After winning six straight games to rebound from a slow start to conference play, Drexel has lost three straight games with the most recent being an 83-73 overtime loss at Northeastern on Saturday. And what makes matters even worse for head coach Bruiser Flint is the fact that he also lost his leading scorer in that game.
Damion Lee, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, suffered a broken right hand in Saturday’s defeat. The news was announced by the school Sunday afternoon. Lee, who’s averaging 21.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, plays just over 38 minutes per game for the Dragons.
Against Northeastern, Lee played all 45 minutes and tallied 30 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Lee is an incredibly important player for a team that in conference games is ranked ninth (out of ten teams) in scoring offense and dead last in field goal percentage. Without Lee, Drexel’s hopes of getting hot in next month’s conference tournament take a significant hit.
Drexel starting guard to miss the entire 2014-2015 season with ankle injury
Drexel sophomore point guard Major Canady will miss the entire 2014-2015 season due to an ankle injury, the school announced on Friday afternoon.
During Thursday’s practice, Canady suffered an injury to his right ankle, which will require surgery. He is the second player to be sidelined the full season joining forward Kazembe Abif, who tore his ACL this past spring. Combined, Canady and Abif started 26 games for the Dragons last season, with Canady starting 14 of the final 15 games.
Drexel graduated the high-scoring back court duo of Chris Fouch and Frantz Massenat, and were counting on Canady being a key fixture on the perimeter alongside all-conference wing Damion Lee and junior Tavon Allen. In Canady’s absence, freshmen guards Rashann London and Sammy Mojica will be see more playing time than originally expected. Lee told NBCSports.comlast month that both freshmen had impressive moments during Drexel’s summer trip to China. Freddie Wilson will also likely see a bump in his minutes.
For head coach Bruiser Flint this is become an all too familiar trend. Last season, he lost Lee to an ACL tear in November and Abif for 14 games, including the final month of the season. During the 2012-2013 season, Fouch appeared in only three games before suffering a season-ending injury.
The Dragons were picked to finish fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association behind Northeastern, William & Mary and Hofstra. Drexel begins the season on Nov. 14, on the road, against Colorado.
Drexel, a team picked in the preseason to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association, had pounced on the No. 4 ranked team in the nation, looking to make an early-season statement inside the World Most’s Famous Arena on the eve of Thanksgiving.
Arizona rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit to defeat Drexel, 66-62, to advance to the championship game of NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Dragons lost more than just a heartbreaking contest to a team that later went on to be one-win shy of the Final Four. They also lost star swingman Damion Lee to a torn ACL, which required season-ending surgery. The 6-foot-7 Lee was a preseason first-team pick after a sophomore campaign where he finished third in the CAA in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
“He was probably one of the four or five top players in the league,” Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint told NBCSports.com last month. “It really hurts you. It took away one of the weapons we had. The thing is, you played games with him and then you have to adjust without him right away.”
Drexel, led by the high-scoring duo of Chris Fouch and Frantz Massenat, got through the next four games, two of which came in triple overtime. However, the Dragons broke even in conference play (8-8), going 1-5 against the three teams to finish ahead of them — Delaware, Towson and Williams & Mary.
It’s been 11 months since the injury occurred, but Lee has been back on the floor this fall without limitations. The redshirt junior wing will be the key to a successful campaign for Drexel in a league filled with uncertainty.
“When I was looking at some of the rosters after the season was over, I noticed that the league is wide-opened,” Lee told NBCSports.com. “Northeastern brings back all of its roster. William & Mary have two really good players and Hofstra will be better. But I still think the league is wide-open. There is no clear-cut favorite.”
In order those three teams — Northeastern, William & Mary and Hofstra — were slotted ahead of Drexel in the CAA preseason coaches poll, and despite a shift in order was, were the top three in the predicted finish in College Basketball Talk‘s CAA preview.
William & Mary is fueled by last season’s near-miss in the conference title game, and brings back Marcus Thornton, the only returning first-team all-CAA pick from a season ago. Northeastern has a healthy Quincy Ford in addition to the majority of last season’s rotation and Hofstra is depending on several transfers to make an immediate impact on a program that has only won 27 games over the last three seasons.
Drexel enters the season without Fouch and Massenat. However, there teams in a similar position as Drexel, such as reigning CAA champion Delaware losing four double-digit scorers and Towson, which graduated two-time CAA Player of the Year Jerrelle Tenimon along with the team’s three other top scorers. Regardless of the roster changes, each team possesses the tools necessary to be a surprise team in the CAA, and with a healthy Lee, surrounded by a developing set of underclassmen, it could be the Dragons.
“I know that we’re going to be looked over because teams will think we lost six players from the previous year that we won’t be that good,” Lee added. “From my standpoint, I just want to lead this team to any wins that we can get. I’m pretty confident that we’ll be a sleeper this year and we’ll sneak up on some teams.”
In August, just before Drexel’s trip to China, an update on Lee’s recovery mentioned that he was still not scrimmaging. While it appeared as an ominous sign, it was merely a precautionary measure.
“The doctor said there was no need to chance it,” Flint said. “He practiced a lot, though.”
Lee made the trip to China with the team, and while on the bench was able to observe his teammates, both returnees and newcomers, in what turned out to be a promising trip for the new-look Dragons.
Eleven different players on the Drexel roster started at least one game during the 2013-2014 season. Of those players, junior Tavon Allen and sophomore Rodney Williams, a CAA all-Rookie Team selection, made the most starts. Those two will take on bigger roles this season, as will fellow sophomore big man Mohamed Bah. Sammy Mojica and Rashann London, two freshmen to the perimeter showed upside in China while first-year forwards Tyshawn Miles and Austin Williams provide athleticism and depth to the frontline.
“Our freshmen were thrown right into the fire [last season],” Flint said. “We lost two starters during the season and still had a winning record. I think people forget that. If those guys can do what I think they can do then I think we’re going to be fine.
“I think everyone in the league thinks they have a chance. They’re are a lot of question marks even with the better teams. I think a lot of teams are saying, ‘Hey if we put it all together, we could make a run in this conference.’”
Like many teams in the CAA, that will be the question, but Drexel has the luxury of having an all-CAA caliber player to help find that answer.
Abif suffered the injury in practice on Thursday. He is slated to undergo surgery next week.
It’s been far from an easy season for Abif. Prior to suffered the fracture in his hand, he missed five games during January with a sprained knee.
There may not be a team that has been hit with the injury bug quite like Drexel this season:
Abif is the second Drexel starter to be lost for the season. Damion Lee…was lost for the year with a knee injury in November. Prior to Saturday’s game with James Madison, Drexel has accumulated 33 games missed due to injury during the 2013-14 season. Lee has missed 17, while Abif has missed six. Senior Goran Pantovic has missed the last six games due to a hand injury and remains out indefinitely. Earlier in January, both starters Dartaye Ruffin and Tavon Allen were out two games due to injuries.
The season began so promising for Bruiser Flint’s squad. The Dragons got out to a 7-2 start with their only losses coming in very competitive showings against UCLA and Arizona — Abif missed the Arizona game with a concussion. Since then, it’s been a struggle just to put five healthy bodies on the floor.
For the season, Abif is averaging 7.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Basketball has developed into a true global sport; the NBA’s wild popularity in China and other foreign countries is evidence of this. The number of players from overseas playing in the NBA and in the college game is at an all-time high.
Nearly 50 years ago, the Springfield College men’s basketball put the game we know and love on display for thousands to see. According to Garry Brown of MassLive.com:
In 1965, coach Ed Steitz took his Springfield College men’s basketball team on an around-the-world goodwill tour sponsored by the State Department, playing exhibition games and conducting clinics in eight countries from France to Japan. Over 62 days from mid-July to mid-September, the Springfield team played 26 games (winning them all) and conducted 111 clinics. It was estimated that the team played before 250,000 fans, including one crowd of 30,000 in India.
The trip took Springfield College to France, Italy, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan. In a time where college teams are taking summer trips to Europe and foreign countries every four years, I’d venture to guess that none of these trips can top what Springfield College did in 1965.
One may wonder — why Springfield College? They’re not a Division 1 program and are barely a blip in the world of college basketball. But, the city is regarded as the birthplace of basketball, so that made Springfield College a natural choice to represent the United States on this extensive tour.
The New England Basketball Hall of Fame does not have yearly inductees; the last one took place in 2009. The 2013 ceremony took place this past Saturday evening in Worcester, MA and inducted, along with the 1965 Springfield team, current Division 1 head coaches Derek Kellogg (Massachusetts), John Calipari (Kentucky), and Bruiser (Flint)–both of whom were coaches at UMass earlier in their careers.
Cal had this to say about the evening:
Congratulations to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013. What a great night for Jack Leaman and all the honorees.