NYC Metro Preview: #14 Sacred Heart
14. Sacred Heart (2006-07 Record: 18-14, 12-6 NEC)
Head coach: Dave Bike
Returning Starters: 2- G Drew Shubik (senior): 6-4, 205; C Liam Potter (junior): 7-0, 230.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. Where’s Joey Henley? Well. Henley was lost in the preseason to a knee injury, ending his 2006-07 campaign. And while losing your leading returning scorer (11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and one of the best athletes in the NEC is a serious blow, Sacred Heart can still be competitive in the wide-open NEC this year. So we may as well begin in the frontcourt when looking at the Pioneers in 2007-08. Three returnees who stand to contribute this season are seniors Brice Brooks and Luke Granato, and junior Ryon Howard. Brooks (9.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is Sacred Heart’s leading returning rebounder and has the ability to score inside as well. Granato (8.8 ppg, 39.9% 3PT) is a capable offensive threat who hit eight from behind the arc in a game against North Carolina last season. Howard, who only played two games last season due to a knee injury, got the season off to a good start with 15 and 14 against Yale. Also looking to help make up for the loss of Henley are junior Liam Potter (65.9% FG, 7-0 tall), redshirt freshman Joshua Marshall (Woodmere, NY) and true freshman Mehmet Sahan (Istanbul, Turkey).
The backcourt also has to replace some players, but the graduation of Jarrid Frye and Tavio Hobson was expected. Drew Shubik (9.8 ppg, 4.1 apg), who was second in the NEC in steals last season, will once again start in the backcourt. The other half of the starting equation is sophomore Chauncey Hardy (10.6 ppg, 43.8% 3PT), a member of the NEC All-Rookie Team in 2006-07. Hardy takes over at the point for the departed Frye. Boston University transfer Corey Hassan, a member of the America East All-Rookie Team in 05-06, will also see a lot of playing time this season. The first guard off the bench will most likely be sophomore Ryan Litke (8.4 ppg, 43.1 3PT), a long range specialist who averaged 13 ppg in the Pioneers’ run to the NEC Tournament final. Freshman Jerrell Thompson (Plainfield, NJ) also has the ability to crack the guard rotation in a backup role.
The non-conference schedule, while it possesses its fair share of challenges, could get the Pioneers to January with a record above .500. After the opener at Yale, Sacred Heart has games against the likes of Fairfield (November 18th), St. John’s (November 20th), Providence (December 18th), Boston College (December 28th) and Holy Cross (December 30th). Only the Holy Cross game is at home, but the road games will provide the Pioneers with some good tests heading into NEC play. Conference play begins with back-to-back road games (Monmouth, CCSU) in early December. In total, eight of SHU’s first nine games are away from home.
The loss of Henley is a huge one indeed, one that makes a run at the NEC title an even tougher chore. But since the league is pretty wide-open as a whole, it is a definite possibility. Sacred Heart, who hasn’t played well to start the season, looks to be more or less in the middle of the pack in the conference. If Henley were healthy, then I’d pick them to finish in the top three. But Coach Bike does have a good amount of experience back this season, so you never know what can happen.