Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)
La Salle men’s basketball coach John Giannini was full of optimism during the Atlantic 10 media day on Thursday. Dr. Giannini believes his team will be ready to compete for a title in what he calls an “elite conference.”
“We think that we are good enough to win against anyone in this league,” he said. “But in this league you can lose against anyone in the league. It will be the proverbial dogfight every night. But we are extremely confident going in.”
“I will stack up the potential number of NCAA tournament teams in the A10 this year with any other conference in the country,” said Giannini. “I think you have eight or nine teams that could make a legitimate argument today that they have a chance at it.”
The Explorers return four starters from a team that went 21-12 (9-7 A-10) and reached the NIT last season; they also add two players who were around the program but could not play last season. Point guard Tyreek Duren–who led the team with four assists a game last season–as well as fellow guard Ramon Galloway, who contributed just over 14 points per game last season after transferring from South Carolina, are two big reasons why La Salle will be tough to stop offensively.
“We are really happy,” said Giannini. “We have pretty much everyone back. We have Tyrone Garland, who sat out all last year, to help offset Earl’s loss. Tyrone is a player we recruited out of high school, and we know he is capable of being an outstanding player in the A10.”
Earl Pettis was the only graduating senior on last years squad, and led the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game. He played over 1,000 minutes for the Explorers in his senior season.
“We feel that trading Earl for Tyrone is an apple for an apple trade,” remarked Giannini. “And everyone else is a year older and better, so we are extremely excited.”
Giannini continued his high praises for Tyrone Garland, who has to sit out until the end of the first school semester due to transfer rules. Garland, who will be a redshirt junior, transferred from Virginia Tech. He played just over 10 minutes a game in his first eight games of his sophomore season at Virginia Tech before transferring. The Bartram High grad is one of just three players in Public League history to score 2,000 points (Wilt Chamberlain, Maurice Watson).
“He is strong, he is fast, he is quick, he can score as he showed in high school,” said the ninth-year coach. “He is a better passer than people realize. And that’s what we want, complete guards.”
“He is going to be good at everything. He is not a specialist. And that is saying a lot when you say a player can be good at everything. But I don’t see anything that we want our guards to do that is not within Tyrone’s capabilities. He is a complete guard.”
Giannini also outlined the role of Rohan Brown, a redshirt freshman out of Hartford, Connecticut. Brown averaged over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game during his senior year at East Catholic High School, and earned all state honors. Though he also did not play at all last year, Giannini believes Brown could be a key piece for the Explorers.
“Rohan is a guy that we are really hoping can help us,” said Giannini. “We do need another player in our rotation. We do need more strength and toughness. We do need someone to help with rebounding, and Rohan has the potential to do all of the above. If he can give us some toughness, some defense, some rebounding, it would be a big deal.”
“If he could take care of the ball for us it would be a big deal,” added Giannini. “He is the only in between size player on our roster. So my goal for Rohan is to pass like a guard. By that I don’t mean use the pick and roll like Tyreek Duren, It doesn’t mean break people down like Ramon Galloway. What I mean when I say pass like a guard is not being turnover prone. Being smart and strong with the basketball.”
“If Rohan can be a low turnover, high rebound guy, we really have a player who can help us, and that’s what we need him to do. If he does do that, we are a much deeper team.”
Between the four returning starters, and the addition of two players that have been around the program, Giannini and the Explorers have reason to be excited. La Salle returns over 70% of their scoring from last year. The Explorers will open their regular season at home against the University of Delaware on November 10.