Why Mount St. Mary’s Dominated Robert Morris in the NEC Championship

If a Mount St. Mary’s team that finished 8-21 the season prior wasn’t ready for the 2013 NEC championship against LIU Brooklyn, the reigning conference champions, they certainly were ready this time around. Right out of the gate, the Mountaineers couldn’t miss a shot, hitting 12 of their first 16 attempts, building a double-digit lead in the first half. Continue reading “Why Mount St. Mary’s Dominated Robert Morris in the NEC Championship”

Jamion Christian and the 2012 recruiting class offers Mount St. Mary’s a fresh start

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers:  8-21 (6-10 NEC), Failed to Qualify for the NEC Tournament

Players Lost:
G Lamar Trice (dismissed from team) – 2 games, 10 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3.5 spg
PF Danny Thompson – 7.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.3 bpg
G Chad Holley (transfer) – 3.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.9 ap
F Jacolby Wells – 2.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.6 bpg

Incoming Players:
Shivaughn Wiggins, 5’10″ PG – North Mecklenberg High (NC)
Christian Crockett, 6’6″ PF – Travis High (TX)
Melvin Gregory, 6’8″ PF/C – Lancaster High (VA)
Gregory Graves, 6’7″ PF/C – Potomac Falls High (VA)

This past season was quite forgettable for the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers.  For the first time in 7 seasons, the Mount finished with a losing record in the NEC, puncuating a new low for a normally proud program.  Head coach Robert Burke resigned at the end of the season, and with his resignation, brought some much needed hope among the Mount faithful.

Former Mount player and captain Jamion Christian, just shy of his 30th birthday, was hired to lead the rebuilding process.  And from day one, Christian made it clear that he plans to implement an up-and-down, fast paced tempo.  It’s an offensive approach that couldn’t be more different from Burke’s half-court philosophy, when the Mount averaged a meager 60.5 points and 65 possessions per game in the past 2 seasons.

In order to implement a run-and-gun system, however, Christian needed a dynamic playmaking point guard who is comfortable directing his team on the run.  So within a few weeks of his hiring, Christian signed a player he recruited while at VCU, Shivaughn Wiggins.  The 5-foot-10 point guard, although short in stature, makes up for it with his quickness, tight handle, and on-the-court leadership.  Wiggins is a heady point guard that plays unselfishly and commits himself on both ends of the floor.  In his senior season at North Mecklenberg, he averaged a school record 25.1 points per game after setting a school record the previous season in assists per game.  Talk about a player who’ll do anything – and do it quite well – to help his team win.

In the short-term, Wiggins should play significant minutes even with Josh Castellanos and Julian Norfleet locked in as the Mount’s starting backcourt.  Last season, the Mount shot a pathetic 31.7% from behind the arc, so Wiggins should have an opportunity to show off his range and help push his teammates in transition.

Next up are two potential impact power forwards, Gregory Graves and Melvin Gregory, who should both temper the loss of big man Danny Thompson.  Graves, a Burke recruit, plays with a center’s mentality and profiles more as a “4” or “5” on the floor, given his ability to score down low.  He certainly isn’t afraid of contact and can finish around the rim in traffic.  Despite his center tendencies, Graves can and will run the floor, a trait that should endear him to Christian and his offensive philosophy.  Graves will need to work on his perimeter game to access his full potential, but his physicality and nose for the basketball should help him contribute right away.

Gregory is more of an unknown, since I can’t find a second of Youtube footage on him and he was lightly recruited.  Nevertheless, a quick glance at his high school stats should ratchet up some excitement for Mount fans.  As a senior, Gregory averaged 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks per game to help lead his team to a state championship.  While serving as Lancaster High’s big man, Gregory also exhibited a solid perimeter game, with the ability to knock down the outside jumper.  He’ll need to add muscle to his wiry frame, and when he does, his versatility and athleticism should compliment Graves’ game very well.  It’s easy to envision Graves and Gregory as the frontcourt of the future.

Rounding out the four man recruiting class is Texas native, Christian Crockett.  The 6-foot-6 Crockett was a key contributor (leading his team in rebounding) on a highly successful high school program.  Being part of winning program certainly has its value, but it’s tough to determine how successful Crockett will be at the next level.

Lastly, there are 3 players who sat out last season that are eligible to play this season.  The most important of the bunch is junior transfer, Sam Prescott.  2 seasons ago, Prescott led a 6 win Marist team in scoring at 11.4 ppg. It was hardly an efficient effort – Prescott had a pedestrian EFG% of 44.5% to go along with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.4.  Nonetheless, the 6-foot-3 shooting guard was moderately recruited out of high school, so there’s certainly some talent there.  A move from the MAAC to the NEC should benefit Prescott, and make him a valuable member of the Mount’s backcourt rotation.

The other 2 players shouldn’t garner as big of a role, with George Mason transfer Rashad Whack serving as a three-point specialist off the bench and red-shirt freshman Taylor Danaher as a big body off the bench.  Danaher is currently listed as 7-foot-0, 210 pounds, which as you could have guessed, is ridiculously skinny by college basketball standards.  For the Mount’s sake, I hope Danaher spent his red-shirt season doing the following four things – practicing hard, eating, lifting weights, and eating some more.

What a difference a year makes.  Last season, Robert Burke’s collection of scholarship freshmen (not including walk-on Kelvin Parker) hardly produced for the Mount.  This season, Christian’s 2012 recruiting class already has more projected upside and promise to out-produce Burke’s recruits, yet in fairness we’ll need to see this group play actual games.  Christian’s inaugural season running the sideline is the first step toward bringing Mount St. Mary’s back to respectability, to the level that Milan Brown had achieved before he left the program for Holy Cross.  Given Christian’s enthusiasm and impressive work ethic thus far, Mount fans will have more to cheer for at Knott Arena this season.  They can now cheer for their future, because it’s a lot brighter then it was a year ago.

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