NEC Team Capsule: Mount St. Mary’s

Head Coach: Jamion Christian, 1st year
Last Season: 8-21 (6-12 NEC), failed to qualify for the NEC tournament
NEC Preseason Coach’s Poll: 9th out of 12 teams
State of Program: Agressively rebuilding
Key Players Lost: Danny Thompson (7.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.3 bpg), Lamar Trice (dismissed after 2 games)
Incoming Players: Shivaughn Wiggins (PG), Melvin Gregory (F), Gregory Graves (F), Christian Crockett (F)
Previous Posts: Mount St. Mary’s Recruiting Recap, Jamion Christian Interview

Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Josh Castellanos (8.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 4.6 apg)
G: Julien Norfleet (13.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.3 apg)
G: Kelvin Parker (9.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 spg)
F: Raven Barber (9.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 57.5% FG)
F: Kristijan Krajina (5.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Key Reserves: Sam Prescott (G), Rashad Whack (G), Shivaughn Wiggins (PG), Melvin Gregory (F), Gregory Graves (F)

Major Storylines:

  1. A New Era – With all of the attention on the new head coaches at Wagner and LIU Brooklyn, few are talking about Jamion Christian’s arrival at the Mount. A former Mount player, the 30-year old Christian takes over in Emmitsburg after two uninspiring years under the direction of Robert Burke. Christian’s hiring has energized the fan base, but the honeymoon period can only last so long before fans begin to yearn for the glory days of Jim Phelan and Milan Brown.
  2. 40 Minutes of Mayhem – Christian’s hiring brings an exciting up-tempo style of basketball, otherwise known as 40 minutes of mayhem. The philosophy is utilized by Christian’s old boss, VCU head coach Shaka Smart, and will be implemented fully by Christian. The system prioritizes full court pressure on defense and fast, aggressive basketball. It will sure make things exciting again at the Mount, yet it’s unknown whether Christian will have enough athletic bodies and shooters to successfully implement the system. After a season where the Mount scored a putrid 0.91 points per possession, there’s no where to go but up. Transfers Rashad Whack and Sam Prescott are expected to help with the transition immediately.

Lineup Analysis: After nearly getting hired two years ago when Milan Brown left for Holy Cross, Jamion Christian finally broke through as the next Mount coach. There’s much work to be done, especially coming off an eight win season, yet Christian has some talent to work with. For starters, the Mount returns five of their top six most efficient players from last season, led by leading scorer Julian Norfleet. Despite the Mount’s offensive deficiencies, Norfleet still managed to average 13.7 points per game, while scoring in a myriad of ways. Norfleet will be a featured guard in the up-tempo offense, along with newcomer Sam Prescott. The Marist transfer was an inefficient volume scorer at his previous stop, so the challenge for the coaching staff will be to guide the talented Prescott into a team-first mentality. Kelvin Parker returns after a promising freshman season where his athleticism and defense quickly made him a fan favorite. Josh Castenellanos provides a veteran presence at the point, and allows Christian to take his time developing point guard of the future Shivaughn Wiggins, who was a prolific scorer and distributor in high school. Wiggins is part of solid recruiting class that will also feature freshmen Gregory Graves and Melvin Gregory, who each profile as big wings who can attack the rim and defend. Their immediate impact is currently unknown, but the Mount returns valuable experience in the frontcourt with Raven Barber and Kristijan Krajina, who each should log significant minutes. George Mason transfer Rashad Whack gives Christian a deadly outside threat, who should make the most of the open looks he’s expected to receive when the Mount’s offense is chugging down the floor.

Coach’s Quotes:

“Ideally to me, 10 or 11 [guys playing per night] is where I’d like to be at. I just think through the course of the year – it’s a long year – having more guys that can help and I feel like we have a really deep roster of talented guys … I think that will be a huge strength for our team.”
– Christian, when asked how deep of a rotation he’d like to play every game

“It’s really important to have guys playing with a ton of freedom. To really work on offensive skills and get the ball up and down the floor quickly, and to score as fast as you can. LIU obviously does a tremendous job of scoring and not fouling, so they keep the clock rolling. In general when I talk to my guys about it, I tell them I want to make fast look slow. I want people saying, ‘wow that team plays really fast.’ If we can do that and implement our tempo and pace, the sky is the limit on where we can go.”
– Christian, when asked to explain his offensive strategy

Prediction:
Ryan – As exciting as 40 minutes of mayhem will be to watch, most people will need to temper their expectations of Christian’s squad in season one. Implementing a vastly different offensive philosophy will likely take a sizable adjustment, but if the Mount can adapt well enough by mid-season, they’ll be a difficult team to beat, especially at home. The Mount may miss out on an even win-loss conference record, but I think they’ll sneak into the final NEC playoff spot nonetheless.

John – The Mount is back! Alright, that might be overstating it a little bit, but MSM has the chance to make some waves this season. There will probably be some ugly losses though as the team adapts to Mahem, especially considering there’s no indication that anyone on this team can actually shoot. Still, as the season progresses Christian should be able to implement his style of play and grab the final NEC playoff spot.

Previous NEC Team Capsules:
October 24: St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
October 25: Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
October 26: Bryant Bulldogs

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