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Colonial Association Preview

November 12, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Colonial Athletic Association Preview

by Matt Amis

The Colonial Athletic Association is primed for an interesting season to say the very least – it’ll be one that’s as wide open as it’s been in years. Gone are CAA superstars Brett Blizzard, Willie Taylor and Jesse Young; making room for a new class of Cinderella hopefuls. CAA coaches and media seem to have George Mason pegged as the early favorite, but several teams – strike that – most teams will make a swipe a the title and a visit to the Big Dance. Four teams received first-place votes in the Pre-Season media poll.

As the CAA grows in popularity and notoriety, thanks mainly to UNC Wilmington’s recent NCAA Tournament success, so does the talent in the conference. Both the Seahawks and George Mason appear in some Mid-Major rankings. But, in all honesty, nearly half the teams have a legit shot to make the list at some point this season.

So without further ado…

First team All CAA:
Kenny Adeleke, Jr Forward, Hofstra
Adam Hess, Sr. Forward, William & Mary
Mark Davis, Sr. G/F, George Mason
Mike Ames, Sr. G, Delaware
Domonic Jones, Sr. G, Va. Commonwealth

Honorable mention:
Mike Slattery, Jr. G, Delaware
Anthony Terrell, Sr. Forward, UNC Wilmington
John Goldsberry, So. Guard, UNC Wilmington

Conference MVP:

Mark Davis, Sr. G/F, George Mason – Davis looks to flank a highly talented Patriots team this year, arguably the best in the league, after averaging 15.5 ppg and a 2nd team All-CAA honors last season.

Honorable mention:

Adam Hess – A dangerous 2-way player, Hess averaged over 20 points and 6 rebounds last year, and is the Tribe’s lone returning starter. He was a first-team All-CAA selection last season.

Coach on the hot seat:

Brad Brownell, UNC Wilmington – Can the second year coach find success without two-time MVP Brett Blizzard? We’ll just have to wait and see…

1. George Mason Patriots (16-12 Overall, 11-7 CAA, 4th)

Projected Starters: Davis, Raoul Heinen, Richard Tynes, Jai Lewis, Lamar Butler

Expectations are sky-high for head coach Jim Larranaga, as his Pats reload for a third CAA title in five years. Three starters are returning, but gone from the lineup is CAA star Jesse Young, who guided GMU to a semi-finals appearance in last year’s playoffs. But this year’s buzz has been revolving around talented swingman Davis, along with guard Lamar Butler, who scored 10.2 ppg as a freshman before missing last season with an injury, and junior Terry Reynolds, who averaged 13.3 ppg in two years at Toledo. Look for the Patriots on Nov. 25 when they visit College Part to take on Maryland.

Two of their last three games are at home against Delaware and UNC-W – two games that could decide a lot.

2. Delaware Blue Hens (15-14 Overall, 9-9 CAA, 5th)

Projected Starters: Ames, Slattery, David Lunn, Calvin Smith, Rafael Madera

Four Delaware starters return from last year’s dangerous semifinals squad, making them a threat to go even further this year. The Hens feature one of the league’s top backcourt tandems in senior Ames (14.9 ppg), who was second in the CAA with 73 three-pointers, and junior Slattery (10.9 ppg), who topped the conference with 6.2 assists per game. Although the team lost popular guard Ryan Iversen to graduation, they gain junior forward Robin Wentt, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in last year’s opening game. Third-year head coach David Henderson has also added several newcomers who could see immediate action, including Virginia Tech transfer Harding Nana and freshman center Rafael Madera.

The Hens will look to ring in the New Year early when they meet up with Jameer Nelson and St. Joe’s on Dec. 30.

3. UNC Wilmington Seahawks (24-7 overall, 15-3 CAA, 1st)

Projected Starters: Terrell, Goldsberry, Aaron Coombs, Joel Justus, Andy Gunn

It will be known as A.B. – After Blizzard. Life without the two-time Player of the Year begins now for the Seahawks, who made four postseason appearances and captured three CAA championships during his storied career. The Seahawks return the bulk of their roster, but must replace nearly 69 percent of the scoring and 44 percent of the rebounding. Blizzard and All-CAA center Craig Callahan accounted for the majority of that load, combining to play in 244 games and collecting 3,336 points and 1,044 rebounds during their storied careers. But luckily, head coach Brad Brownell has nine players back from last year’s 24-7 squad, led by Terrell and Goldsberry. Among six newcomers who could make an impact for the Seahawks are junior guard Halston Lane, a transfer from Georgia Tech, and sophomore forward Taylor Lay, a transfer from Denver.

4. Virginia Commonwealth Rams (18-10 Overall, 12-6 CAA, 2nd)

Projected Starters: Jones, Troy Godwin, Nick George, Michael Doles, Jonnie Story

The Rams will reload under Jeff “don’t-call-me-rookie” Capel, with three returning starters featuring point guard Domonic Jones – a first-team All-CAA selection in 2001-02 who averaged 12.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists a year ago. The second year coach also has senior center Troy Godwin, who was solid in his first season at VCU, scoring 9.3 ppg and ranking 5th in the CAA in rebounds (8.2 rpg). Young guns who will look to carry some more of the load this year will be sophomore forward Nick George, the first Ram to earn CAA Rookie of the Year honors and junior forward Johnnie Story, who started 28 games and made the CAA All-Rookie team as a Ram in 2000-01.

5. Drexel Dragons (19-12 Overall, 12-6 CAA, 3rd)

Projected Starters: Phil Goss, Jeremiah King, Tim Whitworth, Kenell Sanchez, Sean Brooks

A huge void was left in Drexel last summer – a 6-8, 230 pound void to be exact. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Robert Battle lead the Dragons to the NIT for the first time since 1997 and now third-year head coach Bruiser Flint returns with a crew of veterans to help fill the void.

Sean Brooks and junior Danny Hinds will try to fill the post left by Battle. Junior Phil Goss, who drained 72 three-pointers and averaged 11.5 ppg, and junior Jeremiah King, who started the final 18 games and finished ninth in the CAA in assists (3.5 apg). Senior forward Tim Whitworth (7.0 ppg) has started every game for the past two seasons. Sophomore swingman Kenell Sanchez (4.8 ppg) was one of Drexel’s top players down the stretch, earning CAA All-Tournament honors.

6. Old Dominion (12-15 Overall, 9-11 CAA, 6th)

Projected Starters: John Waller, Troy Nance, Alex Loughton, Isaiah Hunter, Kiah Thomas

Without CAA mainstay Ricardo Marsh, the Monarchs will look to move forward with their wealth of underclassmen (and the wealth of an awesome stadium), but also feature plenty of experience. Four players who started at least 13 games return, as do four top reserves. Third-year head coach Blaine Taylor has also brought in a highly-touted recruiting class that includes a pair of Top 125 signees in forward Arnaud Dahi and guard Abdi Lidonde.

Senior John Waller (8.3 ppg) is back on the court, looking to upkeep his strong 3-point shooting. ODU also has solid guard play in senior Troy Nance, who was 3rd in the CAA in assists (4.4 apg), and sophomore Isaiah Hunter (6.1 ppg, 2.7 apg).

7. Hofstra Pride (8-21 Overall, 6-12 CAA, 9th)

Projected Starters: Adeleke, Wendell Gibson, Danny Walker, Woody Souffrant, Michael Radziejewski

It’s safe to say Hofstra didn’t have it’s best season last year. Players, including the Pride’s leading scorer Rick Apodaca, missed a combined 103 games due to injury or suspension. But the Pride are optimistic heading into the 2003-04 campaign, thanks mostly Junior forward Kenny Adeleke, a 2nd-team All-CAA pick who averaged 16.1 points and a league-high 11.0 rebounds per game. Adelke headlines a group of four returning starters. Joining him up front will be junior center Wendell Gibson (6.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and senior forward Danny Walker, who averaged 7.8 ppg and 6.1 rpg in 2001-02 but missed all of last year with an ankle injury. The backcourt is comprised of junior point guard Woody Souffrant, who ranked 2nd in the CAA in assists (4.5 apg), and junior wingman Michael Radziejewski, who hit a team-high 56 three-pointers and averaged 9.8 ppg.

Check out Hofstra at the Pre-season NIT beginning Saturday, Nov. 22.

8. William & Mary Tribe (12-16 Overall, 7-11 CAA, 8th)

Projected Starters: Hess, Zeb Cope, Nick D’Antoni, Taylor Mokris, Reid Markham

The Tony Shaver-era is officially underway in Tribe country, as the former D-III powerhouse begins his first season with W&M. Shaver won more than 350 games and made 11 NCAA Division III Tournament appearances in 17 years at Hampden-Sydney.

W&M will build mainly around its lone returning starter, senior forward Adam Hess, a preseason POY candidate, who was selected to the All-CAA first team after ranking 2nd in the league in scoring (20.1 ppg) and 11th in rebounds (6.3 rpg). Senior forward Zeb Cope (3.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) has made 22 starts over the past two seasons and provides a physical inside presence. Junior Nick D’Antoni (1.9), a CAA All-Rookie team pick in 2001-02, and sophomore Taylor Mokris (4.2 ppg) return in the backcourt along with junior Reid Markham, who scored 6.7 ppg two years ago but missed most of last season due to illness.

The Tribe travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Big East powers on Jan. 3.

9. James Madison Dukes (13-7 Overall, 8-10 CAA, 7th)

Projected Starters: Dwayne Broyles, Chris Williams, Daniel Freeman, David Cooper, Ulrich Kossekpa

What’s one way to rebuild? Ask the Dukes, who have undergone arguably the biggest transition in the league. The squad will have seven first-year players on their 13-man roster.

Head coach Sherman Dillard will have his hands full, as will his two returning starters, senior forward Dwayne Broyles and senior guard Chris Williams. Broyles was solid last year, and has had a good preseason thus far. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.4 rebounds, while draining 55 three-pointers. Williams is back for his fourth year at the point and contributed 7.7 ppg and a team-high 85 assists last season. Junior guard Daniel Freeman (3.8 ppg) is the only other returnee with significant experience.

Sophomore David Cooper, a transfer from Southern New Hampshire, and redshirt freshman Ulrich Kossekpa should see action up front.

10. Towson Tigers (4-24 Overall, 1-17 CAA, 10th)

Projected Starters: Jamaal Gilchrist, Cilk McSweeney, Laurence Hamm, Jake McCartney, Tony Dixon

Perennial basement-dwellers Towson will continue to reload, as third-year head coach Michael Hunt hopes to reap the benefits of his young lineup – three freshmen and a sophomore started for much of last season.

In the backcourt, senior Jamaal Gilchrist averaged a team-high10.6 points and 3.4 assists at the point and sophomore Cilk McSweeney (5.1 ppg) drained 30 treys at shooting guard. Sophomore forward Lawrence Hamm earned CAA All-Rookie team honors after contributing 8.8 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game, while Jake McCartney (3.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg) started all 28 games as a freshman. In the middle, junior Tony Dixon (6.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg) ranked 13th in the nation with 2.9 blocked shots per game. The Tigers were plagued by nearly 21 turnovers per game last year, but young newcomers Mike Green and Trevan Jackson should help.


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