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
Kari Jonsson, #10, carries the ball against Montenegro in the 2016 Division B U20 European Championships (Fiba.com)
In some families, sports are banned at the dinner table. It’s when the family convenes, discusses their day, and have conversations in common. In the Jonsson family, that’s not the case.
It’s actually the opposite. Dinner is strictly dominated by basketball. Everyone in the family loves basketball, from the youngest, Drexel's freshman Kari Jonsson, all the way up to his mother.
“That’s a typical night,” Jonsson chuckled, when asked about basketball at the dinner table.
It’s not a surprise. The 6-foot-3, 170 pound guard grew up in a basketball family. His dad, Jon Ingvarsson, was a star basketball player. He earned himself a contract in Belgium’s professional basketball league for a season, but couldn’t stay long, as Jonsson’s mother was pregnant with him. Ingvarsson returned to his native land of Iceland, where he continued his career unconventionally.
“He was a player-coach at first,” said Jonsson. “But when he got older, he stopped playing and just started to coach.”
When he wasn’t coaching on the sideline, he was either working his day job in marketing or playing point guard in the Dominos League, Iceland's top division, dishing out tons of assists. According to Jonsson, Ingvarsson still ranks second in assists in the league. One Icelandic news source, sport.moi.is, called Ingvarsson “one of the best playmakers that Iceland has ever given birth to.”
Now, however, Jonsson’s father is just committed to coaching. Along with working many years as a head coach in the Dominos League, he has helped Jonsson hone the skills it takes to be a point guard and a strong basketball player.
Growing up in Flensborg, Iceland, just 10 minutes away from Iceland's capital, Reykjavík, Jonsson thrived in the youth basketball system. Like every kid in Iceland though, he first fell for soccer. It was either going to be that or team handball, the two most popular sports in the country.
“I played soccer for a little bit when I was young because all of my friends played,” Jonsson noted. “Most Icelandic people have, at some point, tried to play soccer.”
But it was in Jonsson’s blood to play basketball. In Iceland, Jonsson thrived playing with club teams. He quickly climbed the ranks of young Icelandic basketball players, earning himself the opportunity to play in the Dominos League. By the age of 15, Jonsson joined Haukar Basketball Club’s top division team.
Jonsson, far right, in 2012, at the Copenhagen Invitational. (Copenhagen Invitational)
“[I started by playing] with guys [my] own age,” Jonsson remembered. “Then I played with guys one or two years older than me. [After that], the coaches on the senior team invited me to practices with them.”
Despite seriously playing basketball, Jonsson was still able to handle the rigorous schoolwork he had in his high school. His afternoons were often spent studying, while at night, he would have practices and sometimes games.
“I don’t see any problems with it,” Jonsson said of playing in such a high caliber league at a young age. “I was still doing school work. I was still living the normal life.”
The competition, he said, was strong. Playing against 12 teams comprised of grown men never phased Jonsson though. As a scrawny sophomore in high school, Jonsson played 20 minutes per game, averaging 8 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists, while notching a season high point total of 28 points in the top division.
The next year, his minutes increased. He played 33 minutes a night in his second year with Haukar, averaging 15 points per game, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. He improved in almost every category including almost tallying 2 steals per game.
With two years under his belt, Jonsson thrived in his final season in Iceland’s top league, averaging 17 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. In 22 games, Jonsson only had three games with less than 10 points, earning himself the title of “best young player” in the league. In turn, he helped lead Hauker to their first championship game in Jonsson’s time there.
He didn’t just play for his club though. Jonsson thrived representing his country, helping Iceland place second in the Division B U20 European Championships. The young guard averaged 17 points per game, including a 29 point outburst against Greece, earning himself First Team All-Tournament honors.
It was enough to earn him a trip from Drexel assistant coach Rob O'Driscoll. The first year coach at Drexel knew an American player, Brenton Birmingham, who had played in Iceland for a number of years. O’Driscoll began contacting Jonsson and eventually came to one of his playoff games.
“[After that], I came for an official visit,” Jonsson said. “I liked how everything was. I liked the coaching staff, I liked the group of guys. I liked how the game style would be.”
Jonsson didn’t know what to expect. He didn’t really even know about Drexel.
“I knew it was a division one college,” he remembered, “but I didn’t really know what the situation was.”
William and Mary, Delaware, and New Hampshire all came calling as well, but it was Drexel that finally won him over.
“I liked the system they were going to play,” Jonsson said. “I saw myself [at Drexel] pretty early...I liked the campus.”
The transition hasn’t been too hard as well. Coming from Iceland, which has 323,000 people as a country, to Philadelphia, which has 1.5 million people in the city alone, has been a good experience.
While he’s adjusting to the city pretty well, Jonsson is still getting a sense of the fast pace that new head coach Zach Spiker wants them to run at.
“[I didn’t expect] the pace of practice,” he said. “We are going to play fast. That is something I like to do though. It will be exciting.”
On the other hand however, Jonsson will not be able to have the same basketball centered conversations with his family at dinner every night like he’s used to. While his parents will be coming to see him play for the opening week of the Drexel regular season, Jonsson will need to have dinner with his new Drexel teammates now. But unlike in Iceland, it won’t be over the fantastic meats or fish. It just may have to be over a couple cheesesteaks.
“I like them,” Jonsson said, laughing, about his newfound taste for cheesesteaks. “They’re very good.”
A little less than two months after Drexel announced Zach Spiker as its new head basketball coach, Kurk Lee Jr., decided to commit and become a Dragon. Lee was Spiker’s first commitment as coach of the Dragons and a much needed one.
After 15 seasons, Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint was fired last March, while freshman standout Terrell Allen and Philly native Rashann London decided to transfer and leave with him. On top of that, senior Tavon Allen graduated and sophomore Ahmad Fields stepped away from basketball due to injuries. Now, there is a huge hole left to fill for Spiker and his staff in Drexel’s backcourt.
Te. Allen, Ta. Allen, and London combined to account for 942 points, 251 rebounds, and 243 assists, in addition to shooting 37% from the field and 32% from three for the Dragons last season.
Although Lee will not be solely relied on to replicate the production of last year’s backcourt, he will be asked to contribute early on. That shouldn’t concern any Drexel basketball fans as Lee had a stellar high school basketball career and played against elite competition.
Lee starred at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, MD and led them to a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) A Conference championship, where he led all scorers with 27 points and 7 assists.
He also participated in the 2014 DMV Baltimore Holiday Tip Off Classic, which included teams such as Elev8 Institute (FL) and St Stephens & St Agnes (VA).
Lee averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds last season for St. Frances and was a First Team All-Metro selection. Furthermore, the three year starter left high school with 1,372 points and more than 600 assists. Part of this may be from his family bloodline. Lee’s father, Kurk Lee Sr. played for Towson University, where he is sixth on the school’s career scoring list and went on to play in the NBA.
Besides Lee, Drexel’s backcourt for the 2016-2017 season will consist of redshirt junior Major Canady, junior Miles Overton, junior Sammy Mojica, and freshman Kari Jonsson.
Canady has missed a lot of time due to injuries over the past two seasons and will look to stay healthy for an entire season, while Overton, who sat out last season due to transfer rules, will look to makeup for the year off. Mojica is the only returning guard who played in a game for the Dragons last season. Jonsson, on the other hand, spent last year playing in Iceland’s top league, where he was named the best young player, and should compete at the guard spot.
On top of that, the Dragons struggled significantly to shoot the three consistently in the 2015-16 season. Mojica is the only returner from last year’s team that shot better than 32% from three. Lee is a reliable three point shooter and will help them improve in that area, especially with the losses of Ta. Allen (37% from three) and Te. Allen (averaged almost 2 three point attempts a game).
Not only does Lee shoot the three well, the left handed guard likes to use his speed to attack the basket and finish in the open court. Opposing defenders play off of him due to his quick first step, which gives him space to shoot. When opponents decide to play tight defense on Lee, he blows past them and finishes at the rim with a floater or passes it to an open teammate. But his best aspect may be his dribbling ability.
“[Lee is] one of the best ball handlers on the East Coast,” Ron Bailey of HoyaReport.com said. “Lee NEVER picks up his dribble, a feat for any player, let alone one his size.”
He is one of the few true point guards left. Lee is a good ball handler and passer, who is willing to make the extra pass when necessary, during a time where we see so many point guards who like to shoot first.
“A true floor general who is a throwback to the days where pass first point guards ran basketball,” Cardell Dudley of Finest Magazine said. “Lee displays a on court savvy that is rare for this era of score first point guards.”
His ability to get teammates involved, especially in transition, makes him a real floor general. The same can be said on the defensive end.
Though Lee is only 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds, he is a fearless defender, who can disrupt a team’s primary ball handler with constant pressure.
However, if Lee wants to continue his style of play in college he must get stronger, which will help his overall game. To add, Lee must continue to learn to move without the basketball. At times on offense he can be stagnant when the ball is not in his hands.
With that said, Lee will fit right into the Dragon's backcourt. Lee gives Drexel depth in the backcourt and offers a different look at point guard. The Maryland native is a speedster, who can beat his man off the dribble and make plays for his teammates. His speed will create scoring opportunities in transition and increase the team’s tempo. Unlike past Dragon guards, Lee has a combination of being a true point guard and amazing speed. Drexel basketball followers will be blown away by Coach Spiker’s first commitment.
Photo: Matthew Cole- The Capital / Baltimore Sun Media Group
Zach Spiker spent seven years at Army, compiling a 102-112 overall record and two winning seasons. But it wasn’t always easy being at the military academy. Everyday he woke up and tried to figure a way to “crack the code.”
Now Spiker will have to try and crack the code again. This time it will be at Drexel University.
The Drexel Dragons head into the 2016-17 season without six of its players from last year. Three players (Tavon Allen, Kazembe Abif, and Chandler Fraser-Pauls) were lost to graduation, while two more (Terrell Allen and Rashann London) transferred, and another (Ahmad Fields) was forced to step away from basketball due to injuries, according to City of Basketball Love. They will be without three of their regular starters and 72% of their scoring from their 6-25 campaign last season.
But if you talk to the Drexel players or coaches, you would not expect that they had such a turbulent 2015-16 season and offseason. That stems from the revamped coaching staff, headed by Spiker, who brings the positive attitude they need.
“Building a culture in a program is the most important thing,” Spiker noted. “A lot of that culture was already in place by coach Flint.”
For Spiker this culture starts both on and off the court. In practice, it begins with the little things in drills like touching the line every time. Off the court, he wants to create a bond with the players.
“As a coaching staff, we work hard to make a connection with our players, get on the same page with what’s important, and hold them accountable,” says Spiker. “But also just as important is the fact that there is a group of players who hold themselves accountable. What we want to do is push our guys in a direction to take some collective ownership and hold each other accountable.”
Although Drexel will be without major contributors from last season, they will return starting forward Rodney Williams, who is one of two seniors (the other being fellow forward Mohamed Bah) on the team. Despite averaging four less minutes than he did the 2014-15 season, Williams’ points per game jumped from 8 to 10, proving himself to be a formidable post presence. The past season also featured three double-doubles and twelve double digit scoring outings. This year, however, they will need even more from him.
The same can be said for Sammy Mojica, who is their second highest returning player in scoring from last season at nearly 9 points per game. The 6-foot-3 guard has shown his ability to heat up and score, but has yet to do it consistently. Despite having fifteen double digit scoring games in the 2015-16 season, Mojica also had thirteen games where he scored 5 or less points. With their lack of scoring last season, and loss of so many key players, Mojica will need to become a consistent scoring threat.
Spiker, however, thinks that everyone needs to step up. Not just Mojica or Williams. In order for them to be at their best, they will need everyone to play bigger roles.
That also includes big men Mohamed Bah, Tyshawn Myles, and Austin Williams, who all struggled to find minutes over the past few seasons and will duke it out for playing time this year. Despite their inexperience, they are all presumably going to have to expand their roles with the loss of Abif.
Drexel will also have a host of newcomers. This includes former St. Joe’s Prep star Miles Overton, who transferred in from Wake Forest and will have two years of eligibility remaining. The son of former NBA player Doug Overton was a two time member of the All-State team in his high school career, while also being a McDonald’s All-American nominee.
In addition, Spiker will have multiple recruits that he can build around. The 6-foot-6 forward Sam Green, 1,000 point scorer Kurk Lee, and versatile double-double machine Jeremy Peck should all have the opportunity to seize minutes early on. Spiker will try to bring more recruits like them over the next couple years, and with the growth of Drexel, he thinks that the school will appeal to student-athletes.
“I think Drexel has a number of things that make it unique to any college in America with the co-op program and certainly the growth and direction,” said Spiker. “You don’t need to do much but walk around the campus with the construction and everything that’s taking place here to see that our campus is headed in the right direction. You share those experiences and you think about the academic reputation, the change on campus, the growth and the directions things are going, and the opportunity for real life work experiences. That’s just off the court. On the court, our coaching staff is looking for guys that are excited to be a part of our program.”
Drexel is only on the way up, but there’s a lot of work to do. With a lineup lacking in college game experience, the next season is still up in the air. Right now, it’s just about improving little by little with Spiker.
“If you’re not getting better,” he said,” you’re getting worse.”
Photo: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports
Troy Harper was a football player. He wasn’t a basketball player. It was just something to do in the football offseason. He played AAU and he played for his school, but it wasn’t serious. Basketball was merely for fun. Football was his love since he was 5 years old.
He was in seventh grade when his classmate at Greenfield Elementary School asked Troy if he wanted to come to a workout at Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse Neumann-Goretti. They had been asking about Troy.
It was a good workout. The players were big, strong, and talented. It didn’t mean much to him though, it was merely for fun.
It stayed purely fun until that summer when his AAU coach brought him and some other guys to a Hoop Group camp. Troy Harper entered the camp as a kid who just wanted to enjoy himself. He exited the camp ranked as a top 10 player in the Tri-State area.
Throughout the next year, Troy started focusing more and more on basketball. He noticed that basketball was his calling. In his eighth grade season, he was unstoppable, tearing up the middle school league. He dropped 47 points one game, in a gym that didn’t even have a three point line, continuing to catch the eyes of the Neumann coaches.
After enrolling at Neumann, he decided to drop football altogether. He was too skinny and dedicated to basketball to play the sport that he had once lived by. With his allegiance to football out of the way, he began to fully focus on basketball.
“I was just a little guard,” Troy remembers. He was blazing fast and, as a former running back, he was used to aggressively sprinting full speed through whatever holes in the defense he could find. But he hadn’t yet developed a jump shot and could run out of control. Patience was not in his vocabulary yet. Part of that was because up until the summer going into his sophomore season, basketball wasn’t his life. He knew he was good, but it didn’t consume him.
“I never really had a college basketball dream growing up,” Troy says. “I never really thought about it until sophomore year when I got my first offer.”
He was lucky he chose the right place. At Neumann, he was able to elevate his game, going up against the likes of current Saint Joseph’s sophomore Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble, Towson senior John Davis, and Miami junior Ja’Quan Newton, whom Troy considers the best offensive player he has ever faced.
“I learned how to be patient and wait for my turn,” Troy says. “On the court, try not to go for the home run play because in eighth grade, we were so advanced compared to other kids, so you could go for the home run play and be fine. Then when you’re a freshman, you’re playing against guys older than you, so you have to learn that you can’t always go for the home run play. I learned how to be patient on and off the court.”
Despite their talents as a team, it wasn’t always perfect. The players would go at it every practice, which would sometimes escalate into fights from the intensity.
His junior year, the Saints were one of the top teams in the nation, compiling a 23-6 record and capturing the Catholic League title. Harper played a smaller role, averaging only 7 points per game.
While being patient, Harper found a more spotlight role his senior season. He averaged 12 points per game and scored 379 points, second on the team to Newton. The team, as a result, flourished, and earned national recognition.
“We went to City of Palms in Florida,” Troy says of the tournament. “It threw me off when little kids would run up to us and know our names.”
He helped lead the nationally ranked team to a 27-4 record, along with his fourth Catholic League title and a state championship, earning third team All-State at the same time. Coach Chris Clark, who played at Temple and St. Joe’s Prep, down at Campbell University called, offering him a scholarship to attend the school. Coach Clark and Troy had a bond from the get go. But Clark would only stay for one more year at Campbell, instead opting to become the video coordinator at Temple for the 2015-16 season.
Troy, however, found consistent minutes in those two years at Campbell, playing an average of 22 minutes per game and improving in two major categories of his between the two seasons: two point field goal percentage (32% to 45%) and free throw percentage (60% to 76%). The speedy guard relied on contact and his ability to finish and get to the line for his success, averaging 13 points per game his sophomore season.
“My pick-and-roll IQ has gotten better from having the ball in my hands more,” he says of what he absorbed from his time at Campbell. “I learned not to go for the home run play as much as I did in high school.”
Despite the valuable lessons he learned, Troy didn’t know if he could stay in North Carolina for another two seasons.
“After our conference tournament, it was our spring break so I was home,” he said. “I told my parents that I wanted them to come to more games and we started talking about it then.”
For his family to come and see him more often, however, he had to make the “tough” decision to transfer. When Coach Clark heard, he gave Troy another ring: he had just joined the Drexel staff, which had been rebuilt after the firing of coach Bruiser Flint, and is now ran by former Army coach Zach Spiker. They wanted Troy to come up to Drexel and return home.
With the patience he had learned at Neumann and over the years at Campbell, he made a thorough decision. In the end, he fell in love with Drexel, accepting the offer over another one from Monmouth, and finally returning home so his family could see him play. It won’t be too hard for them to make it from their Southwest Philadelphia residence just 20 minutes away.
Troy will have to continue staying patient though, as he is going to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Despite that, he is getting ready to go, already working on his standstill jumpshot that the coaching staff wants him to improve. Although he isn’t enrolled and cannot play this season, he likes the system they will have in place and how he fits in.
“Coach Spiker and coach Clark told me that they want to play fast,” Troy says. “That’s what I like to do. That’s how we played at Neumann. That’s how I played my whole life.”
Ever since his days as a running back, Troy Harper has liked going fast.
Photo: Will Bratton
Drexel’s new head coach Zach Spiker has received his first 2016 commitment.
Kurk Lee Jr., a point guard from Baltimore, MD, made his decision to join the Dragons yesterday after receiving an offer from Drexel this past Thursday. Lee’s father is Kurk Lee Sr., who starred at Towson University and went on to play in the NBA. He gives Spiker and his staff much needed help in the backcourt after guards Terrell Allen and Sammy Mojica transferred following the dismissal of head coach Bruiser Flint in March.
Lee’s size (5-foot-8, 140 pounds) may concern some, but despite his physical traits, he filled up the stat sheet this past season for St. Frances Academy. He averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds, according to The Baltimore Sun. Furthermore, he earned a spot on the All-Metro first team and helped St. Frances win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship.
The three-year high school starter joins Sam Green and Jeremy Peck in Drexel’s 2016 class. Western Kentucky and Maryland Eastern Shore also showed interest in Lee.
Photo: Colby Ware / BALTIMORE SUN
Amidst tons of changes, Drexel recruit Jeremy Peck has been keeping things consistent this season.
By not straying from his usual routine, the Houston, Texas native has found success in all levels of his basketball career. For his high school, St. Thomas Catholic, Peck took his team to the semifinals in Dallas of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state tournament at the 5A level, the highest classification for a private school. There they fell to eventual champion Prestonwood Christian but Peck saw this as a learning opportunity, despite being his last high school game, he knew the exact formula for how Prestonwood stopped his production.
“They have a 7-footer who’s going to Mississippi State and packed in a 2-3 zone with him or another guy doubling me wherever I went,” he said. “They had a freshman kid knocking down 3’s. When they had the lead they packed it in and slowed it down. Possessions went longer and longer as the game went on and we weren’t able to score enough late in the game. It was pretty frustrating.”
He also noted his own team’s struggles and how they contributed to the loss.“We started the game and couldn’t hit a 3 or an open jump shot, we had a really cold game. We missed 10 or so free throws and that is unusual for our team so something just wasn’t right for us.”
Despite not making it to the ultimate destination, a state championship, Peck says the personal goals he set in the beginning of the season were attained. The big man did indeed make 1st team All-District and All-State as well as the All-Tournament team. He also aimed at averaging a double-double and he thinks his numbers should fit around where he thought: within 16-17 points per game and between 8-10 rebounds per game. He commented that this season was different from past years, saying “this season was a little more difficult. In our district, more teams knew about our style of play and I had a man or two on me at all times. I was more of a catch and assist guy so I didn’t have to be a scorer, [but] it was fun getting the whole team involved.”
All in all the season was a success for Peck, which will in turn, make his move into the college game a lot easier. Without worrying about games he can now focus on wrapping up this school year and training, which resume this month with his personal trainer.
A spot he would like to work on his continuing to grow his ability to stretch the floor offensively. When being initially recruited by Drexel, then head coach Bruiser Flint was really interested in Peck’s dual-threat offensive ability, as he has a solid post game and a legitimate three-point threat in his arsenal. This season, between AAU with his the Defenders, and St. Thomas ball, Peck noticed he was playing more and more like a guard. He started to take and make more threes than in -years past. He dribbled the ball more and even brought it up acting as the point guard on numerous occasions. He hopes that will give him a greater chance of playing meaningful minutes as a freshman. “I hope it helps me stand out… During the recruitment process, that’s what everyone was saying. I would be able to space the floor and spot up and take 3’s. I’m not just a back-to-the-basket type player but I can do both. That’s what coaches really loved about me.”
Coaching is especially important for Peck, who was lured to Drexel mainly by the dual efforts of DU assistant coach Bobby Jordan and the Defenders’ AAU staff who has Philadelphia ties. Bruiser Flint and Drexel parted ways at the end of this season after 15 years, ushering a new era in Dragon basketball.
Zach Spiker takes over after serving as the head coach at the United States Military Academy for seven seasons, where he led the team to the most amount of wins in 30 years. The change came as a huge surprise to Peck. When I asked him what his initial reaction was upon hearing the news, he responded by saying Flint and his staff “were recruiting [him] the longest, ever since the middle of [his] junior year. He was really looking forward towards playing with those guys and was sad that it happened but realizes it’s a business when it comes to that area. Spiker reached out to Peck during the change and had a handful of really positive conversations over the phone with him and his family. Peck sees the coaching change as a sign of progression for the program. “It happened two or three years ago with UNC-Wilmington so why can’t we do the same thing?”
He also commented that, “It’s a real possibility [that we have success] with the players we have: young, still growing, and getting better and better, so I think that could be a real possibility.”
Under the leadership of Spiker, Drexel’s young team (only 2 seniors on the roster) will have a great opportunity to make noise early, especially if Peck gets involved as a freshman. Spiker, who has gained accolades from the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, the former Army player and head coach and now current coach at Duke University, called Spiker "one of the outstanding young basketball coaches in the country.” Coach K extended his praise for Spiker by saying, “the job he did at Army over the past seven seasons was amazing. His teams play with incredible enthusiasm, paceb and toughness -- all traits that reflect Zach, who will surely make the most of this opportunity. Drexel basketball is in store for some big things under coach Spiker's leadership." With arguably the greatest coach of all time in Spiker’s corner, things should go his and Peck’s way for the next four seasons.
Photo: St. Thomas basketball Twitter account (@STHSBasketball)
Drexel has found its next head basketball coach. Zach Spiker, who held the same position with Army for the past seven seasons. He will take over after the dismissal of Bruiser Flint. The Triangle’s Adam Hermann broke the story earlier this afternoon.
Spiker posted a 102-112 career record while at Army. This past season he helped the Black Knights go 19-14 overall with a 9-9 conference record. Furthemore, Spiker served as an assistant coach under current Penn head coach Steve Donahue from 2004-2009 at Cornell.
The 2013 Patriot League Coach of the Year will inherit a Drexel team that finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 6-25 record, their worst during Flint’s tenure. This will be a tough task for the 39 year old.
Photo: Lance King/Getty Images
By William Derry
Head Coach Bruiser Flint has been fired by Drexel after 15 seasons. Flint made the announcement himself yesterday morning after Drexel loss to Hofstra in the quarterfinals of the 2016 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship tournament this past weekend. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first broke the story with this tweet.
The Dragons finished the 2015-16 season with a 6-25 record, which was the worst record in Flint’s tenure at Drexel and was the third losing season for them in the past four years. Flint’s best season at the helm came during the 2011-12 season when Drexel went 29-7 but loss in the CAA championship to VCU and as a result, did not qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Throughout Flint’s time with the Dragons he amassed a 245-217 record and four CAA Coach of the Year awards but never qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Doug Overton is a potential candidate for the open coaching vacancy. Overton, the former La Salle standout, began his coaching career as an assistant under Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph’s in 2006. He currently works for Comcast SportsNet as a color commentator on 76ers broadcasts.
Another potential candidate for the job opening is Bobby Jordan. Jordan currently serves on Drexel’s coaching staff as an assistant coach. The Philadelphia native primarily works with the team’s guards and recruits for Drexel. Jordan had a major impact on the development of former Dragon Damion Lee and senior Tavon Allen.
Photo: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
By William Derry
After finishing the regular season 5-24, Drexel faced Elon in the first round of the 2016 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship tournament in Baltimore, MD. The Dragons defeated Elon 57-56 on a game-winning field goal by freshman guard Terrell Allen, who finished the game with 11 points.
Drexel then faced Hofstra in the quarterfinals, where they lost 80-67. The Dragons could not slow down CAA Player of the Year Juan’ya Green, who scored a game-high 22 points. Rodney Williams led Drexel in scoring with 20 points and added 11 boards.
The lost to Hofstra ends the 2015-16 season for the Dragons, who finish the campaign with a 6-25 overall record.
Photo: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
-Drexel loses to Charleston in the quarterfinal of the CAA tournament