Head Coach : Blaine Taylor; 161-94, eight years at Old Dominion
Previous Season : 25-10:12-6 CAA (tied 3rd);won CollegeInsider.com Tournament
Departures : F Jonathan Adams, G Etoile Imama
Additions : G Josh Hicks, F/C Anton Larsen
Last season, Old Dominion initially found life difficult without guards Brian Henderson and Brandon Johnson, losing three of its first four games. The Monarchs rebounded by winning seven in a row.
However, the team was not ready to begin conference play with only one senior on the roster and started the meaningful part of the schedule off slowly. The Monarchs eventually began to gel as a unit, and the team won 14 of its last 16 games.
ODU enters this season with all five starters returning and a bench mainly comprised of returning personnel. Free-throw shooting was one of the few areas that the Monarchs were weaker at than their opponents.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG Darius James , 6'1", 170 lbs, Jr. (6.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG,4.5 APG, 34% FG, 66% FT)
James was the only Monarch to start all 35 games last year. Entering this season, he is considered to be the best playmaker in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Last year, James finished third in the CAA in both assists and assist/turnover ratio. Along with controlling the pace of the game more effectively, James needs to improve his shooting percentage from three-point range.
SG Marsharee Neely , 6'2", 190 lbs, Sr. (7.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 40% FG, 62% FT)
Neely played in every game last year and improved as the season progressed. In the CIT Tournament, he averaged 10.0 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Neely made 38 three-pointers last season, but is mainly known his strong defensive play. Like most of the Monarchs, Neely needs to improve his free-throw percentage.
SF Ben Finney , 6'5", 220 lbs, Jr. (9.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 45% FG, 58% FT)
Finney is a unique combination of a player who likes to shoot from the outside and enjoys banging inside for defensive rebounds. He is also an exceptional off-the-ball defender.
Along with his shooting ability, Finney is an accomplished passer. Finney's unselfishness and hustle are key to keeping the squad playing as one entity.
PF Frank Hassell , 6'8", 245 lbs, Jr. (7.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.9 BLK, 52% FG, 64% FT)
Hassell displayed his toughness by being the MVP of the CIT Tournament while playing the championship game with a stress fracture in his right leg.
Hassell showed improvement during the year as he averaged 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the last ten games of the season. If he improves his shooting range, Hassell will find it easier to penetrate inside and open the paint for his teammates.
PF/C Gerald Lee , 6'10", 250 lbs, Sr. (15.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 54% FG, 76% FT)
Entering his senior season, Lee is regarded as one the best players in the CAA. Coach Taylor has built the offense around Lee's varied skills.
Lee has a wide range of inside moves but also possesses a polished jump shot that extends to the free-throw line. He can even bring the ball up the court when the opposing team presses.
Because of his strong foul shooting, the Monarchs are not afraid to feed the ball to Lee in pressure situations at the end of games.
G/F Kent Bazemore 6'5", 190 lbs, So. (4.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 43% FG, 43% FT)
Bazemore is the most athletic player for ODU and is a destined to become an all-time great if he improves his shooting.
Bazemore is as quick as lightning and is able to out-jump players that are much taller. He provides a needed spark of the bench by quickening the pace of the game. The challenge for Taylor is to find playing time for Bazemore behind an experienced starting five.
F Keyon Carter 6'8", 218 lbs, Jr. (7.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 44% FG, 71% FT)
Although Carter is mainly used off the bench, he did start 13 games last season. Carter made 22 3-pointers last season but is also able to score inside. Twice last season, he scored 17 points in a game.
F Chris Cooper 6'9", 215 lbs, So. (1.0 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 55% FG, 17% FT)
Cooper averaged 4.8 minutes per game last season, and he will not find playing time any easier to get this year.
When Cooper did find himself in a game, he often tried to play too quickly. Averaging 16.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in AAU basketball during the summer of 2008 proves that Cooper does possess the ability to play at this level.
G Marquel De Lancey , 6'0", 190 lbs, So. (0.9 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 48% FG, 33% FT)
De Lancey will again serve as the backup to James at the point guard position. As the season progressed, De Lancey was able to run the offense better. Decision making is the area he needs the most improvement in.
G Josh Hicks , 6'2", 180 lbs, Fr.
As a senior in high school, Hicks led his team in North Carolina to a 31-1 record. That year, Hicks averaged 17.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 4.5 steals.
After Hicks' senior campaign, the Charlotte Observer named Hicks to the Third Team North Carolina All-State squad. Hicks will probably play both guard positions in a substitute role.
G Trian Iliadis , 6'3", 185 lbs, So. (2.4 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 34% FG, 80% FT)
In some games last season, Iliadis sparked the team with his three-point shooting ability. However, at other times, he didn't get off the bench until garbage time.
With the arrival of Hicks, the Australian may not be able to expand on the 6.2 minutes per game he averaged last year.
F/C Anton Larsen , 7'0", 240 lbs, Fr.
Larsen is a current member of the Danish national team. His main role this year will be to learn from Lee and prepare to take over at the pivot next season.
F Nick Wright , 6'8", 205 lbs, Fr.
Coach Taylor redshirted Wright last season. In 2007, Wright averaged 12.7 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 6.4 blocks for Nansemond High School in Suffolk, Virg.
Wright will mainly be used off the bench for rebounding and defense. He may be able to display his scoring ability in blowout situations.
Nov. 27 @ Missouri : This Missouri team may not be as good as last year's version, but the game will still be a challenge for ODU.
Dec. 2 @ Richmond : A competitive game between two teams looking for an NCAA bid.
Dec. 11 @ Dayton : The Flyers are probably the best team in the Atlantic 10 this year.
Dec. 19 @ Georgetown : It will be interesting to see how Lee plays against Greg Monroe.
Feb. 27 Virginia Commonwealth : The last conference game of the year could decide who is the regular season champion of the CAA.
Unlike last year, ODU begins this season with an experienced roster. There are certainly some major tests in the non-conference schedule, but the Monarchs should be up to the challenge. It is also important for a team that wants to play in the NCAA Tournament to play a schedule that will allow the team to stand out.
Last season, seven of the 12 teams in the CAA finished with winning records, with five of those squads winning at least 20 games. The conference should be as good, if not better, this year.
Gerald Lee should challenge for Player of the Year honors in the CAA. Only devastating injuries or other unforeseen disasters will keep the Monarchs from playing in the post season this year.
With coach Anthony Grant and point guard Eric Maynor gone from VCU's program, ODU should win the conference title. If ODU finishes first, that achievement should be enough for ODU to secure an NCAA bid even if the Monarchs fail to win the conference tournament.
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