Following a second trip to the NCAA Tournament, Mount St. Mary’s has agreed to a lengthy contract extension with head coach Jamion Christian, keeping the 34-year-old in Emmitsburg through the 2026-27 season.
The university made the announcement on Thursday morning.
“Since Jamion’s return to the Mount five years ago, the men’s basketball program has flourished,” Director of Athletics Lynne Robinson said in a statement. ‘In addition to leading the team to outstanding success on the court, Jamion has maintained a tireless commitment to the welfare and academic success of our student-athletes, as well as serving as a tremendous ambassador for Mount St. Mary’s in the community and with our alumni.”
One of the brightest young coaches in the game, his success at Mount St. Mary’s has been built around defense. The Mountaineers ranked in the top-25 in defensive turnover rate, according to kenpom.
Given his age, his immediate success as a head coach and his playing style, it wasn’t surprising to see his name initially pop up for several coaching vacancies this past spring.
Christian, who previously served on Shaka Smart’s staff at VCU, has an 83-81 record but is 55-33 in Northeast Conference play. He righted the ship after a 1-11 start to this past season, guiding the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament with a win over St. Francis (PA) in the NEC Tournament championship game. His first 20-win season was clinched in the First Four following a 67-66 victory over New Orleans.
Christian received the Ben Jobe Award winner for the 2016-17 season, given to the top minority coach in men’s Division I basketball.
The Mountaineers are poised for another strong campaign this upcoming year. Second-leading scorer Junior Robinson and top rebounder Chris Wray are returning. However, leading scorer Elijah Long along with Mawdo Sallah and Miles Wilson, two other starters, both transferred out of the program at season’s end.
Mount St. Mary’s entered the NEC conference tournament as a No. 4 seed, but made a surprising run to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and late this week, the school rewarded head coach Jamion Christian with a contract extension.
The news of Christian’s contract extension was announced in a release from Mount St. Mary’s.
After two years on the job, Christian is now under contract through 2018-19.
“When arriving back here a little over two years ago, we had the very daunting task of moving our program toward the top of the NEC,” Christian said in the release. “Although we have reached the NCAA tournament, we have a lot of work left ahead of us. This extension shows that our University is appreciative of the young people that we are bringing into the school, and that they recognize the hard work that we are doing each day to build a championship culture. I am appreciative of President Thomas Powell, Executive Vice President Dan Soller, and Athletic Director Lynne Robinson, who have supported our program with diligence over this time period.”
Using a pressing style of play that he calls “Mayhem,” Christian has gone 34-31 in his two seasons at Mount St. Mary’s and the 18 wins in his first year was the fourth highest win total since the program transitioned into Division I basketball in 1988-89.
The former VCU assistant is also a graduate of the school and locking up him for a few more years seems like a smart move since Christian has performed well and plays an uptempo style of ball that is attractive to recruits.
Just days before the start of the season, 6-foot-6 junior wing Andrew Smeathers announced his decision to leave Butler at the end of the fall semester. Having played an average of just four minutes per game in two seasons at the school, Smeathers made the decision based upon his desire for more playing time.
On Thursday it was first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports that Smeathers has decided to transfer to Mount St. Mary’s. Smeathers averaged 1.5 points per game as a Bulldog, with his most productive outing being a 17-point night in a win over Oakland City during his freshman season. If looking solely at games against Division I competition, Smeathers scored eight points in a loss at Detroit in January 2012.
Smeathers joins a program that will lose three perimeter players at the end of the current season in Julian Norfleet, Sam Prescott and Rashad Whack, with those three players being the Mountaineers’ leading scorers. Norfleet currently ranks third in the Northeast Conference in scoring with an average of 18.6 points per game and second in assists (5.4 apg) with Whack’s 14.6 ppg ranking ninth. Prescott’s currently averaging 9.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest.
Smeathers joins a five-member recruiting class that includes guard Lamont Robinson and four front court players. Normally a transfer at the end of the fall semester would result in a player having to sit out until the end of the fall semester in the next academic year. But with Georgetown center Joshua Smith receiving a waiver to play immediately after he played in six games at UCLA last season, it may be worthwhile to apply for a waiver especially when considering the fact that Smeathers hasn’t played at all this season.
If that’s the path Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian and his staff consider pursuing, it will be an interesting case to keep an eye on.