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MARIST MEN, WOMEN PREP FOR A SEASON LIKE NO OTHER

Red Foxes’ Main Goal Is To Complete The Year

By John Ziehl
Special to HVSR

POUGHKEEPSIE – While this year has looked much different from years past, Marist College’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are doing everything in their power to prepare for what they pray will be a complete season.

Workouts and training for both teams has begun, but this year’s preseason looks significantly different compared to those in years prior. Official practices have yet to occur, as no five-on-five or even one-on-one drills are allowed yet. Each player has their own individual ball, which is wiped down throughout each training. Training is held in pods to avoid close proximity to one another and focuses on mostly skill work and shooting drills. In addition, both teams are only running through their offensive sets with no defenders. No contact basketball play has happened yet and with the season quickly approaching, that is a concern both coaches have.

Up until recently, teams have not even had access to the indoor gym and have been strictly working out on the outdoor court or on the turf. Both teams are eagerly awaiting to begin the COVID-19 testing required to allow for contact basketball to be played again. The sooner the teams get back onto the court, the sooner they will be able to get into basketball shape and be prepared for the season.

While women’s head coach Brian Giorgis and men’s head coach John Dunne had very different seasons last year – the women were closing in on a conference championship when the season was called due to the pandemic – they are both facing similar challenges going into this year. Giorgis is excited to have an underdog’s mentality, having the difficult task of replacing nearly 50 points per game, 20 rebounds per game, and almost 15 assists per game.

Losing key players Grace Vander Weide, Alana Gilmer, Rebekah Hand and Hannah Hand, Giorgis will be relying heavily on his four upperclassmen – Allie Best, Willow Duffell, Sarah Barcello, and Kendall Krick to lead this team. While these four will play an integral role in the team’s success this year, Giorgis made it clear that this team will need contributions from 10-12 players this season to be as competitive as last year.

With so much unknown still surrounding the season, Giorgis expressed how important it is to stay adaptable and resilient during this process.

“They just do what we ask them to do as hard as they can, as best they can,” he said.

Knowing that anything can change within a matter of days, Krick, a junior guard, said she is “focusing on what we can control because that’s the best that we can do.”

Krick welcomes the challenge of being one of the leaders this year and worked diligently during the offseason in preparation for this new role. She focused on improving both her ball handling and her mid-range game, as she expects to be relied on more heavily to be a creator and playmaker.

Dunne and the men’s team did not have as much success as the women’s team did last year, but they are excited and ready to get back to work. In preparation for this season’s challenges, Dunne has looked to one of the best high school basketball coaches in New York history and his former coach, the late great Jack Curran. Dunne is taking this time in the preseason to have his guys focus on the little things most teams take for granted and to clean up their fundamentals.

Last year the Foxes had a turnover rate of 21.8% which was the second-worst in the conference, only ahead of Dunne’s former team, St. Peter’s. Dunne partially attributed his offensive woes to a lack of playmaking and depth. With a strong class of new recruits, Dunne hopes to remedy those issues and as a result improve the overall flow of the offense.

While Dunne is excited for his new recruits, he knows that it will take some significant time to build chemistry among the lineups. Over 70% of Marist’s minutes from last year consists of returning players, and while the new recruits will be involved, Dunne will be relying on his returning players to lead the way and show them what it takes to compete at the next level.

“Our preparation last year was second to none of any team I’ve ever been a part of and that’s very difficult when you’re not winning games,” he said.

The example set by the returning players will set the tone for the season, emphasizing to the younger guys the importance of having not just the will to win, but rather the will to prepare to win. Dunne knows that for his team to improve this season, they will have to make an extreme jump on the offensive side of the ball. Last year, while posting solid numbers on the defensive end, Marist ranked toward the bottom of the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency, assist rate, offensive rebounding rate, two-point percentage, free throw percentage, turnover rate and tempo.

“We are not running or hiding from it,” he said, admitting the shortcomings.

Though Marist struggled on the offensive side, one statistical bright spot was found in their center Jordan Jones. Jordan was among the best in the MAAC in usage rate, effective field goal percentage, true shooting, both offensive and defensive rebounding rate and block rate.

“The coaching staff and my teammates having trust in me is what led to my jump in production,” Jones said.

Knowing he had the coaches and team support behind him helped him grow as a player and flourish over the last 10 games of the season. Jones knows that coming into this year, he will have to step into a larger role for his team to be successful, so he spent his offseason conditioning and working on the mental aspects of the game. Utilizing tools available to him, Jordan immersed himself and became a student of the game.

Ultimately both the men’s and women’s team have their mind set on one common goal – winning the MAAC championship.

 

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