Old Dominion Monarchs
Overall Rank: #68
Conference Rank: #3 Colonial
2006-07: 24-9, 15-3, 2nd
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Old Dominion may lose their top three players from their NCAA team of a season ago, but that does not mean the Monarchs will not be looking for another tournament berth this year. Behind the big losses are some talented youngsters who are ready to emerge as impact players for ODU. Coach Blaine Taylor’s efficient style of basketball allows for the loss of key players without much loss in the standings and the Monarchs never slip as far as it may appear on paper.
It cannot get much better than the frontcourt combination of Valdas Vasylius and Arnaud Dahi. The duo combined for 25.0 points and 12.4 rebounds per contest. While neither was much of a beast inside, both could step outside and hit the long ball and proved to be prolific scorers by the end of their collegiate careers. Point guard Drew Williamson averaged 4.3 assists and only 1.6 turnover per game. Replacing that turnover margin, not to mention Williamson’s 11.0 points per game, will not be easy, but ODU has plenty of perimeter talent returning. John Morris has wrapped up his career with the Monarchs after seeing limited action in 15 games last year.
Defensively, ODU will be great. Where the offense comes from is the concern and if any of the four incoming freshmen on the perimeter can contribute a bit in the scoring column, it will be a pleasant bonus. Ben Finney, a 6-5 wing, has the size and the strength to get to the basket and become a dynamic scorer. A year at prep school will certainly help the local Norfolk, Virginia product, but how long it takes to adjust to the level of play will determine how good the season will be for Finney. Kent Bazemore, another 6-5 wing, is a solid athlete and he has the ability to help out on the glass if the new look frontcourt has some problems in that department. Darius James and Etoile Imama will add some more depth to the backcourt, but it is Imama who is expected to be a big contributor before his days as a Monarch are over. The 6-3 point guard has international experience playing for the Canadian Under-19 national team and is coming from the famous Champlain St. Lambert program, which has produced numerous Division I players. Imama will spend a year as the backup, but he should be a great scoring point guard before all is said and done. In the frontcourt, Frank Hassell is expected to contribute right away. The 6-8 redshirt freshman is tough, will score on the inside and can get on the glass. Keyon Carter is a little less polished, but the 6-7 forward is a superb athlete and will be asked to play some minutes at the power forward spot.
Who to Watch:
The new stars of the team will be Brandon Johnson and Brian Henderson. Johnson, who averaged 8.3 points, 3.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds is ready to take over the leadership role. Henderson is the long range shooter of the squad and should improve on his 9.4 points per game since he will be asked to take many more shots. Abdi Lidonde has been inconsistent at best during his collegiate career. It may be asking too much for the redshirt senior to become more than a shooter off the bench, but he has the potential to explode on any given night. Assuming Lidonde’s consistency remains an issues, Marsharee Neely is ready to take over. Neely was rarely given the opportunity to show his stuff as a freshman, but the 6-2 sophomore will find more opportunities during the 2007-2008 campaign.
The Monarchs have one genuine, although relatively unproven, star in the frontcourt. Gerald Lee managed to earn six starts as a freshman despite the talent in front of him. If Lee lives up to his potential, nobody will remember Vasylius and Dahi by January. Jonathan Adams may play the most important role on the team. The power forward has yet to live up to his potential, but getting some scoring from him will really open up Lee to have his breakout year. Crowd favorite Sam Harris will eat up some minutes in the paint. The 7-3 center will not do much more than that though. ODU will be good, but not quite as good as last year. And that means they will be on the wrong side of the bubble this time.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Brandon Johnson, Senior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Abdi Lidonde, Senior, Guard, 4.6 points per game
Brian Henderson, Senior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Jonathan Adams, Junior, Forward, 3.0 points per game
Gerald Lee, Sophomore, Forward, 4.2 points per game