The Assignment: During James Madison’s CAA Championship run, four seniors accounted for 75% of the team’s scoring. Using statistical evidence, show what those seniors meant to the Dukes. Then, describe why the future is bright for Matt Brady’s program.
After coaching the CAA’s Most Injured Team for four years, James Madison head coach Matt Brady finally caught a bit of a break. Years of consistent ailments allowed the Dukes to put six seniors (five redshirts) on a roster that formed the NCAA’s most experienced team.
Although no player managed to play all 36 of JMU’s games, everything culminated at the right time, and allowed Brady to guide the Dukes to their first CAA Championship since 1994.
Aside from relative health, there was one big difference between last year’s JMU team, and the JMU team from Brady’s first four years: the CAA champs played defense. JMU’s CAA-best defense allowed 60.8 points during conference play. JMU averaged 11.1 turnovers per game (23rd in D-I) and just 9.8 in CAA play. JMU averaged 7.6 steals per game, and was at its best in transition.
Next season Brady, the recent recipient of a well-earned four-year contract extension, will find out what it’s like to coach with a roster chock full of freshmen and sophomores. For Madison, ’13-’14 will be Year One A.D. — the year After Devon.
Fifth-year senior point guard Devon Moore led the CAA in assists (4.9 per game) and shot a career-high 39.3% from three. Moore became JMU’s all-time assist leader on Senior Day, and finished his career with 502 dimes. When you consider everything else that’s gone on in his life, Moore’s on-court performance was all the more impressive.
And JMU wouldn’t have reached its potential without a midseason turnaround from uber-athletic wing AJ Davis. Starting with a 27-point outburst on February 6th, Davis averaged 20.5 points over JMU’s final 10 conference games. He shot 50% or better eight times in that run. Davis averaged 20.7 points in the CAA Tournament, and received the Most Outstanding Player Award.
Davis has always had a knack for jaw-dropping dunks, but coach Brady would argue that it was his extra effort on the defensive end that made the difference. Although his end of the year statistics might not show it, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Davis wasn’t one of the CAA’s most talented players. His supreme athleticism was rare for this league.
Senior power forward Rayshawn Goins was JMU’s rock in the post, and carried the team through the nonconference season. The big man scuffled through the tail end of conference play, but responded with a big time performance in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament. Goins was downright dominant in the first half of the CAA Championship against Northeastern.
While he didn’t post the same offensive statistics as his teammates, senior forward Alioune Diouf was critical to JMU’s late season success. The 6’5″ Diouf was often turned to as JMU’s number one post defender, and played a huge part in JMU’s CAA Championship win. It’s a shame that years of playing on injury-riddled teams deprived the 21-year-old Diouf of an opportunity to redshirt.
Make no mistake, the ’12-’13 Dukes were guided to the NCAA Tournament by their seniors. But if you watched them play in the Big Dance, you understand the significant optimism surrounding the future of this basketball program.
In JMU’s First Round victory over LIU-Brooklyn, freshman Andre Nation became just the ninth player since 1986 to accrue at least 14 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists in an NCAA Tournament game. Seven of the eight players on that list went on to play in the NBA, with Shaquille O’Neal and Joakim Noah being the two headliners.
The 6’5″ Nation can handle the ball, and was the catalyst for JMU’s fast break offense. Nation, who played a prep year before enrolling at JMU, has an advanced feel for defense, and an offensive game that will continue to grow. In JMU’s final game of the season, Nation netted a career-high 24 points against Indiana. He’s a dark horse candidate for CAA Defensive Player of the Year.
Fellow freshman Charles Cooke averaged 16.5 points in JMU’s two NCAA Tournament games, including a career-high 18 points against Indiana. It was the first time Cooke scored in double figures in consecutive games on the collegiate level. Cooke played most of the second half of the season with a fractured wrist, which may have hindered his production.
Nation and Cooke, with classmates Ron Curry and Taylor Bessick, are the main reasons there’s an exciting future for Brady’s bunch. Overshadowed by Moore’s stellar play, it’s easy to forget the hype that Ron Curry had going to last season.
Here’s what I love about Curry’s game: after setting a career high (slash low) with four turnovers in a season-low 12 minutes in a February loss against George Mason, Curry responded by committing just one turnover in his next 211 minutes (spanning nine games). Granted, with Moore as de facto point guard, Curry played most of the season off the ball, but it’s still a value-worthy stat.
That’s what JMU needs Curry to do this year: be smart and value the basketball. He’s a confident guy who should be much-improved as a sophomore. Spending a year as Moore’s apprentice will do wonders for him in the long run.
The 6’9″ Bessick played the least of the four freshmen, but there were certainly games JMU wouldn’t have won without him. He’s only played basketball for a few years, and has plenty of room to grow. In an early January win against Drexel, Bessick scored nine points and snagged 13 rebounds.
It’s strange that the four rising sophomores (Bessick, Cooke, Curry and Nation) will be four of the most experienced players on the team. But with the aforementioned ailments comes some excellent news: Mr. Andrey Semenov will return for his
15th sixth season at JMU.
If you discount the two minutes he played in the first game of the season, Semenov averaged 11.2 points in six games last season. At this point, you know not to expect 30+ minutes a night from the guy, but if he can give Brady about 25 minutes each game, it’ll be huge for this team.
In 2012, Semenov shot 33-of-61 (54.1%) from downtown in JMU’s eight February games. He’s a sharpshooter who can stretch the defense and open up opportunities in the lane. The Russian Semenov’s veteran presence will be crucial to a young JMU team, and he’ll help JMU’s seven freshmen (five are foreign-born) acclimate to collegiate life.
So, what do we know about the seven freshmen? There’s a ton of length there — Mark Selig did the math to find that next year’s team, with an average height of 6’7″ inches, would have been the third-tallest team in D-I last season. It’s kind of crazy when your 6’4″ point guard in the shortest guy on the team.
The incoming freshmen:
6’10″ PF Dimtrije Cabarkapa (redshirted ’12-’13)
6’8″ PF Yohanny Dalembert
6’7″ PG Jackson Kent
6’8″ SF Ivan Lukic
6’6″ SF Thomas Rivard
6’8″ PF Paulius Satkus
6’9″ PF Tom Vodanovich
Matt Brady gave a nice breakdown of the incoming recruits here. Since that video, the Dukes added Dalembert, who will add defensive aggressiveness and athletic ability to the frontcourt. He should fit in well with the fast break offense the young Dukes love to run. And Brady’s said before that Cabarkapa might be the best shooter on the team.
Brady expects the defensive improvements to holdfast with next year’s group. Last season, JMU frequently had five guys on the floor that were all between 6’4″-6’6″. The players knew their roles, and rotated effectively on defense. With a taller roster, JMU might be able to establish a more traditional defense, if the coaches wish to do that.
The important thing to know is that Brady and staff will tailor the offense to the skill sets of the players. With so many new faces, it’s tough to predict what that means for next season, but I’m certain that Selig will keep us updated on that throughout the summer.
Curry, Cooke and Nation can all lead the fast break, and like to play uptempo. Dalembert’s video shows a player who plays to the basket, and makes good passes in transition.
There’s plenty of reason for optimism in Harrisonburg, but buyer beware. These Dukes won’t have the benefits of seniority like they did last season. In late game scenarios, Brady knew he could put the ball in Moore’s hands, and trust that he’d make the best play possible. JMU will need a new go-to player in the clutch.
Seeing that more than half of the roster will be filled by freshmen, it’s difficult to pick this team above most of the other teams in the CAA. The veteran Semenov will certainly ease the learning curve for this young team. The Dukes will experience growing pains, but should be dangerous come next March’s CAA Tournament.