Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)
The La Salle Explorers are coming off their best year since the early 90′s, and four returning starters have head coach John Giannini optimistic for the 2012-2013 season. The road to their first NCAA tournament since the 91-92 season will not be easy, with the depth in the Atlantic 10 running top to bottom. Nevertheless, the Explorers seem poised to make a return to the postseason this year.
(Giannini Speaks: To read Giannini’s thoughts on his team, as well as some other storylines surrounding the 2012-13 Explorers, read Andrew Albert’s column here)
La Salle Explorers Season Primer
Coach: Dr. John Giannini, 9th Season (119-128, .482)
Last Year: 21-13 (9-7 Atlantic 10), Lost in Atlantic 10 tournament second round (St. Louis, 78-71), NIT First Round (Minnesota, 70-61)
Key Losses: Earl Pettis (15.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Devon White (5.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Earl Pettis will be a big loss for the Explorers, as he led the team with 15.4 points per game. His size (6-foot-5) at guard will be hard to replace, as he could both play inside and outside the paint. Devon White, who transferred to Niagara University to play his final year, will be missed for his rebounding. While only managing 16 minutes per game, he still averaged about five rebounds per contest.
New Faces: Tyrone Garland (Virginia Tech), Jermaine Davis (Garfield Heights OH/Garfield Heights), Rohan Brown (Hartford CT/East Catholic), Garvin Hunt (Penn)
Garland, who transferred from Virginia Tech, will be eligible to play in early December. The versatile guard can score in bunches as he showed in high school, scoring over 2,000 points for John Bartram High in Philadelphia. He will play big minutes when he is eligible to play on December 15 against Bucknell.
Davis provides more size (6-foot-9, 280 pounds) for the Explorers, but will need time to develop. His conditioning is something that needs to be improved in order for him to see the court this year, but he has the skill set to be a solid contributor in the near future. Brown red-shirted the 2011-2012 season, which allotted him time to focus on improvement. Brown is able to play a big guard, or small forward position, with a focus on rebounding and defense. Hunt, who last played at Penn in 2009 provides a veteran to the La Salle team, but will most likely not see much playing time.
Starting Frontcourt: Jerrell Wright (9.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) , Steve Zack (1.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Wright was named to the A10 All-Rookie team last season, as he averaged around 10 points and six rebounds per game. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he can be a huge post presence for the Explorers. He is a back to the basket player that has an array of post moves to score with. He has the ability to score effectively, as he shot 57.3 percent from the field, with a game high of 21 points against Central Connecticut State.
Zack has improved immensely during the offseason, and can take some of the post pressure off of Wright. He is a physically imposing player (6-foot-11), and he will play huge minutes if he can rebounds effectively. His offensive game is something that is a work in progress, but he has a jump hook that he can use effectively if he gains the confidence to do so.
Starting Backcourt: Ramon Galloway (14.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Sam Mills (10.6 ppg, 2.6 apg), Tyreek Duren (13.2 ppg, 4.0 apg)
Galloway is the senior leader of this team, and has the ability to take his game to another level after a junior season in which he shot nearly 45 percent from behind the arc. If Galloway can take care of the ball, and take quality shots, he can take the Explorers to another level.
Mills (6-foot-2) is a versatile role guard that can shoot from the outside, but also get into the lane and create. He will most likely share minutes with D.J. Peterson, but will be key for the drive and kick game that La Salle likes to play. His three point percentage will directly relate to how the Explorers fare this season.
Duren, who is on the Bob Cousy Award watch list, can get into the lane at will and finish at the basket. He keeps defenders honest when guarding the three because he will blow right past them for an easy layup if they decide to cheat up. His play will determine how much success the Explorers have this season.
Bench: Brown, Garland D.J. Peterson (3.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg), Taylor Dunn (1.3 ppg, 0.6 rpg), Garvin Hunt
Peterson can knock down threes from the wing from the Explorers, and is a guard that has size and can rebound effectively. Peterson is a player that could start on this team, but makes for a lethal offensive option off the bench. Dunn is a sharp-shooting guard that can knock down threes at a high rate. Though he might see more playing time than the 7.1 minutes he averaged last year during the first half of the season, Tyrone Garland will take minutes away from him when he is eligible.
Brown is a 6-foot-6 forward, who can also step out and take long range jumpshots. His defense and rebounding will get him minutes when Wright or Zack need a rest, or end up in foul trouble. Hunt will most likely not see a lot of action this year, but if he does get in the game he brings a unique game to the floor. He is tall (6-foot-10), but is very lanky. He is very powerful for his weight, and could eat up minutes down low if the Explorers really need it.
Three Games to Watch: vs. Delaware (11/10), vs. Penn State (12/5 @ Palestra), @ Miami (1/2)
The Explorers take on the Blue Hens in the first game of the regular season. Last year, La Salle lost to Delaware 70-66 in Newark. Delaware was picked to finish second in the CAA behind Drexel. Penn State and Delaware County native Pat Chambers will make the trip to the Palestra on December 5th. La Salle and Penn State have history against each other, as they met in the 1954 Final Four, a meeting in which La Salle won, and went on to win their only national championship. A meeting in Miami provides the Explorers an opportunity to get a quality road win against a BCS conference opponent. Miami is the 40th ranked team in the country to start the season, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy, which is the highest ranked non-conference opponent La Salle will face this season.
Jul 17: Steve Zack has renewed focus for La Salle
Jul 24:La Salle has a “big” need this year
Aug 31:John Giannini talks about his latest transfer
Oct 6: Giannini, Explorers ready for an ‘Elite’ A10
Oct 28: La Salle teammates push Jermaine Davis
Nov 2: Explorers’ Peterson set for expanded role
Keys to Success:
1. Rebounding: The Explorer’s success will be directly affected by their ability to rebound successfully. With guards being their strength, they give up size, which means it is more difficult to rebound. Last season, the Explorers ranked 294 in offensive rebounding percentage, which severely limited their second chance points. If La Salle can win on the glass, they can be a successful team. Wright and Zack need to be on the floor in order for the Explorers to rebound effectively, so their minutes directly effect how well the team rebounds.
2. Three-point shooting: Last season, La Salle shot just over 40 percent from three, which ranked fourth in the nation. The trio of Peterson (48.1 percent), Galloway (44.2 percent) and Mills (41.7 percent) all shot over the team average from downtown last season. While shooting at these rates will be hard to maintain, the Explorers will be hard to contain if they can manage to do so. Hitting shots from behind the arc also opens up the offensive games of Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright down low.
3. Third Forward: The Explorers are looking for a third forward to step up this season, which was an issue for them last season. Wright was the only forward on the floor for much of the season, until he ran into foul trouble. He averaged 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes played. Zack also averaged 6.1 fouls per 40 minuted, and White averaged 7.4. With foul trouble being an issue, a third forward to eat up time down low would take pressure off Wright and Zack this season. If Brown can step up and play solid minutes down low off the bench, the Explorers could have a big year.
CoBL Division I 2012-13 Season Primers: | Drexel Dragons | Delaware Blue Hens | La Salle Explorers | Lafayette Leopards | Lehigh Mountain Hawks | Penn State Nittany Lions | Penn Quakers | St. Joseph’s Hawks | Temple Owls | Villanova Wildcats |