In the aftermath of having four players decide to leave his program just a couple weeks after the 2013-14 season came to an end, Monmouth head coach King Rice put the finishing touches on a solid recruiting class. One of the players in that class was 6-foot-8 forward Nikola Vujovic, a native of Serbia who attended Notre Dame Prep last year. Unfortunately for Vujovic and the basketball program, it was reported Thursday by Josh Newman of the Asbury Park Press that the forward will not be a member of the program this season.
The issue, as told to Newman by Monmouth athletic director Dr. Marilyn McNeil, was that Vujovic struggled with the test that European students attempting to enroll at Monmouth have to take in order to show that they’re proficient enough in the English language to handle the coursework.
Indications are Vujovic got through the NCAA Eligibility Center with a GPA approaching 3.0.
“Yes, his admission was denied based on our standards, the metrics for international students,” McNeil said at the Charlotte Marriott Center City. “He’s gone back to Serbia. I think the opportunity for him to improve his English there is strained, but he’s a young man that doesn’t come from a wealthy family and he probably needed some more tutoring. It’s not good.”
Vujovic being denied admission drops Monmouth to 13 scholarship players in 2014-15, with that number representing the maximum number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA. Among the newcomers added to the program is Providence graduate transfer Brice Kofane, and while he didn’t play a high number of minutes as a Friar his experience can help the Hawks inside.
The Hawks, who finished their first season as a member of the MAAC with an 11-21 record (5-15 MAAC), return their top two scorers from last season in guards Deon Jones (15.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Andrew Nicholas (14.2, 3.3) with both being seniors in 2014-15. Overall, Monmouth returns its top six scorers from last season, which should serve the Hawks well as they look to move up the MAAC standings.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.