Sammy Mojica (above) and his fellow seniors have had a rough first three years at Drexel from a winning standpoint. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Austin Petolillo (@AustinPSports)
Drexel’s senior guard Sammy Mojica wants nothing more than to leave Drexel with a CAA championship.
So far, he and his classmates haven’t come close. But after arguably the worst stretch in DU basketball history, the Dragons are ready to start the momentum going in the other direction.
“Over the last three years, we haven’t achieved the goal that I came here to do which was to go to the championship and win the championship,” Mojica said. “I think this last year, it’s been all I’ve been thinking about, I want to go out on a good note.”
Mojica, a 6-foot-3 guard from Chelsea, Massachusetts, has averaged nine points, four rebounds and a little more than two assists per game in his three seasons as a Drexel Dragon and currently ranks 16th on Drexel’s all-time 3-pointer list with 131 deep balls.
Mojica, along with two other four-year seniors at Drexel -- forward Tyshawn Miles, and Austin Williams -- have only amassed a 26-67 record since arriving on Drexel’s campus as freshmen back in 2014. They’ve also had to deal with a coaching change, after former coach Bruiser Flint was fired and replaced by current head coach Zach Spiker last season.
Entering last season, Mojica was a bit uncertain about his future at Drexel after Flint was fired and even thought about transferring, but he gave Spiker a chance and ultimately decided to stay in Philadelphia.
Once he decided to stay, it took Mojica a bit of an adjustment period to get used to Spiker’s style of basketball.
“At first I was iffy about a lot of things like certain defensive assignments that I was not used to at first and over time, he’s been able to help me gel through them.” Mojica said.
As a junior, Mojica averaged 11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 2 apg while shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 31.2 percent from deep.
In his three seasons at Drexel, Mojica’s 3-point average has gone down while his 3-point attempts have increased. Mojica went 24-of-65 (36 percent) in his freshman season, 48-of-142 (33 percent) in his sophomore season and 59-of 189 in his junior season.
Coming off of an abysmal 9-23 season in 2016-17, the Dragons have some reason for optimism as they return four starters from last season and add two transfers to the team.
The Dragons will lean heavily on sophomore guard Kurk Lee Jr., who was named to the CAA all-rookie team last season after breaking the Drexel rookie scoring record previously held by John Rankin, (Rankin had 466 points, Lee had 478) and the rookie assist record previously held by Michael Anderson (Anderson had 138 assists, Lee had 160).
“I love Kurk,” Mojica said. “Kurk’s a really good player, when he came in here I just accepted him as a starting point guard, I think he’s been great over the last year.”
Mojica’s classmate Austin Williams, a 6-8 forward from Richmond, Virginia, also had his best year last season, seeing his minutes go from 7.3 mpg to 21.8 mpg while averaging 7.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, and 1.2 bpg.
“His defensive presence has been really good,” Mojica said of Williams. “He blocks a lot of shots and sometimes I might let a guy go by me because I know that he’ll be there to block the shot and we’re going the other way on offense.”
Tramaine Isabell, a 6-1 guard from the University of Missouri and Troy Harper, a 6-1 guard from Campbell University and a Neumann-Goretti graduate, look to bolster the Dragons backcourt and provide some relief for Mojica and Lee, both of whom had the highest minutes total on the team.
“The team’s looking good,” Mojica said. “We’re very guard-heavy this year, so that’s going to help us a lot, so guys like me and Kurk won’t have to be playing 35 minutes a game.”
Drexel will be looking for their first league championship since 1996, however, there’s plenty of competition in the CAA, and the Dragons will be far from a league favorite heading into the season.
UNC-Wilmington has won the CAA in back-to-back seasons, but heads into the 2017-18 season without four starters from last season’s team and former head coach Kevin Keatts, who took the head coaching gig at North Carolina State this offseason.
The College of Charleston can be a team to contend for the title as they are returning all five of their starters from a team that went 25-10 (14-4 in the CAA). Senior guard Joe Chealey is coming off of an All-CAA first-team selection after averaging 17.8 ppg and 3.5 rpg.
Elon is another team returning all five of their starters after finishing 18-14 (10-8 in the CAA). They return All-CAA second-team selection, forward Tyler Seibring. The 6-8 junior averaged 14.4 ppg and 6.9 rpg.
Mojica is planning on an overseas career once his days at Drexel are over, but he wants this season to be his best one yet, personally and team-wise.
“I think I took this offseason a little more serious,” Mojica said. “I’ve taken them all serious but knowing that this is my last year, I’m really trying to take advantage of every day possible to lead up into the season so we can have a successful season.”