Stephen Pianovich (@SPianovich)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of CoBL's 2015-16 College Season Preview, which will run from October 2-November 13, the first day of games. For the complete rundown, click here)
Two Philadelphia products won’t be flying under the radar in the CAA this season.
Both Towson’s John Davis (Neumann-Goretti) and James Madison’s Yohanny Dalembert (Lower Merion) were named to the preseason All-conference second team on Tuesday after having breakout campaigns in 2014-15. The pair was two of four Philly players to be represented on the two preseason all-conference teams.
Each junior has established himself as one of the top players in the 10-team league after relatively quiet freshman seasons.
Davis is a high-motor, 6-foot-5 forward who posts rebound numbers like a 7-footer. Dalembert – a Haiti native and half-brother of NBA player Samuel Dalembert – caught the attention of opponents last season as he grew into his 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame and became one of the better post players in the conference.
What can be the next step for both players? That was the question asked to their respective head coaches at Tuesday’s CAA media day.
For James Madison’s Matt Brady, part of the answer was simple. Dalembert only started playing basketball when he moved to the Philadelphia area in 2010. So as the young big man continues to learn, Brady expects the knowledge of basketball’s intricacies to aid Dalembert.
“He has quickness, but he can be unaware – that’s the word I’d use,” Brady said. “But his awareness is growing and that’s what we try to teach him, his awareness and knowing what’s about to happen.”
Dalembert used that quickness and his size to average 11.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last season and he started in all 33 of the Dukes’ games. It was a big jump from his freshman year when he averaged 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 28 games (one start).
Brady noted he thought Dalembert had the potential to have that kind of season, he just didn’t think it would come last year.
“He had such a good sophomore year, from a lot of people’s perspective, it was unexpected,” Brady said. “From our perspective, it was a year quicker than we thought he would have. We expect him to have a very similar season. We’ve asked him to expand his range a little bit, he’s out there shooting 15-17-foot jump shots.”
Meanwhile in Baltimore, Towson coach Pat Skerry knows what he’s going to get in Davis: one of the least-fun guys to box out in the country.
The former Neumann-Goretti and Team Final player averaged 8.1 rebounds per game last season, the second-most in the CAA. He also averaged 11.8 rebounds per game and led the conference in double-doubles with 12.
Some good news for Skerry and bad news for anyone standing between Davis and a basketball, the coach said Davis is up to about 230-235 pounds this season from 215 last year.
“It’s funny, but his body has improved a lot,” Skerry said. “Not that it was bad before. But he looks like a guy who should be blitzing a guy on third downs. He plays like that, and (rebounding) is his greatest strength.”
Skerry did mention Davis is currently being slowed by a foot injury, but is hoping to have him on the floor when the Tigers tip off their season in Davis’ hometown at La Salle on Nov. 14.
Coming off a 12-20 (5-13 CAA) season, Towson was picked to finish seventh in the 10-team conference. Skerry will need to lean on Davis to help break into the top half of the league and he noted the junior has “turned himself into an all-conference guy, but what he’s really consumed with is winning.”
“He’s just a guy, as a coach, that you feel fortunate to be around,” Skerry said.