Outlook: A deep junior class must come into its own to prevent the Red Foxes from finishing in the MAAC cellar yet again.
Last year: 8-24 (5-15 MAAC)
Who’s in: Aleksandar Dozic (F); Austin Williams (G); Andrea Bernardi (G); Lasse Gummerus (F)
Who’s out: Khallid Hart (G); Kentrall Brooks (C)
Key Non-Conference Games: West Virginia (11/23/2017); @Murray State (12/16/2017)
Stuck in the doldrums for the better part of the last decade, the Marist men’s basketball program is desperately searching for a bright spot. The Red Foxes haven’t posted a winning record since the 2007-08 season, and have finished at the bottom of the conference each of the past three seasons.
Since current head coach Mike Maker was hired prior to the 2014 season, Marist has posted a 22-72 record overall with a 14-46 mark in conference play.
Although widely picked to finish last in the MAAC again this season, there are some bright spots to consider. This will be the first year Maker’s initial slew of recruits will take the court as upperclassmen. The Red Foxes boast a substantial junior class of six scholarship players led by Cleveland native Brian Parker.
A member of the 2015-16 All-MAAC Rookie Team, Parker filled the stat sheet in Poughkeepsie last season to the tune of 12.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Parker’s scoring average was second only to the departing Khallid Hart, but was actually a step down from his freshman campaign during which he notched 15.9 ppg and connected on six percent more of his shots. Now the Red Foxes’ undisputed lead dog heading into the 2017-18 campaign, a return to that rookie form could help lead Marist out of the MAAC basement and land Parker on an All-MAAC squad come season’s end.
Another key member of that junior class is native New Yorker Ryan Funk. As a sophomore last season, Funk more than doubled his rookie year scoring average from 6.1 to 12.4 ppg. Benefitting from a sizable increase in minutes, Funk became a reliable option from behind the arc, connecting on 40.5% of his 3-point shots.
Continued improvement from Funk, along with a similar breakout from one or more other members of that junior class including Richie Mitchell, David Knudsen, Kristinn Palsson, and Isaiah Lamb are musts for Marist to enjoy success this season.
Newcomers to the team include Marshall transfer Aleksandar Dozic as well as freshmen Austin Williams, Andrea Bernardi, and Lasse Gummerus.
Standing at 6-foot-9, Dozic projects to play a major role in Marist’s thin frontcourt. The redshirt sophomore averaged 1.4 ppg and 1.4 rpg in 8.7 minutes per contest over 23 games as a freshman at Marshall but could easily find himself in the starting lineup this year.
Bernardi averaged 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists per game while playing for Virtus Riva Del Garda in Italy last season. He and Williams—who averaged 16.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 4.3 apg last season at Seton Hall Prep—should provide ample depth to the Red Foxes’ guard corps. Gummerus, a 6-foot-8 native of Finland, will likely carve out a role in the frontcourt.
Working in the Red Foxes’ favor this season is the immense turnover felt throughout the league. Eight MAAC squads lost their leading scorer from a season ago, with many suffering other major departures. Although Marist is among those eight with the graduation of Hart, their only other loss is center Kentrall Brooks, who averaged 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds a season ago.
Marist’s non-conference schedule is set up around being the MAAC’s representative in this year’s Advocare Invitational in Orlando. The Red Foxes will play three games in four days, beginning with a Nov. 23 clash against West Virginia. The following day they will face either Central Florida or Nebraska before squaring off with one of Long Beach State, Missouri, Oregon State, or St. John’s in the Sunday finale.
Maker’s squad will also take part in the Citadel Tournament Dec. 1 and 2, facing host team The Citadel on Friday before taking on one of UMBC or Army on Saturday. That Saturday meeting could present a rematch with the Black Knights, who the Red Foxes host earlier in the season.
Marist’s penultimate non-conference game will see them travel to Kentucky to take on Ohio Valley Conference contender Murray State. The Racers finished last season 16-17 overall, but should contend for a conference title this year.
This season, the MAAC will also move to an 18-game conference schedule. With that change, Marist will face Monmouth and Iona just once during the regular season. The game against the Hawks will take place as the middle contest of the MAAC triple-header at the newly-renovated Nassau Coliseum Jan. 27, while the Red Foxes will play host to Iona in a noon matinee on Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 4.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.