Send to KindleNow a senior, Duren will be counted on to lead La Salle back to the NCAA field for a second straight season. (Credit: La Salle Athletic Communications)
Fresh off a 24 win, NCAA Sweet 16 appearance season, early indications are that the La Salle Explorers could turn to a slightly bigger lineup next fall.
Armed last season with some of the best guard play in the Atlantic 10, if not the country, La Salle rode the hot hands of a four guard lineup of Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills and Tyrone Garland to a historic season.
La Salle adjusted around March 2nd when center Steve Zack went down to injury. With their 6-foot-11 center sidelined, Coach John Giannini was forced to “go small” for longer stretches and did so with a lineup that generally consisted of four guards and now-junior forward Jerrell Wright down in the post.
Giannini doesn’t necessarily expect that to be the case in 2013-’14.
“We started a lot of games with Steve and Jerrell and won a lot that way. They both had great off-seasons and should be a great combination for us going forward this year. We also add Jermaine Davis (freshman) who will help us in the post with his size. We will be much bigger and have more line-up options than we did at the end of last season. We can play big or small. With Steve hurt late last year we had to go small. Next year will be different”
Davis is one of two bigs La Salle has coming in this season, along with Tony Washington. Both players are 6-9, but Davis checks in around 270 pounds. Early indications are that Davis has the inside track to earning minutes down low for the Explorers, likely aided by his superior size and strength.
The Explorers will be expected the challenge for the Atlantic 10 title given their returning talent and experience from a season ago. Aside from losing Galloway to graduation, the Explorers return their next six scorers.
While their four guard lineup worked last season, it appears Giannini is preparing for life after Galloway, who scored 17.2 points per contest. La Salle ranked 13th in the conference in rebounding margin (-3.1) and needed every bit of production and efficiency from its guards when playing bigger, more physical teams that possessed a true post presence. A lineup with an experienced duo of Zack and Wright would allow La Salle to counter that post play when needed.
Take for example La Salle’s game vs. Saint Louis in Brooklyn during the A10 semifinals. SLU’s interior play headlined by Dwyane Evans and Rob Loe combined to score 36 points against a weak La Salle interior. La Salle had no answer for the burly play for Evans and Saint Louis easily dispatched the Explorers 78-54.
Giannini hopes this season he has at least a few options that can provide that answer on his roster.
While they will certainly have to adapt to playing without their leading scorer, it stands to reason that with further development of the returning roster – and an A10 down Xavier, Butler, and Temple – the Explorers could replicate their 24 win season.
In college hoops you can’t buy backcourt experience and Duren, Mills and Garland are now armed with a ton of it. Couple that with a healthy Zack and Wright and some post depth, and La Salle may be on the verge of another magical season in Philadelphia.
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