After Chavaughn Lewis exited as the leading scorer in school history, the mantle of Marist’s featured player for head coach Mike Maker transitioned to redshirt junior Khallid Hart.
The only thing the 6’2” point guard struggled with last season was being on the floor after missing 13 games with a left foot injury. He finished the year second on the team with 14.7 ppg, but admitted he didn’t feel in shape in the final two months of the season.
“This year I feel in the best shape that I ever have, physically I feel great,” Hart said. “I think I have a lot more to show that people haven’t seen yet.”
One thing that the junior has had to battle through has been injuries. As a true freshman, Hart lost his first season to injury and subsequently redshirted. That was the first extended time he had been away from the game, but this past season he was hampered by foot injury. When he returned, he was told he could play through it without damaging his foot any more, but Hart could feel the difference on the floor.
“I had some limitations, cutting sometimes, jumping on my jump shots or sliding on defense, but I fought through it,” Hart said. “I’m glad to say this year I haven’t had much pain with it except for some soreness, so I think this year should be a great leap.”
Maker knows that he will need more from his junior point guard this season with the departure of Lewis and T.J. Curry. Most of all, he will need the 6’2” Hart to translate how the now graduated seniors led the way for what will be a young Red Foxes team.
“He’s coming out of his shell,” Maker said. “He’s not the most vocal guy, but when he talks people listen and he’s leading in a very good way, both by example and verbally.”
Hart along with seniors Eric Troug and Phil Lawrence worked over the summer to welcome the newcomers into the fold. Over the summer the team went on team bonding activities, from going to the river or water park, to going out to dinner every Sunday. Hart said how the players have come together has started to reflect in their practices and pick up games.
“I think we took it upon ourselves to make the team closer and more tight knit,” Hart said. “I think it’s going to pay off.”
The vision for Marist this season will be to build around Hart and, as Maker hopes, that seniors Troug and Lawrence take a step further from their showing last season. The 6’7” Lawrence took a leap in his junior year, scoring 8.4 ppg after averaging 1.6 ppg as a sophomore. However, the present of the Red Foxes may rest on their future; a six man freshman class that will be asked to do plenty starting on their Nov. 13 season opener.
“We’re going to have to rely on our freshmen recruiting class to play significant minutes because they’re talented and the way our roster is constructed, they’re going to have to play an awful lot early,” Maker said. “There will be some growing pains with that, we’re going to have to be very patient, but it’s exciting to think what it’s going to look like moving forward and hopefully it comes together sooner than later.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.