STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
November is closing in, and for many athletes across the country that means the road to March Madness has begun.
For the Drake men’s basketball team, year two of the Ray Giacoletti era is about to begin.
This Drake team has five seniors and six freshmen dotting the ranks. There is only one junior on the roster, and he has to sit out due to transfer restrictions.
Drake returns guards, Gary Ricks Jr. and Jordan Daniels, as well as senior point guard Karl Madison.
Jacob Enevold Jensen will anchor the paint for Drake, becoming one of the focal points of the offense. Trevor Berkeley and Chris Caird will join Jensen in the post.
A lot of talk this offseason centered on Enevold because of his status as a member of the Danish National Team, where he averaged a double-double in international competition this summer.
Giacoletti is high on Enevold’s potential in his second season as a Bulldog.
“He is a huge foundation piece of this program, and his playing time last year has really prepared him for this season,” Giacoletti said during Media Day on Sept. 30.
As far as offense goes, scoring could be spread evenly between the guards and frontcourt.
Only two returning players from last season averaged double-digit points, Daniels (10.2) and Ricks (12.3 in eight games), but many expect Jensen to make a bigger impact on the offensive end in his first season as a starter.
“A lot of times, our offense is going to be through Jacob down low due to his ability to pass, as well as his ability to finish down low,” Giacoletti said. “A big man with his vision is rare in the college landscape.”
Ricks is returning from a fractured foot that cost him all but eight games last season. Giacoletti said having Ricks back on the floor this season changes the look of the team completely.
“Gary is an important player for us,” Giacoletti said. “His ability to stretch the floor makes him a unique player in this conference, and his leadership and work ethic are examples for the entire team to follow.”
Caird could also have a breakout this season, as he has the potential to average close to double-digit points.
The senior from Daventry, England, finished second on the team in threes made last season, and said he is ready to make a bigger impact this season.
“I hope to be seen as a guy that people can go to, and that’s happened a few times so far. I hope that the guys can trust me as a leader and let me help them whenever they need it,” Caird said.
Drake will start conference play with defending champion Wichita State, and it doesn’t get much easier from there. The conference returned the most average minutes as a whole.
Daniels was quick to tout the talent across the board in conference this season.
“The Valley is one of the toughest conferences, both physically and mentally,” Daniels said. “There’s no pushovers here, just like in any of the bigger conferences. Each and every team can beat you, and you can beat them. It’s just a matter of getting it done.”
The freshman class is anchored by Casey Schlatter and Ore Arogundade.
Arogundade has come in with big expectations and could be part of the rotation early.
Schlatter, who led the state of Iowa in scoring last year, is ready to bring his talents to the Division I stage.
“I want to be a guy who can do many things, not just scoring, but picking up my teammates and being a great teammate,” Schlatter said.
The Bulldogs open play on Nov. 8 with an exhibition game against Coe College at the Knapp Center.
They open the regular season against Bowling Green just a week later, with tip-off set for 2:05 p.m.