D-II Men's Basketball Preview: High hopes for Jean-Guillaume, Franklin Pierce
It's just not the team most would expect.
Franklin Pierce University's rise from the ashes a year ago has made the Ravens of Rindge the new hot thing going into this season.
Division II Bulletin tabbed the Ravens second in its preseason poll, the National Association of Basketball Coaches picked them 10th and the Northeast-10 coaches made them the favorite to win the conference. On top of that, senior guard Eric Jean-Guillaume, of Stamford, Conn., was named the NABC preseason player of the year.
Heady stuff for a program that hadn't had a winning season since the 2001-02 season and was 6-21 the season before last year's 22-8 breakout campaign that included a share of the NE-10 regular-season title and its first trip to the NCAAs in 16 years.
"We don't even talk about it," FPU coach David Chadbourne said. "We talked about goals when we first got together in September and that was it."
We'll find out more about the Ravens as well as Southern New Hampshire University and St. Anselm when all three teams open their season.
The Ravens face LIU Post in Manchester on the first day of the SNHU tournament Friday at 5:30. The host Penmen play Wilmington (Del.) University at 7:30. St. Anselm also opens up Saturday afternoon at 4 when it plays Concordia on the first day of the St. Rose tournament in Albany, N.Y.
Here's a quick look at each team.
Jean-Guillaume is an athletic guard who can take over a game with his athleticism and ability to score in streaks. He was the NE-10 player of the year after averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game last season. But the Ravens are far from a one-man show.
Junior forward Ellis Cooper was also named to the all-conference first team and the Ravens return most of the players who formed a deep and tireless rotation a year ago. Look for UMass Lowell transfer Scotty Tavares-Taylor and junior college transfer Georgios Papapetrou to make them even deeper.
St. Anselm coach Keith Dickson could have joined SNHU counterpart Stan Spirou in the exclusive 500-win club with a really good season a year ago, but it was anything but.
The Hawks opened last season by losing eight of their first 10 games and never recovered, finishing 12-14 for their first losing season in four years. Dickson goes into this season with 488 wins.
The team was built around freshman guard Roy Mabrey, so they should already be better than last season based solely on him being a year older. Mabrey averaged 15.1 points in his rookie season and showed flashes of being the next great St. Anselm player.
Junior forward Allen Harris transferred and center Jack Keough graduated, which means the team's two other double-digit scorers from last year are gone, but look for sophomore forward Chris Santo (a transfer from Vermont) and freshman forward Mike McCahey to have an immediate impact.
The Penmen have never had three consecutive losing seasons in their 49 years, but that's the dubious record they are trying to avoid after going 11-15 two years ago and 12-15 last season.
Spirou turned his team over to a core of young players last year and he'll be banking on them to learn from that experience. Sophomore BJ Carderelli, Elijah Bonsignore and Aleksandar Dobrovic are a talented trio; now they will be expected to be more consistent.
The team may be even younger than last year with freshman guard Rodney Sanders - another in a string of prep players from St. Thomas More to join the Penmen - and freshman center Kostas Mantalvanos expected to be in the rotation.
"We're expecting a little diaper rash because we're so young, but once we get everyone together, there's some talent," Spirou said.
Two other new players who are more than familiar with the program are expected to provide immediate help after sitting out last year; junior guard Mike Stys of Hooksett (Central) is a transfer from New Haven and red-shirt freshman forward David Madol of Manchester (Memorial/Trinity) could be key players. Madol is out for at least three weeks after preseason knee surgery; he also has to sit out two games for playing in a non-sanctioned summer league event.