

The Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU) Knights begin their 4th year of the Greg Vetrone era in considerable flux.  Before the start of last season, Vetrone was quoted as saying his team had the most talent in his 3 years at FDU.  Despite the proclamation, the Knights battled through injuries and lost 16 out of 18 conference games, en route to one of their worst seasons ever in program history.

It was an unlucky season to say the least, which began when Vetrone’s starting point guard, Lonnie Hayes, fractured his foot 11 games into the season.  Once Hayes was declared out for the remainder of the season, it left FDU devoid of a true “1” on the roster and stripped away any cohesiveness the team had previously developed with Hayes as its facilitator.

As a result, the ball landed in the hands of Melquan Bolding more often, and the dynamic, yet at times, erratic playmaker ended up doing far too much, producing an underwhelming shooting line of 0.351/0.292/0.763 to go along with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.5.

“I put Melquan in situations he shouldn’t have been in,” admitted Vetrone. “And every team knew that I had nowhere else to go, so they were scheming against (Bolding) and his turnover ratio went through the roof.”

Determined to shore up his point guard depth, Vetrone made it a priority to sign two point guards that will hopefully direct his team and perhaps optimize Bolding’s (and others) role.

First up is Plainfield High’s Sekou Harris.  Several mid-major programs showed interest in Harris, but luckily for FDU, Harris decided to attend college in his home state of New Jersey.  The diminutive guard averaged good, but not great numbers his senior season, although he impressed scouts with his ball-handling skills, three-point range, and most important of all, his leadership skills.  Harris moves fantastically with the ball, breaking defensive pressure and pushing the ball in transition.  Like most freshmen coming in, Harris will need to add strength to his frame, yet the potential is there, if developed properly.

The second guard is junior college transfer Sidney Sanders, Jr., who has 2 years of eligibility remaining and is physically ready for the demands of DI competition.  Sanders dominated at Polk CC, filling up the stat sheet to the tune of 13.9 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.8 steals per game.  Sanders was impressive enough to earn All-League honors two seasons in a row, yet his 37% field goal percentage (on nearly 400 attempts) unfortunately mimics all that was wrong with the inefficient Knights last year.  It is Vetrone’s hope that Sanders, Harris, and his two eligible transfers in Mustafaa Jones and Yves Jules will help solidify FDU’s guard play considerably, along side Bolding and Hayes.

“Sanders and Harris will at times play together and at times (they) will share the point.” said Vetrone. “Not knowing how Lonnie Hayes’ foot will hold up, I think he’ll be moved off the ball this year.”

With George Goode graduating, the Knights will be thin on the low-block, leaving senior Kinu Rochford as the only experienced big man and most likely serving as the Knight’s center.  Adding depth around Rochford, Vetrone signed 3 power forward types, with the hope that 2 of the 3 could contribute immediately.

Unfortunately for FDU, the injury bug once again reared its ugly head before the first jump ball in November.  Myles Mann, an athletic wide-bodied player who impressed at Westlake High, tore his ACL ligament in his knee in early June.  He will be out for the year.

“I really believed in my heart that Myles would have been my starting 4,” said a disappointed Vetrone.

Instead, Vetrone will have to rely more on incoming wing and true freshman, Xavier Harris.  A year ago, Harris was set to become the first Philly native to sign with Penn in 30 years, however, the two-time high school champion ended up de-committing late his senior season, for whatever the reason.  Now, Harris has a year of prep school under his belt, therefore he may be the most polished of the 3 frontcourt recruits.

Kyle Pearson adds another terrific athlete to Vetrone’s roster, although Pearson will need some time to develop before he can be counted on for significant minutes.  He is likely a year or two away.

All in all, Vetrone and his staff infused some much needed youth and depth to this roster.  With better luck and health, the Knights realistically can climb out of the bottom tier of the NEC.  It all begins with chemistry, because as we found out last season with FDU, talent doesn’t really matter when your team can’t play together as one unit.  Perhaps this year, things will begin to move in the right direction for Vetrone’s FDU Knights.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference basketball for Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride