16. St. Peter’s (2006-07 Record: 5-25, 3-15 MAAC)
Head coach: John Dunne
Returning Starters: 3- G Tim Spitler (senior): 6’3”, 200; G Raul Orta (senior): 6’5”, 215; F Todd Sowell (senior): 6’7”, 250
2006-07 marked the first season without the greatest player in St. Peter’s history, Keydren Clark. Along with Clark went head coach Bob Leckie, who decided to retire after the Peacocks made a surprising run to the 2006 MAAC Tournament final. In came John Dunne, and he took over a group that had become so reliant upon “Kee Kee” to score that when it was their time to step up, they didn’t handle it too well. The end result was five wins, three of which came in league play. The offense struggled mightily (59.6 ppg) without a player who could go out and create his own opportunities, and the Peacocks turned the ball over too much (16.6 turnovers per game) as well.
But expect the players, led by three returning starters, to be more acclimated to what Coach Dunne wants done on the floor this season. The backcourt will be led by a pair of seniors, Tim Spitler (4.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Raul Orta (13.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg). While he’s not going to light up the scoreboard, Spitler gives the Peacocks a boost with his effort on both ends of the floor. Orta, entering his third season as a starter, saw a lot of time at the point last season, something that hopefully won’t happen as much this year. How much Orta plays the point could very well depend on the development of redshirt freshman Nick Leon (Brooklyn, NY). Leon, who played his high school ball at perennial city power Lincoln HS, is a capable ball handler who averaged eight assists per game in high school. Also joining the backcourt fray are freshmen Darrell Lampley (Linden, NJ), Wesley Jenkins (Newark, NJ) and Kahlil Mumford (Philadelphia). All three should battle for playing time from the start.
The frontcourt will be led by senior Todd Sowell, who is a problem for opposing bigs in the MAAC to say the least. Sowell, who averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, has the ability to go for a double-double anytime he’s on the floor. And with Akeem Gooding available for the entire season, Sowell will have a capable sidekick in the Quinnipiac transfer from Brooklyn. Gooding, who became eligible at mid-season last year, averaged 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in twenty-one games (nineteen starts). The other key returnee up front is redshirt junior Ismaila Traore, who missed all of last season due to injury. Traore, who stands at 6’7”, 230, should provide another sturdy body up front. But help should also come in the form of three freshmen forwards: Jordan Costner (Montclair, NJ, and yes he is Brandon’s little brother), Ryan Bacon (Union, NJ; originally committed to Delaware) and John Hogga (Phoenixville, PA).
In terms of the schedule, St. Peter’s will play most of their games close to home in the non-conference season. Trips to Seton Hall (December 4th) and Providence (December 31st) highlight the early-season slate, along with home dates with Wagner (November 17th), Rutgers (November 25th) and Fairleigh Dickinson (December 22nd). And in addition to the rugged eighteen-game conference schedule (three straight road games in early January- Siena (6th), Marist (11th) and Iona (13th)), all ten MAAC members will take part in the ESPNU BracketBusters event in late-February.
Despite the influx of young talent, the Peacocks will only go as far as their experienced returnees take them. We know what to expect from Orta and Sowell, but look for Akeem Gooding to continue his progress for SPC season. St. Peter’s will win more than the five games they won last season, but how many more they get will depend on the improvement of the offense and how well they take care of the basketball. Unfortunately for the Peacocks, the MAAC is a deep league this season, making it tough for them to make any serious strides up the standings.