Thursday, June 16, 2016

John Dunne on managing higher expectations for Saint Peter's

With almost entire roster back from a team that won 12 games in MAAC last season, John Dunne has reason to raise the bar at Saint Peter's, where Peacocks will not be taken as lightly next season. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

With early success comes increased expectation, whether you are a perennial contender or a young roster with tremendous upside, as Saint Peter's University men's basketball proved last season.

Picked ninth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason coaches' poll, the Peacocks overachieved early and often, ultimately winning twelve games in conference play to secure a fourth-place regular season finish, the program's highest since winning the MAAC championship in 2011. Now returning everyone to the roster with the exception of recently graduated senior Elias Desport, the question around Jersey City is not one of when the fortunes will take a positive turn, but rather one that asks, "where do you go from here?"

"We've already talked a lot about it," head coach John Dunne said, addressing the higher standard as he prepares to begin his eleventh season at the helm for the oft-forgotten, yet always competitive Peacocks. "At the end of the day, making the next jump with the program going into this season is going to be the hardest jump for us to make. Now, there are expectations. People are going to assume that we're going to be good, and our opponents are going to know that."

The optimism prevalent around the Yanitelli Center is a welcome change of pace from this time a year ago, where uncertainty was the prevailing feeling surrounding a team that had to replace both of its leading scorers in Marvin Dominique and Desi Washington, and had no idea what to expect from a young, and essentially before last season, unproven core that ultimately brought the Peacocks to the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament, where they were narrowly upended by a Fairfield team whose makeup and rapid ascent essentially mirrored that of Saint Peter's own climb.

"I didn't quite know what we were going to be like in the league," said Dunne of his outlook entering the year. "I knew we were going to have a slow start because we had so many new faces, but once we got into the early December weekend and went 2-0 in the league, I saw the way the chemistry was coming together, the fact that we kept our fight through early close losses, I was really optimistic and looking forward to getting into January."

"Overall, I thought we had a real successful year being 12-8 in conference, finishing fourth," he recollected, summarizing the stretch run. "We were obviously very happy with the regular season, but we were disappointed in losing in the quarters for sure. We have to take that as a learning experience for ourselves."

The Peacocks return a pair of second team all-MAAC honorees in guard Trevis Wyche and forward Quadir Welton, both of whom enter their senior seasons looking to build off their breakthrough campaigns last year. On the heels of an All-Rookie season that saw him parlay a 30-point debut into one of the more dominant first years in recent program history, Antwon Portley continues to grow heading into his second go-round, and lockdown defender Chazz Patterson joins Wyche and Welton among Saint Peter's elder statesmen going into his senior season. Dunne also welcomes three new arrivals who sat out last season while completing their NCAA-mandated years in residence, unveiling Nick Griffin, Cavon Baker and Nnamdi Enechionyia from George Washington, Houston and Samford, respectively. With all the names, though, a tangible layer of positive assessment exists when it comes to how the program will fare when the games begin five months from now.

"For us, we're just really excited for the season," Dunne reiterated. "We were happy with the regular season, but as I mentioned, we were disappointed in being knocked out in the quarters. We need to get that taste out of our mouth. We're really excited about lacing it up and getting going."

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