Turning the Page
One of my favorite movies of all time is John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and while most people recall the 1949 film for the "we don't need no stinkin' badges" line, it's not the one that stuck with me.
The movie is about American gold prospectors who head into the Sierra Madre Mountains to find treasure. Of course it's about much more than that, and spoiler alert, they don't strike it rich. When the men realize they are going home with nothing but the shirts on their backs, one character comes to a realization.
"You know," he says to his partner. "The worst ain't so bad when it finally happens, not half as bad as you'd figure it'd be before it happens."
This is pretty much how I feel about the way the Drexel season ended.
Now that I've had a few months to sit back and reflect on the season, yes it still hurts and yes I thought we had the Charleston game for a fleeting moment, but it's not as bad as I figured it would've been.
All season long the Dragons battled injuries, groomed freshman, competed in flat out strange games and made history. The dialogue going on surrounding the team is awesome, and before I continue on with what I consider to be my first post of the new season, I will urge everyone again to join the Slack conversation which is linked atop this page. We need to continue to grow a strong fan base around this team.
Now, here are a few offseason headlines worth taking a look at.
1. Tramaine Isabell Declares for the NBA Draft
Isabell had a historic season which earned him plenty of ink in the Drexel record book. What's scary is he was injured and missed several games, and played much of the season while battling injuries, yet he was still a ferocious scorer and slick passer all year.
To his own admission, Isabell doesn't pass the NBA "eye test". He's built like a brick shit house, but is smaller than what the NBA would look for in a one or two guard.
The NBA draft is really based on projections, which is why the first 10 or so picks will be college freshman or 18 and 19-year old Europeans. Teams look for young players who they can mold into stars, so when they're 22 or 23 they can dominate. Isabell is already 22, so to NBA scouts, what you see is what you get.
I don't doubt Isabell could come off the bench for an NBA team and score. He has a knack of getting to the rim and finishing, and that is something that cannot be taught. He also possesses a very high basketball IQ.
Isabell has a killer instinct that comes from within, but unfortunately many NBA scouts over look those types of attributes. They want young guys with size.
Isabell did not hire an agent, so he can return to Drexel if he chooses to withdraw from the draft.
I'm selfish so I want Isabell dominating the CAA next year. I want to get to watch him live and be amazed for one more year. He is worth the price of admission at the DAC, trust me.
The other part of me really wants to see that guy realize a dream of playing basketball at the highest level. Certainly the odds are stacked against him, but Isabell is used to overcoming obstacles.
My best guess is Isabell will be back at Drexel next season, which gives Drexel a chance to compete for a CAA Championship if a ton of other things fall into place. If he does feel comfortable enough to enter the draft and does not return, Drexel will have a massive void to fill.
2. Zach Walton is a Dragon
Well, the last guy Drexel brought in from Washington panned out (see above), so Walton has some big expectations to meet.
Walton is a 6'6 swingman from Morton, Washington, about 100 miles south of Seattle. He is coming to Drexel from Edmonds Community College in Washington and has two years of Eligibility remaining.
In 2016-17 Walton only played in 5 games for Edmonds after suffering a knee injury which required surgery. Normally, this is a massive red flag, but he came back with a vengeance last season, averaging 20.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game against JUCO competition. Nonetheless, there is reason to be excited for Walton.
He shot 54.7% from the field, and seems to have an ever improving jump shot. A guy who can pull up and hit midrange jumpers on a consistent basis is something Drexel lacked last year.
The obvious intangible Walton brings to the Dragons is his size. The Dragons were often undersized, and especially struggled with teams who had big guards so Walton can fill a much needed gap there.
If all goes well in camp, I predict Walton will start alongside Lee and Isabell, and Troy Harper will come of the bench.
If you're interested in seeing Walton on the court, Edmonds CC posts full games online, like this one. You just better be really drunk or really bored to watch more than one of these gams.
It looks like Zach Walton can step in and immediately contribute to the Dragons so I'm stoked for that. What I don't like is the fact the Drexel staff has struggled mightily to recruit in this region.
Coletrane Washington, a 5th year high school player from the Pittsburgh area is the only other recruit the Dragons have landed this offseason, and more likely than not, they will be brining in another transfer.
Isabell and Walton coming from the Pacific Northwest has everything to do with Drexel assistant Paul Fortier having ties in that region. Fortier was a standout at the University of Washington.
Drexel cannot expect to build a program if they are relying on JUCO players from 3,000 miles away and transfers. It's disconcerting they have not been able to establish any recruiting ties in Philadelphia, and have struggled so mightily recruiting this offseason.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have Walton and Washington, but Drexel needs to become a player on the recruiting trail around these parts as well.
3. The Man in the Middle
When Rodney Williams graduated and moved on to bigger and better things, Drexel fans had Austin Williams to hang their hats on. Now that Big Stretch is outta here, there is a big old question mark in the middle.
Tadas Kararinas showed an effortless touch from beyond the arc, but struggled trying to defend the rim despite being 6'10. Unless Tadas makes insane improvements on the defensive end, he will not be a reliable center.
Jarvis Doles isn't a center and has shown no desire to bang in the paint. He looks much more comfortable shooting corner 3's and running in the open floor than scoring on the low block. Doles could probably play a little center if Drexel is going with a small ball lineup, but he's better suited elsewhere.
So we're left with some unknowns.
Tim Perry Jr. is probably the best answer for a pure center. He is 6'10 and has long arms which should enable him to protect the rim. His motor was called into question in high school, and he carried the label of an underachiever. There is a possibility that Perry will step up for the Dragons and be a serviceable center who can score inside and defend the rim on the other end of the floor.
That is probably the best case scenario, but in all honestly, right now we just don't know.
James Butler, the Navy transfer who sat out last season will play power forward for the most part, and again, would only be used at the center position in a small ball lineup. Butler played very sparingly at Navy and transferred after only a few games. He did average 27.5 points per game in high school though, so he possesses some ability.
When the dust settles some more this offseason, I will write a post about Drexel's depth this season which Butler will play a part of and which I think is very promising.