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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The season that wasn't

My column for tomorrow on what happened this on the blog it is much longer than the one which will appear in the Friday Press..more quotes including many from the prior Calloway interview - new ones from Jhamar, and more info...

Here you go....

The fall from grace for the Monmouth University men's basketball team was as swift as it was unexpected.

At this time last year the Hawks were reveling in three consecutive national television post-season appearances, the last being their noble showing vs. Villanova in the NCAAs.

In their upbeat locker room at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, which included a returning senior front court and promising freshman guards , it was impossible to foresee the debacle that would transpire a year later.

While championship seasons are never etched in stone, the fact that Monmouth wouldn't even qualify for the 2007 NEC Tournament was never a consideration.

So what happened? And what happens next?

The always popular "blame the coach'' game has been played all week by some frustrated Monmouth fans (you bloggers know who yoiu are!) and Monmouth coach Dave Calloway has not shied away from accepting responsibility.

""You get a lot of credit when you win, you've also got to take responsibility when you lose,'' said Calloway whose six-year run of winning seasons which included three NCAA trips came to an anticlimactic halt.

""We were good enough to win this year,'' he said. ""Good enough to win it all? I don't know, but we were definitely good enough to be better than we were. Therefore I did not do my job this year, there's a lot of factors in that.

""This was a learning experience for me, too. I'm still fairly young, I'm he's only 38. So there's some learning process for me here on some adjustments and things that I'll do.''

Calloway said he's already planning for next season. At the same timehe said he's ""more concerned right now with making sure these (returning) guys under stand this season and our performance was unacceptable,'' he said.

This year's performance had more false starts than a jittery Giants' offensive lineman. Whenever you thought Monmouth was finally was getting itself in gear it blew a gasket.

Aside from NEC Rookie of the Year Jhamar Youngblood, who at times was thrust into a point guard position in which he had zero experience, and to some degree John Bunch, I couldn't find one player who in my opinion consistently - that's the key word - performed to or above expectations.

Bunch had his struggles, too, but at least over the last nine games averaged 11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and six blocks per game. Frankly, you couldn't have asked for more down the stretch.

On a team with four seniors who went to the 2006 NCAA Tournament, that intangible called leadership somehow was missing. Or if it was there, never translated into action.

Before one comes down to hard on the seniors it's only fair to remember Marques Alston and Dejan Delic were part of teams that went to two NCAAs and also won an NEC regular season championship.

Corey Hallett pitched in last year when - in my opinion - they don't go to the NCAAs without Bunch.

But while Monmouth plummeted down the stretch this year it was Youngblood with 13 points and 12 rebounds who helped steer it past Wagner, and whose cold-blooded three from the right corner saved it from blowing a game at Mount St. Mary's.

Those were the only games Monmouth won in its last eight.

""This year we lacked a little bit of leadership from everybody, from every single person on the team, not just our seniors,'' said Youngblood.

Intangibles, aside, it was the demise of its defense and its wretched foul shooting which destroyed Monmouth's season.

As Monmouth dropped its final three games to Long Island, Sacred Heart, and St. Francis, Pa. it allowed those teams to shoot a lusty 45 percent from downtown and was torched for an average of 48 points in just the second halves of those games.

This after allowing just over 53 points a game for the final five of 2005-2006 including the Villanova game.

""Part of it this year was youth,'' said Calloway. ""Jhamar struggled with it at times, but even Whitney (Coleman) struggled with it, even Monday night night (vs. St. Francis, Pa.)

""Another thing we were very, very poor at was containing dribble penetration. Part of that was people don't realize how good Tyler (Azzarelli) was at that.""

Then there was free throw shooting. Monmouth's 65 percent from the line was ninth worst in the 11-team league. NEC regular season champion Central Connecticut State shot 74 percent, and that was only third best to Robert Morris which hit 77 percent.

In looking ahead Monmouth has signed two high school players, point guard James Hett from Staten Island and 6-7 Nick DelTufo from Mendham. ""We are anticipating (other) guys coming in for official visits prior to the Final Four,'' said Calloway who said Monmouth is hoping to land at least one athletic forward type.

Calloway described the front court situation as"definitely a major, major concern.'' In house at the moment for Monmouth are red-shirts Adam Dobriansky and Dutch Gaitley, red-shirt freshman Shawn Barlow, and enigmatic freshman forward Rickie Crews.
""Will Adam will Rickie, will DelTufo, Dutch, will anybody else we bring in, be able to give us some sort of inside threat?''Calloway wondered.

On next year's starters? "While I would think there's two guys who started this year who have a very good chance at starting next year (my guess would be Youngblood and Coleman) , it doesn't mean they're going to start at the same position (as this year),'' said Calloway.

" Maybe we could start three guards and slide Jhamar over to the 3 (small forward) , we could play four guards. Who knows? We'll play the best team that can help us win.''

""There was a lot of little missing pieces to the puzzle on this year's team,''said Youngblood. ""Next year I'm going to try my best to fill in those pieces.''

For 2007-2008 Calloway has one very important piece in place in Youngblood and, in my eyes, another key one in Coleman, and will hope for a steadier Shipman.

Finding other pieces that fit will determine whether Calloway can put the puzzle back together.



Anonymous Speed Dial said...

Wow now Calloway is a young coach? So all those AD that have him on their speed dial should call in a few more years...Great SPIN Tony.

9:18 PM, March 01, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

I didn't spin anything..that's what he said....

9:21 PM, March 01, 2007  
Anonymous speed dial said...

OK Tony then Calloway gets the Spin move.... your off the hook... Just trying to keep the SPIN straight...Well nothing is going to happen anyway with Calloway he is the MAN in town as they say...

9:28 PM, March 01, 2007  
Anonymous more spin said...

Was it true that Calloway was runner up for coach of the year?

9:31 PM, March 01, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

Yes...he just beat out Mark Schmidt (RMU coach...they lost tonight by the way). It was close though!!

9:33 PM, March 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with filling the 'missing pieces' Calloway talks about is that there wouldn't be any missing pieces if he'd constructed this team better. With all the success we've had in recent years, shouldn't he have been able to recruit better front court players than the 'role players' we have lined up now? Now he realizes he needs 'at least one athletic' front court player?
Didn't he realize this while he was handing out $100,000+ scholarships to the 3 red shirts (over the past 2 years -- at least one of which will never be a Div I player) as well as to Crews, who he suspended/benched the entire year?
You can hail Youngblood all you want (he's great), but ONE quality player per year won't sustain the program -- and it really caught up with us this season.

9:38 AM, March 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


not cool with the giants comment.

Your kicking giant and hawk fans when they are down...ouch!

12:22 AM, March 03, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

You took that the wrong way..I wasn't kicking Hawks fans. I would never, ever do that.

Giants fans? You betcha.

10:24 AM, March 03, 2007  

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