With the 2012-2013 men’s basketball season quickly approaching, here are five reasons why the Bulldogs will dominate in the conference and win the Missouri Valley Conference Championship.
1. Senior Anchors
Senior Ben Simons and redshirt senior Jordan Clarke will anchor the Bulldog offense and defense respectively. In the 2011-2012 season, Simons was second on the team on points per game and Clarke led the team in rebounding. Voted co-captains by their teammates, the Bulldogs know Simons and Clarke will always show up. Having two seniors as productive as Clarke and Simons is a luxury.
2. Impact Freshmen
For the second time in three years, the Bulldogs have garnered one of the best recruiting classes in the Valley. Freshmen Micah Mason, Kori Babineaux, Joey King, Robert Puleikis and Daddy Ugbede are expected to contribute right away. Watch out for Babineaux, his defense and size at the guard position are assets Drake can take advantage of right away.
3. VanDeest is back
After undergoing shoulder surgery and missing all of last season, the Bulldogs welcome back redshirt junior Seth VanDeest. VanDeest is a proven low-post scorer and a great inside passer. With VanDeest’s return, opponents will have to worry about a scoring presence in the middle, something teams didn’t have to account for last season. His return also allows redshirt senior Jordan Clarke to slide over to the power forward slot, his natural position.
4. Experienced transfers
Don’t be fooled, this Bulldog squad is a lot more experienced than you think. Joining redshirt senior Jordan Clarke and senior Ben Simons are fifth-year senior Chris Hines, and juniors Richard Carter and Gary Ricks Jr. Hines transferred from Utah, while Carter and Ricks Jr. transferred from community colleges. Having started elsewhere, these three players not only bring proven track records, but also provide the team with new leaders.
Head coach Mark Phelps enters his fifth year at the helm. He now has a team that is solely built on his recruits from the past four years and has to lead the Bulldogs to a successful season. Time is running out for Phelps and this might be the most talented team he’s ever had at Drake.