Column by Austin Cannon
If you plan to watch any Drake men’s basketball this season, you need to keep one word in mind: patience.
The 2013-2014 campaign features a new coach, a new staff, a new system and a handful of new players.
Ben Simons, Jordan Clarke and Chris Hines, three of last year’s four leading scorers, were lost to graduation. Not to mention, impact freshmen Joey King and Micah Mason decided to transfer.
And that was all from a team that went 15-17 and finished tied for seventh in the Valley.
That was last year, and we should join new head coach Ray Giacoletti and not dwell on it.
This team will almost certainly hit several rough patches this season.
There’s no proven, consistent playmaker, and we have yet to see if the Bulldogs can execute Giacoletti’s gameplan.
The preseason is all about speculation, but the regime change has multiplied it.
It will take a few games to figure this team out, but we can focus on things we do know.
Fifth-year senior center Seth VanDeest is the returning leader in scoring (9.5 points per game) and rebounding (4.8 per game).
Once he recovers from a knee injury, he can be one of the more reliable big men in the Valley. He also brings the experience needed to guide the five newcomers, especially 6-foot-11 freshman Jacob Jensen.
Along with VanDeest, Giacoletti praised the hard work and leadership of redshirt junior guard Karl Madison.
Madison sat out all last season with a severe knee injury and is itching to play.
His return, along with that of fellow guards Richard Carter and Gary Ricks, brings much-needed experience to the backcourt.
My point is that there’s a returning base of players, and that experience can be key in what promises to be a tough Missouri Valley schedule.
It is a two-sided coin, though.
It’s hard to know what to expect with freshmen and junior college transfers.
Junior transfer Chris Caird can be a threat from beyond the arch, and junior college transfer Trevor Berkeley provides another body in the post.
They both bring impressive stats from junior college, but it’s still a mystery as to how they’ll fare in Division I.
Jensen was the youngest player on the Danish national team. The focus is on what he’ll become in two or three years, but he could have a great impact off the bench.
He’s got good hands, a good work ethic and is longer than the average mid-size sedan.
ESPN picked Drake to finish last in the MVC. It’s not hard to make that pick. The Bulldogs lost a lot from a frankly unimpressive team last year.
I’m not saying, however, that there aren’t any reasons to be optimistic.
If the Bulldogs can play Giacoletti’s game, play good defense, rebound and score in transition, they might win a few more games than expected.
I think this team has the ability to do that, but, excluding a truly magical season, you won’t hear Drake announced as one of the 68 teams on Selection Sunday.
Drake won’t become the “Gonzaga of the Midwest” overnight. That’s most likely several years down the road.
In the meantime, we get to see what Giacoletti is able to do with this year’s squad.
Cannon is a sophomore news-internet and politics double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org