“Happiness is not in another place, but in this place…not for another hour…but this hour.” Walt Whitman.
Now that Luke Hancock has found a home, our 2011 vessel of drama appears to be pulling into port. Pat Skerry has a staff; so does Larry Hunter. VCU locked up Shaka Smart. Paul Hewitt is amassing his staff, and his corps will not include Hancock.
Unless somebody uncovers a late recruiting gem–nearly impossible because guys like Dave Telep are very good at their job–the meaningful players on each CAA team’s roster are set, and likely headed to attend summer school.
Finally, mercifully, we feel as if we can talk about next year. It was a concept we were loath to address since so much was up in the air, and Days of Our Lives wasn’t yet out of commercial break.
We still owe you a little from last year and that will come. VCUs Final Four run was inspiring, meaningful, and profitable, but it means even more when put next to Mason’s Final Four run, VCUs win over Duke, ODUs win over Notre Dame, and Last Year Generally Speaking. Plus, the conference summer meetings are in two weeks. Those are bound to take on special meeting, given what’s written in this paragraph.
But we finally get to do our favorite thing around these parts–talk about basketball and the upcoming CAA season.
I’ll say this for Mason: those who think they will move forward without missing a beat are ostriches. Luke Hancock was the kind of player that makes everyone around him better, and a glue guy from a coaching standpoint. Jim Larranaga could ask Hancock to move the basketball, score, or do the little things Mason needed to win. It’s why he could score 18 against Villanova in the NCAA tournament, or score four points, grab eight rebounds, and have seven assists. Hancock could be that guy, but he could also be the guy that allowed someone else to be that guy.
That kind of glue is very important in a transition situation, because those kinds of players keep everyone “together,” in a sense, until they all figure it out. Talent is talent and of utmost importance, but you need buy-in. Hancock is the kind of player that helps teammates buy in.
Paul Hewitt is ushering in change, different, for the first time since before Y2K. There will be adjustments. This isn’t to say good or bad. Just different and it will take some time.
And here resides our jumping off point. Ed Nixon was that guy for VCU. Ben Finney for ODU. (Interestingly, with Hancock, all three are gone this year.) One of the reasons JMU continues to to intrigue me is because Devon Moore is that guy, and he’s the primary ballhandler. What’s more, one of the reasons William & Mary is providing CAAHoops a summer’s worth of head-scratching is because Quinn McDowell is both a glue guy and one of the best players in the conference.
So here’s where we are as we head into Memorial Day week: the one thing that was unquestioned between the time VCU lost to Butler and this weekend–Mason is preseason the #1 CAA team–must be questioned. What else?
Drexel: returns everyone but Gerald Colds. Samme Givens is the best player in the league nobody talks about, and Frantz Massenat and Dartaye Ruffin played major minutes.
VCU: Lost four major seniors, but returns Brad Burgess and its own freshmen class who played minutes…you can never count them out.
ODU: Shockingly thin in the frontcourt for ODU, but don’t we always wonder about ODU eight months before they rip off 14 CAA wins?
JMU: so stinking much talent but in desperate need of kum-ba-yah.
Delaware: Hagins and Saddler are the real deals. Last year was a step forward, and this year?
NU: 0-8 and then 6-4…sophomore class with experience in being the guys that hae to make plays.
Towson: you would think the cupboard is empty. You would be wrong. It may be deviled ham, but Skerry has something in the cupboard.
Hofstra: post-Jenkins, who really knows, but 14-4 was more than Jenkins.
The Pugs: I’m telling you now, Quinn McDowell can make a freshmen and sophomores look awfully upperclass.
UNCW: Buzz has a bumper crop. Might be a couple years away, but did you expect seven wins last year?
Georgia State: Ron Hunter will bring energy and cohesiveness, and that’s what they’ve lacked.