Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Drake: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 28-5, 15-3 (1st MVC)

Key Losses: Adam Emmenecker (8.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.8 apg, MVC POY), Leonard Houston (14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Klayton Korver (10.4 ppg, 84 3's), Keno Davis (coach)

Key Returnees: Josh Young (15.9 ppg, 43% 3's, 86 3's), Jonathan Cox (12.3 ppg, 8.5 ppg)

Newcomers: Sean Jones, Craig Stanley, Brett Spiker, Adam Templeton, Mark Phelps (coach)

Drake had their best season in recent memory last year, but they are going to have to replace a lot, including head coach Keno Davis, who left for the bright lights of Providence one year after taking over for his father. The Bulldogs bring in former Arizona State assistant Mark Phelps to take over. The Bulldogs are also going to have a lot of talent to replace. PG and MVC player of the year Adam Emmenecker, their most valuable player despite not putting up big numbers, Leonard Houston, and Klayton Korver all graduated, meaning that Drake will have to replace three starters who each logged over 30 mpg.

They do have some talent returning. Josh Young, who was the MVC's leading scorer at 15.9 ppg, is an explosive 6'1" shooter (86 3's, 43%), who can get hot and put up points in a hurry. Young is one of the up-and-coming stars in college basketball, and could be an all-american if he can continue to improve. Jonathan Cox also returns. He was Drake's only best front court player last season. Cox is the typical MVC big man - 6'8", scrappy rebounder, decent post moves and a great jump shot. Cox improved a lot as the season went on, and he played his best basketball towards the end of the season. He averaged 14 ppg and 8.7 rpg in the MVC tourney, and then exploded for career-highs of 29 and 16 in Drake's first-round loss to Western Kentucky.

Drake is going to need big seasons out of those two if they hope to come close to the success they had last season. Jacob Baryenbruch (who started five games last year when Young was injured), John Michael Hall, and Brent Heemskerk, all seniors, also return for the Bulldogs, although Heemskerk led the trio, averaging only 18 mpg. Drake does bring in some talent this year. Craig Stanley is a talented JuCo transfer who could compete for time at the point and Sean Jones is a 6'11" center who was fairly highly recruited, but may be a year or two away from really contributing. Two transfers will also become eligible. Adam Templeton should fit right into Drake's team, as he averaged 8.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 59 3's in two years starting at UC Irvine. Brett Spiker, transferring in from Peru State, will also become eligible.

Outlook: Drake does have a lot of talent on this roster, and should be a favorite along with Creighton and ISU to win the MVC. But their season will hinge on how well these players can adjust to whatever system Phelps' brings in. Drake was successful last year because of the unique zone defense they played, and the semi-Princeton/three-point heavy offense they ran.

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