McCann Arena in Poughkeepsie will host just two nonconference home games as Marist plays a schedule that includes trips to Saint Joseph's, Providence and Virgin Islands for Paradise Jam. (Photo courtesy of Marist College)
Four months ago, Marist College hired Jeff Bower to replace Chuck Martin, and in that time, the former head coach and general manager of the franchise now known as the New Orleans Pelicans has gradually built his roster and his program into one that will attempt to turn heads while competing for a MAAC championship to match the nine that the Marist women have won under the direction of head coach Brian Giorgis.
The Red Foxes will play nine nonconference games to accommodate their 20-game MAAC schedule, and barring a home game to open conference play in December, will not play in Poughkeepsie until December 20th. Here is a look at what Marist faces leading into the conference portion of their schedule:
Bower's thoughts on the schedule overall:
"The schedule that was released is certainly challenging, and will have its difficult parts to it. We're looking forward to playing quality opponents, and this will give us an indication of where we're at, and where we need to improve early in the season. Obviously it's challenging, but we think it's going to prepare us for our competition in the Metro Atlantic."
Friday, November 8th at Stony Brook: Marist opens the season against four straight postseason teams, starting with Steve Pikiell and the Seawolves, who won their third America East regular season championship in the last four seasons. Versatile forward Tommy Brenton has graduated and is now playing in Japan, but guards Anthony Jackson and Dave Coley remain to form a three-headed scoring monster that is led by sophomore forward Jameel Warney, the reigning America East Rookie of the Year who could play at any level. Sophomore guard Carson "Tre" Puriefoy will see his role expanded alongside Jackson and Coley, while Eric McAlister will continue to do yeoman's work under the boards inside for Stony Brook. "I think the thing we'll be looking for will be continued improvement," Bower said when asked what he could take away from Marist's opener. "That's going to be a difficult game, but we understand that. We want to establish a style of play and level of play that we can build on."
Wednesday, November 13 at Saint Joseph's: Phil Martelli and the Hawks lose the services of guard Carl Jones and freakishly long forward C.J. Aiken, but St. Joe's retains shooting specialist Langston Galloway, who now anchors the backcourt in his senior season while Chris Wilson steps up to take over for Jones at the point. The Hawks' frontcourt should not miss a beat either, with Ronald Roberts and Hofstra expatriate Halil Kanacevic both returning, and both are capable of posting a double-double on any given night.
Saturday, November 16th at Providence: Watch out for Ed Cooley and the Friars this season, as they will be the proverbial sleeper that surprises a lot of people. With Bryce Cotton returning for his senior season after leading the Big East in scoring a year ago, the Friars have a reliable scorer in the backcourt that will be aided by the natural passing ability of sophomore Kris Dunn. In the paint, junior forward LaDontae Henton will team with Kadeem Batts to form an imposing duo under the boards that will complement the play of Josh Fortune on the wing. Providence also welcomes Wake Forest transfer Carson Desrosiers and NC State castoff Tyler Harris to their frontcourt, as well as Top 100 recruit Brandon Austin, who will also make an immediate impact.
Friday, November 22nd vs. Maryland: Marist opens the Paradise Jam against Mark Turgeon and the Terps, who just missed out on an NCAA Tournament at-large spot and made up for it with a run to the NIT semifinals. Maryland's backcourt is loaded with Nick Faust returning along with Seth Allen, while highly touted freshman Roddy Peters joins them. Up front, Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz is once again eligible, and will join Jake Layman and Dez Wells on the wings while Charles Mitchell and sophomore Shaquille Cleare prove themselves as two of the nation's most underrated rebounders. "One of our goals from a scheduling standpoint is to expose our players to high-level competition in venues they want to play in," said Bower. "I think the Paradise Jam helps from a recruiting standpoint by being a team that's invited to participate, and it's the type of schedule that players want to take part in."
Saturday, November 23rd-Monday, November 25th: TBD in Paradise Jam
Sunday, December 15th at College of Charleston: Following the Paradise Jam, final exams, and the start of MAAC play, Marist heads to South Carolina to take on Doug Wojcik and the Cougars, who join the Colonial Athletic Association this season after a long run in the Southern Conference. Junior guard Anthony Stitt returns as the Cougars' top returning scorer, and brings a lethal outside shot with him that he connected on at a 40 percent clip last season. Up front, the trio of junior Adjehi Baru and seniors Willis Hall and Anthony Thomas will seek to improve their combined totals of 26 points and over 19 rebounds per game.
Friday, December 20th vs. Bucknell: The first of two nonconference home games to close out the non-league portion of the schedule comes against Dave Paulsen and the Bison, who will defend their Patriot League title without Mike Muscala and Bryson Johnson, both of whom are now playing professionally. Bucknell does retain swingman Cameron Ayers, the son of former Ohio State coach Randy, who enters his junior season.
Sunday, December 22nd vs. Penn: Marist closes its non-league slate against Jerome Allen and the Quakers, who retain leading scorer Fran Dougherty, who will be joined by Henry Brooks and Darien Nelson-Henry up front as Penn looks to move up in the Ivy League standings. In the backcourt, Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini are gone, but in their place stand two more than capable successors in senior Miles Cartwright and sophomore Tony Hicks.
Bower on MAAC play:
"It will be a new experience for all the guys on our team, whether they're an incoming freshman or a returning senior. We go into it with high hopes, but we understand that the rate of improvement and the rate of progress is going to determine where we get to by the end of the year. The guys have shown great attitudes, a willingness to work, and an eagerness to get better, and that will be the foundation that we build on from the beginning, and then we'll grow with each set of experiences that we gain."
On player improvement:
"I think they all have embraced the intensity we want to work at. They've shown improvement in their games, and I've been impressed with them collectively as a group. I think they're guys that we're going to look to, and their work ethic should be followed."
On newcomers Nick Colletta and Kentrall Brooks:
"They're two different players. Kentrall is long, lean and athletic, is very quick off his feet and can run the floor. He'll be able to give us something in a variety of areas as he gains strength and experience. Nick Colletta probably has a more defined skill set right now as an off guard, and has an ability to shoot the ball with range really well. He also has a good understanding of how to play and how to play with teammates. Both of them are totally different, and both of them will be able to provide us with additional depth as they get comfortable within our system."
On not playing a home game until December:
"Our games are being played on the road, but we're coming home after every game just about. We really don't have any extended trips besides the Paradise Jam, so I'm not looking at it as being on the road for a month to two months. Obviously, we loom forward to playing at home, but we're going to treat each game as one game and each trip as one trip. I think it's going to give us a chance to establish processes and procedures for road travel that can create a comfort zone for us."
On what to expect from a Jeff Bower team:
"We want to be a team that plays extremely hard, that plays very well together, and is able to blend the strengths of each individual player or position into a group that is stronger than its individual parts. That's our challenge, and that's what we're going to be working on from the start of practice. How do we take the individual talents that we do possess and turn that into team results? That's what I think fans will see, and I think fans will enjoy watching the effort that our guys put forth, and the improvement they'll show from the beginning of the season onward."