It was no coincidence that Quinnipiac’s streak of 49 consecutive games without being out-rebounded ended the same night Ousmane Drame missed his first career game due to injury at Iona on Jan. 24.
The 6’9” junior forward has been instrumental to the Bobcats’ success since making the transition to the starting lineup this year. Averaging over seven minutes per game more than last season, Drame has put his extra playing time to good use.
With his 23 points and 12 rebounds last time out against St. Peter’s, Drame surpassed his totals in both categories from last year. He has also quickly risen up the ranks of shot-blockers and now holds the Division I school record for blocked shots with 123. Drame set a new program record with seven blocked shots against Monmouth on Jan. 16, and again matched that feat against Marist on Feb. 10.
“I think I’m more focused,” Drame said after the game against Marist on his success this season. “Defensively I’m more aware. I do a great job noticing things before they happen and kind of visualizing things on the court.”
In the 17 games prior to suffering a minor knee injury, Drame posted a line of 12.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg, and 2.4 bpg while shooting 44% from the floor. Since making his return against Canisius on Jan. 30, Drame has boosted his numbers to 14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, and 2.8 bpg. During that six game stretch, he is shooting 62% from the floor, a mark that would have him ranked in the top 20 nationwide if done over the course of a full season.
“He’s better than he was a year ago,” head coach Tom Moore said after the win over Marist. “He practices harder on a day in and day out basis than he did last year and especially his freshman year. He’s been very tough and courageous coming back from that knee injury. He really pushed himself to come back quickly, and the team got a lot of energy from that.”
Paired with senior forward Ike Azotam, Drame has thrived in the Quinnipiac frontcourt, as he averages just under a double-double for the season with 13.1 ppg and 9.9 rpg. His defensive prowess has him ranked in the top 20 nationally in rebounding and 34th in the nation in blocks per game at 2.52. Drame attributes much of his success to playing alongside Azotam since his freshman year.
“He’s a great player, one of the best to come through Quinnipiac,” Drame said of Azotam. “Being a senior, I’ve looked up to him since I was a freshman trying to copy his moves and be a good teammate to him. It’s going to be sad next year not having him here, but at the same time I feel like I’m good enough to be the face of this team.”
The move to the MAAC this year has put Drame’s abilities to the test. In terms of pure physical stature, players in the MAAC are noticeably bigger and stronger than the competition he was used to seeing in the NEC. As evidenced by his numbers, Drame has thrived in his new league despite the physical hurdles that come along with the move.
“They’re definitely bigger,” Drame said of his MAAC competition after a win against Monmouth. “Even the guys we played today. They’re 6’10”, 6’11” according to the scouting report – big guys, 250-270. I’m only 235 so you know I give up weight but it’s all about being tough and playing smart as well.”
Drame is not the only one enjoying his strides forward this year. Coach Moore has taken great pride in Drame’s progress over the past three years and the development he has shown even just this season.
“It’s been an incredibly fun journey with him because he’s a special young guy,” Moore said. “His growth from high school to where he is now is staggering. He’s running the court better, harder, and more consistently. He’s locked in and focused on what we’re trying to do as a team. He’s got something inside him. It’s his pride and his intelligence. It’s what college coaching is all about. It’s the joy of doing this thing, especially at this level because you get to take what you think is a polished gem and try to work on it every day and try to get it to shine.”
Vincent Simone will be chronicling Quinnipiac’s move to the MAAC and helping cover the conference this season for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.