William Derry & Benjamin Simon
The Drexel Dragons had a turbulent 2015-16 season, going 6-25 in their last year under longtime head coach James “Bruiser” Flint. Flint was dismissed at the end of the season, prompting guards Terrell Allen and Rashann London to transfer. The season was tough to endure, but gave glimpses of hope, as Rodney Williams proved to be a legitimate big man presence, averaging 10.5 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, and shooting 45% from the field.
Flint was eventually replaced by former Army head coach Zach Spiker, who spent seven years coaching the Black Knights. He compiled a 102-112 record while at West Point and a 19-14 record in his last season at the helm. Spiker appointed Paul Fortier, Justin Jennings, and Rob O’Driscoll as his new assistant coaches.
Spiker and his staff will look to turnaround Drexel’s basketball program after a troublesome season as many new faces will find their way into the Dragons’ rotation. While Major Canady returns from injury and Miles Overton hits the hardwood after sitting out last season, Spiker adds a four man freshman recruiting class, providing hope for the Dragons in a new era of Drexel basketball.
Tavon Allen (G, graduation), Ahmad Fields (G, health), Terrell Allen (G, transferred to UCF), Rashann London (G, transferred to NC Central), Kazembe Abif (F, graduation), Chandler Fraser-Pauls (G, graduation)
Tavon Allen graduated last spring, while Kazembe Abif played his final season for the Dragons after sitting out the 2014-15 season due to injury. Tavon Allen is ranked 20th all-time on Drexel’s career scoring list with 1,249 points. Allen was a legitimate three point threat, who had 3 or more three pointers in 13 games. His length and ability to heat up will surely be missed. Abif was a key contributor last season, who led the team in rebounds, averaging 7 per game. He endured the third most minutes of any Dragons player last season. Someone will need to step into his shoes, in a conference that features many talented big men.
As a result of Flint’s dismissal, Drexel also lost two guards in Terrell Allen and Rashann London, who transferred to UCF and NC Central, respectively. Although Terrell Allen only played one season with the Dragons, his playmaking ability did not go unnoticed. He lifted Drexel over Elon in the first round of the 2016 CAA tournament with a game-winning field goal and finished the season as Drexel’s third leading scorer (9.8), in addition to leading the team in assists (107).
London, who attended Roman Catholic, started in 24 out of 31 games for the Dragons last season after starting in every game as a freshman during the 2014-15 season. London gave the Dragons a reliable guard who could play big minutes. Although he never produced the way his minutes would have suggested he should produce, London was consistent, strong willed, and intelligent. He will be missed, especially with the lack of point guard depth the Dragons have this season.
Ahmad Fields, who transferred from Utah after the 2013-14 season decided to retire from basketball due to injures. He only played 3 games for the Dragons and just couldn’t stay healthy after a promising preseason.
Chandler Fraser-Pauls did not feature in many games last season for the Dragons as a graduate student. However, he did have a distinguished career playing soccer at Lafayette College, where he was a member of the 2012 Patriot League championship team.
Kurk Lee (G, Fr.), Kari Jonsson (G, Fr.), Sam Green (F, Fr.), Jeremy Peck (F, Fr.), Troy Harper (G, Jr. Transfer), Tramaine Isabell (G, Jr. Transfer)
Kurk Lee headlines Drexel’s incoming recruiting class. The 5-foot-10 guard from Baltimore, MD will surprise many college basketball fans with his adept ball handling and blazing speed. He is a college ready guard, who can make an instant impact on a program which has a history of strong guard play. Kari Jonsson, another freshman, started in Drexel’s home exhibition game against Keiser last week, should compete for starter minutes with junior Miles Overton. Jonsson is a native of Iceland, who played in their top division for the past three seasons, averaging 17 points per game in his final year there. Forwards Sam Green and Jeremy Peck will provide coach Spiker with depth off the bench.
Philly native Troy Harper and Missouri transfer Tramaine Isabell will miss the 2016-17 season due to transfer rules but will be eligible for the 2017-18 campaign.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Kurk Lee (Proj. Stats: 8 PPG, 3 APG, 2 RPG, 1 SPG)
As previously mentioned, Lee is a dynamic ball handler, who can blow past defenders and get his teammates involved. Despite his small frame, he can finish over taller defenders at the rim and shoot from beyond the three point line. Lee can also get out into the open court and finish in transition, giving him the full package. Lee is the ultimate floor general and will thrive in the Dragons fast pace system.
G: Sammy Mojica (Proj. Stats: 10 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG)
Sammy Mojica played in every game last year and started in 20 of them. He reached double figures in scoring 15 times and tallied 48 three-pointers, while dishing out 63 assists. Mojica gives Drexel’s flexibility at the guard position because he can play with or without the basketball. After losing Tavon Allen, Terrell Allen and London, the Massachusetts native will be relied upon to be Drexel’s main three-point threat. Mojica should not only benefit from his increased playing time but also from coach Spiker’s lineup adjustments.
G: Miles Overton (Proj. Stats: 7 PPG, 2 RPG, 1 APG)
Miles Overton will look to make up for lost time after transferring from Wake Forest two seasons ago. Overton, whose father, Doug Overton, stared at La Salle and played in the NBA for 11 seasons, is a sharpshooter with a high basketball IQ. Overton’s abilities will complement Drexel’s starting five and hopefully provide a much needed scoring touch.
F: Rodney Williams (Proj. Stats: 12 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 BLK)
Rodney Williams is entering his senior year with the Dragons and is one of the only returning starters from last year’s team. Williams has gotten better over the past three seasons at Drexel and will be counted on to lead Drexel’s young team. Look for him to produce from the post and help anchor Drexel’s defense after averaging 10.5 points per game in about 26 minutes of play per night. He will surely be Drexel’s best player early on and the team must make sure they play through him, offensively and defensively.
F: Mohamed Bah (Proj. Stats: 8 PPG, 5 RPG)
With Abif gone, Mohamed Bah enters his senior year as Williams’ frontcourt partner. Though Bah has not had a breakout season so far, his overall production will benefit from increased playing time. Along with Williams, Bah will help anchor Drexel’s defense and protect the basket with his 6-foot-9 frame.
Major Canady (F, R-Jr.), Tyshawn Myles (F, Jr.), Austin Williams (F, Jr.), Sam Green (F, Fr.), Jeremy Peck (F, Fr.), Kari Jonsson (G)
Major Canady returns after missing two consecutive seasons due to injury. Canady featured in every game his freshman year and started in 14 of them. His playing time will most likely be limited early on in the season but should play an integral role for the Dragons off the bench throughout the season.
Tyshawn Myles and Austin Williams both return for their junior seasons, poised to contribute in the frontcourt for Drexel. Freshman Jeremy Peck could contribute for the Dragons early on if he can hit shots from the perimeter, which is not a strength for Myles or Williams. The pick and pop game offered by Peck could be a big advantage for the Dragons. It would fit perfectly for Lee, who has a high IQ and a fantastic ability to see the floor. It could get Lee involved and moving downhill, allowing options to open up for the team’s perimeter shooters in Overton, Mojica, and Peck. Sam Green, who is also entering his freshman season, could possibly allow coach Spiker to use a smaller lineup but only if the Maryland native can hold up his end of the bargain. He is a versatile forward who can play inside and out, giving many options for coach Spiker to work with.
Kari Jonsson will feature as the only legit guard coming off the bench. The combo guard will seriously compete for minutes after three seasons of playing in his home country’s top league. Not only did he thrive there, where he was named the league’s best young player, but he also averaged 17 points per game in the Division B U20 European Championships while representing his country. Although he is still scrawny, Jonsson is a mature scorer and extremely experienced for his age. He could very well find himself in the starting lineup at some point during the season.
at Monmouth (Nov. 11th, 2016)
November 11th will be a game of firsts for the Dragons. Not only will it be Spiker’s first regular season game in charge of the Dragons, but Major Canady will make his first regular season appearance since his freshman season, after sitting out the past two seasons due to injury. Overton will also make his season debut for the Dragons after transferring from Wake Forest and four freshmen will make their debut. Monmouth will serve as a great test for Drexel as the Hawks went 28-8 overall last season and lost in the second round of the NIT tournament. The Dragons lost to the Hawks last year 82-74.
vs. La Salle (Nov. 27th, 2016)
The Dragons will host the Explorers for their first matchup against a city rival. La Salle also had a difficult 2015-16 season and Drexel will want to see how they fare against the new-look Explorers, who added transfers B.J. Johnson, Pookie Powell and Demetrius Henry. Drexel defeated La Salle 66-53 last season, but this year, will enter as an underdog after big personnel turnovers for both teams in the offseason.
at Penn (Dec. 28th 2016)
When Drexel faces off against Penn, the Dragons will not have to travel far for the matchup, as Daskalakis Athletic Center and the Palestra are in walking distance of each other. Spiker will coach against his former boss in Penn head coach Steve Donahue. Spiker was an assistant under Donahue at Cornell from 2004-2009. Both coaches have extra motivation to win this contest. Last season the Dragons beat the Quakers 53-52 in a fantastic, energy filled game. Penn will be looking for revenge after the tough overtime loss last year.
Overall record (8-23)
Conference Record (4-13)
The Dragons will have a tough time in their first season under new head coach Zach Spiker. Despite having a relatively easy nonconference schedule that includes a Lafayette team coming off a 6-24 season, a Niagra team that went 7-25, and a 10-23 Hartford squad, Drexel will struggle with a lack of depth. In a conference that continues to get better, it will be hard for a young and inexperienced Drexel team to consistently find wins. While the College of Charleston returns 4 of their top 5 scorers, reigning CAA champions, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, is revamped with star guard Chris Flemmings. Even Elon, placed 8th in the conference preseason rankings, brings back 4 of their 5 consistent starters from 2015-16. The CAA is stacked with talent this season and the Dragons will have trouble competing on a night to night basis.
“You see everything,” he said. “Being able to step away from it, you see the little things, how people react, tendencies of people, just the little things that go into the game as far as how the coach reacts, how the players react to certain people talking towards them. The game is a lot slower on the sideline than being in it, so you get to appreciate it a lot more, that was the biggest thing for me, appreciating it and missing how much I like playing basketball and having fun just playing basketball. I’m just eager to get out there for that.” -Miles Overton in an interview with City Of Basketball Love
"We want to do what Drexel has always done, and that's be a tough tough team to score against. To make sure we're winning the rebounding battle and taking care of the basketball." -Zach Spiker in an interview with CAASports.com at CAA media day
"We're going to lean on our veteran players, and any team that is good, has older players that play with confidence." -Zach Spiker in an interview with CAASports.com at CAA media day
“We’re just trying to get all of the guys acclimated to what we’re trying to do. I'm trying to do my best as a leader, to put us in the best position possible." -Rodney Williams in an interview with CAASports.com at CAA media day
“The things that we get excited about here at Drexel are impacting the young student athletes we have here, talking about what their experience can be and helping them out. I think that we’ve got a good assistant coaching staff here. We have to invest in these guys and put them in the best possible position to be successful.” -Zach Spiker in an interview with Benjamin Simon of The Empire
-Photo: Greg Carroccio/Drexel Athletics
-Drexel loses to Charleston in the quarterfinal of the CAA tournament