Top 64 Countdown: No. 64 Drexel

Head coach: Bruiser Flint
Last season: 23-9, 13-5 in Colonial Athletic Association
Postseason: Lost 63-56 to North Carolina State in first round of the NIT
2007-08 breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

Backcourt

The departure of four-year starter Bashir Mason probably will force Drexel to start a true freshman at point guard. New York City products Gerald Colds and Jamie Harris are the most likely candidates to fill the void. No matter who wins the job, he will have big shoes to fill. Mason made the Colonial Athletic Association's all-defensive team each of his four seasons and led the league in steals last year.

DREXEL DRAGONS
Frank Elegar is the Dragons' leading returning scorer.

Probable Starting Five
G Scott Rodgers (8.0 ppg, 2.8 apg)
G Tramayne Hawthorne (7.3 ppg, 49-for-119 from 3-point range)
G Gerald Colds (no stats in 2006-07) or Jamie Harris (no stats in 2006-07)
F Randy Oveneke (3.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
C Frank Elegar (16.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
Top Reserves
F Kenny Tribbett (1.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg)
F Evan Neisler (no stats in 2006-07)
G Lance Feurtado (1.1 ppg)
Drexel also must replace Dominick Mejia, who ranked second on the team in scoring last year with 11.8 points per game. The Dragons have experience elsewhere in the backcourt and should utilize a three-guard rotation that features Scott Rodgers and Tramayne Hawthorne. Rodgers ranked fourth on the team in scoring last year and averaged nearly three assists per game, though he also had an equal number of assists and turnovers (89). Hawthorne shot 41.2 percent from 3-point range and averaged 25 minutes per game as the Dragons' top reserve.

Drexel will lack height on the perimeter, as Hawthorne, Colds and Harris all are 6 feet tall or shorter. Lance Feurtado could provide some 3-point shooting off the bench, and true freshman Adrian Hynes-Guery also has a chance to contribute immediately.

Frontcourt

Drexel will be relying tremendously on center Frank Elegar, who scored a team-high 16.0 points per game and earned second-team all-CAA honors last year. The 6-foot-9 senior ranked fifth in the CAA in scoring and sixth in rebounding last year. He represented the Virgin Islands at the Pan American Games this summer and led his team with 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Elegar will play for the Virgin Islands again later this month in the FIBA Americas Championship.

Elegar will need to step up his game this season because Drexel must replace 6-10 forward Chaz Crawford, who was named the CAA defensive player of the year last season. Crawford led the league in rebounds (9.3 per game) and blocks (3.0). Oveneke is the most likely candidate to fill the other frontcourt spot after averaging 17.4 minutes per game in a reserve role last year.

The Dragons also should expect contributions from 6-9 sophomore Kenny Tribbett and Boston College transfer Evan Neisler, a 6-8 forward who sat out last season. Yannick Formbor is a 6-8 forward who also could provide depth after redshirting last year.

Offense

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint likes his teams to operate a half-court offense that produces plenty of low-scoring games. The Dragons might play a little more up-tempo this season because their freshman guards possess more speed than size. However, Drexel figures to remain one of the lower-scoring teams in the conference. Hawthorne and Feurtado give Drexel a couple of legitimate 3-point threats, but look for the Dragons to spend most of their time trying to work the ball inside to Elegar.

Defense

Drexel allowed just 60.6 points per game last season to rank 22nd in the nation in scoring defense. The Dragons also ranked 23rd in the nation in field-goal defense and forced opponents to shoot just 40.2 percent. Drexel could have a hard time matching those feats without Mason or Crawford in the lineup, but the Dragons figure to continue playing primarily the man-to-man style that Flint prefers.

Outlook with postseason forecast
After being passed over on Selection Sunday last season, Drexel's chances of avoiding a similar fate this year depend on how well it does in conference play. The Dragons failed to reach the tournament last season despite winning 23 games and posting non-conference road victories over Villanova, Syracuse and Creighton. The biggest strikes against them were a loss in the CAA tournament semifinals and a fourth-place finish in the regular season. The return of Elegar gives Drexel one of the CAA's top players, but the likelihood that a true freshman will open the season as the starting point guard could result in some early season troubles. The Dragons should improve quite a bit over the course of the season, but they'll probably have to settle for a second consecutive NIT bid.

Shoes to Fill

G Bashir Mason (11.2 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.7 rpg), F Chaz Crawford (6.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.3 bpg), G Dominick Mejia (11.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg).

Must Step Up

G Scott Rodgers and G Tramayne Hawthorne. They're the only two backcourt players with substantial college playing experience.

Impact Newcomer

G Gerald Colds or G Jamie Harris. One of these two true freshmen probably will open his college career as Drexel's starting point guard. Boston College transfer Evan Neisler and true freshman Adrian Hynes-Guery also could make major contributions.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

Rivals.com is counting down our Preseason Top 64. Coming tomorrow: No. 63.


 

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