Men's basketball primed for a winning season
Chuck Martin knew he needed to have a plan.
Three years ago, Martin, the head coach of the Marist men's basketball team, had just seen his team go through one of worst seasons in program history: a 1-29 overall record.
Martin understood that the necessary improvements could not me made overnight or within the next season. He met with his coaching staff shortly after the season's end, and they determined their plan of action.
The plan, according to Martin, would be to "get better by five." For the next season, and the season after that, the goal for the Red Foxes would be to improve their winning mark by five games.
The following season, the team won six games, keeping on track. Last season, Marist went above the projection, earning 14 victories, including one in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament.
Three years later, the plan is right on schedule.
"We [the team] have been working hard for three years," Martin said, as his team begins to prepare for the 2012-2013 season. "Now, we are starting to reap the benefits of that [plan] a little bit."
For the first time in many seasons, the Marist men's basketball team has emerged as a favorite in the MAAC. The Red Foxes return their entire starting lineup from the 2011-2012 campaign, losing only one member of the team to graduation.
Martin said that having the whole team back, something that he has not had in years past, has made preseason practices much easier.
"The fact that we have some older guys in the program, guys like Dorvell [Carter] and Devin [Price] is great. It makes it much easier for our team," Martin said.
Carter and Price are elder statesmen of the team, players who have been through the highs and lows with this program. Last season, Carter missed all but three games due to a torn ACL, averaging 11.3 points per game (PPG). Price had a career year for the Red Foxes last year, averaging career highs in PPG (13.6), three-point field goals made (60) and free-throw percentage (.800).
Carter, who will serve as one of the team's captains this season along with Price and junior Jay Bowie, expressed his anticipation for the start of the season.
"I am very excited for the season," Carter said. "This is probably the toughest team we have had since I've been here. There is a lot of depth; we have two or three guys at every position. We all have been working hard [in practice] to try and have a great season."
Marist also returns a junior class with plenty of starting experience. Bowie has appeared in all 65 of the team's games over the past two seasons and has started in all but one of them. He led the team in field goal percentage last year (.491). Center Adam Kemp started all 32 games last season, averaging 8.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Forwards Pieter Prinsloo and redshirt junior Anell Alexis also have valuable experience starting and coming off the bench.
Martin expressed his approval of the way the upperclassmen, especially the captains, have handled their roles during the preseason and how they have set the tone for the rest of the group.
"They [the captains] are great. They really echo my thoughts and the agenda for the week, and we have never really had that before," Martin said. "In the past, I never felt like there was anyone [on the team] that deserved to be a captain. These guys really deserved the right to be captains."
There are many key underclassmen contributors returning for the Red Foxes, including last season's freshman sensation Chavaughn Lewis. The swingman from Queens, N.Y. led the team in scoring last year with 14.4 PPG and was named to the All-MAAC Rookie Team. Fellow sophomores Isaiah Morton (7.8 PPG and 2.6 AST) and Manny Thomas also return after strong first seasons.
Another sophomore who has generated a lot of attention during the preseason is guard T.J. Curry. Curry dropped 30 pounds in the offseason, impressing his teammates and his coaches with his new physique. Martin also said that as whole, the team certainly "got bigger."
"Physically, everyone looks like they gained 10 pounds of muscle. T.J. is the obvious one, but Isaiah, Chavaughn and Manny all look great too, and that's just to name a few. That just shows the commitment that these guys made to the program and each other. I was really impressed with how everyone looked," Martin said.
The freshmen class consists of three players: forward Phillip Lawrence, center Eric Truog and guard Khallid Hart. Hart, the Delaware State Player of the Year last year, suffered a knee injury during training camp and will be given a medical redshirt this season. Despite the loss, Martin is looking to Lawrence and Truog to contribute right away.
"Having the three captains and the upperclassmen has been great for their [the freshmen] development," Martin said. "They seem really comfortable on and off the court, and they are definitely able to contribute for us early on."
Three years after the suffering through that tumultuous 1-29 season, the Marist program looks to keep the momentum it has built. Martin explained that, while the process of building the right team may have taken a long time, the benefit of taking that time will, hopefully, be seen for seasons to come.
"When I took this job five years ago, I told the administration that we were going to do this the right way. Brick, by brick, by brick," Martin said. "When you build a house, the foundation is going to be strong, and it is going to stand the test of time. That has been the motto for this program: brick, by brick, by brick."
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