La Salle basketball at a glance
It all comes down to: Can they be as offensively efficient as they were last season when they averaged 1.1 points per possession, 31st nationally. They rarely turned it over and shot a high percent from three, a great way to maximize possessions. Can they replace all that Ramon Galloway gave them on both ends with the scoring of Tyrone Garland and team defensive concepts? If Jerrell Wright has really improved in the post as much as everybody says, this team should get a lot of easy baskets at the rim. John Giannini had a
Navy Seal who is a friend of the program talk to his team. “When you complete a mission, there’s another mission coming up,” he told the players. “What he did is asked everyone to write down their best memories of last season,” Giannini said. “He said those are great memories, but then he put them in a box with a lid on it.” The message was clear. You are starting 0-0. The Sweet 16 is a great memory, but will not win any games this season.
Shouldering the load: It starts with the three senior guards: Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills and Tyrone Garland who will be counted on to make plays and finish plays. Duren said in preseason practices that whenever the offense was stuck, they just threw it into Wright and he was “automatic,” so the junior big man will be relied upon to take a lot of heat off the guard line. If all players are healthy, this is a team with enough depth to overcome foul trouble, play small, very small, or even play big.
Key stretch: Games at Massachusetts, home vs. Saint Louis and Saint Joseph’s, followed by trips to Dayton and Richmond over 18 days in February look like a serious test at a critical time.
Quote of note: “We have a good team. It’s probably a handful of games in the last 2 years that we’ve lost by double digits, so we’re going to be in games. We just hope to be at full strength, and we hope to make an extra play here or there to win close ones.” — John Giannini
Bottom line: This, once again, will be a very difficult team to play because of its speed, ability to get into the lane, and the variety of players who can make shots from long range. When the ball is constantly coming hard at your defense, you have a tendency to get disoriented. And when that happens, you are done. That has been La Salle’s offense lately. The Explorers have the look of an NCAA team again. It won’t be easy because the schedule, nonconference and league, is not easy. But this is a team of players who now believe, because they have already done it. It was fun at 20th and Olney the last two seasons and downright giddy last March. Expect many more smiles this season to be provided by a veteran team that has gone from hoping to win to expecting to win.
In the spotlight: Tyreek Duren
High school: Ss. Neumann-Goretti
Stats: 14.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 34.5 minutes
Career highlights: Has started 72 consecutive games and 98 of 101 in his La<TH>Salle career. Already in the top 10 in school history in assists (392) and steals (176). Has scored 1,259 points. Had game-tying late three against Villanova and game-winning layup in overtime last season. Hit game-winner against Northeastern. Had 19 points in NCAA win over Mississippi.
What they are saying: “I would say that it’s his mentality that makes him exceptional. That’s a general term. The specific things that would fall under that are his poise, his love of basketball, his basketball IQ, his ability to relate to his coaches and teammates. You’ll find other guys who are fast who can dribble, pass and shoot, but I think his mentality is really superior.” — John Giannini
What he’s saying: On this season: “We try to start over. As far as last year, it never happened. It’s in the past. We know we made it ... [Success] gives us confidence just because we’ve been telling ourselves for a while we’re just as good if not better than any other team in a power conference, or whatever. Being able to showcase that last year and beat all the teams that were supposed to beat you, it just helps your confidence. Now, we really believe in ourselves.”
Something you don’t know about Duren: “I like to watch cartoons,” he said. “If there is nothing on TV, I always turn to cartoons. It just calms me down, especially old cartoons. I'm a big Scooby-Doo fan.” He has been known to catch a Scooby-Doo marathon on Cartoon Network. “It takes me back to when I was younger, reminds me of when I used to sit at my grandpop’s house a lot and watch cartoons all day.”