COLUMN BY ADAM ROGAN
It’s been a long season for the Drake Men’s Basketball team, particularly since the turn of the new year. At the end of 2015, the Bulldogs were 5-8. Since, they have just one win in 13 games.
Unsurprisingly, a 6-20 record (1-13 in Missouri Valley Conference play) places Drake at the bottom of the conference with just four games left in the season.
Drake had a promising start to the season, winning four of its first seven games including an overtime victory against Western Kentucky and a 97-52 rout over Simpson in the first game of the season.
Since November, however, the season has had few high points. Drake lost its next four games, all by 12 points or less, then defeated Abilene Christian on Dec. 22. The Bulldogs have won once since, an 80-70 victory at home against Bradley.
Nobody questions the talent on the Drake roster. Reed Timmer is the third highest scoring player in the MVC and Kale Abrahamson is 16th. Timmer and Graham Woodward are each in the top 10 for 3-point percentage and Woodward is also ranked ninth in assist/turnover ratio.
Freshman Dominik Olejniczak is also finding his stride and becoming an offensive force in the paint. A 7-footer, Olejniczak has scored eight or more points in six of his eight games and started the last three. In spite of his height, his rebounding has been inconsistent.
He had 17 rebounds combined against Indiana State and UNI two weeks ago, but only pulled down two boards in the last two games combined.
Abrahamson’s consistency has been called into question as well. A newcomer to the Drake squad, he didn’t have a single game in November where he scored in single digits, including a 41-point showing in the overtime win against Western Kentucky.
In 2016, he’s only scored in double figures twice and he’s seen his minutes diminish as a result.
However, as Abrahamson’s contribution has dropped, sophomore Ore Arogundade has continued to improve and made his presence known.
Arogundade has scored in double figures five times since Jan. 20 and started the last three games and played 30-plus minutes in the last four. Standing at only 6-foot-3 – average for a male collegiate basketball player – he’s become one of the team’s best rebounders, averaging more than eight boards a game since Jan. 26.
Still, even with the arrival of new faces, the staple of the Bulldogs 2015-16 season has been the play of Timmer. He’s been held to under 10 points just twice this season, pulls down 3.5 rebounds a game and has a plethora of weapons in his offensive arsenal.
Timmer gets to the line as well as anyone in the NCAA (151 attempts in 26 games) and converts from the stripe at an impressively high rate: .815. His field goal percentage is .477 and his 3-point isn’t far behind at .419. All this combines into Timmer becoming one of the best scorers in Drake history.
Timmer is currently averaging over 17 points a game, a number that no Bulldog in at least 10 years has matched.
If Drake manages to win out, the best ranking they can hope for is eighth in the MVC, hardly respectable in a conference that boasts a ranked team like Wichita State. All 10 teams still earn automatic bids to the conference tournament, but the Bulldogs are a ridiculously distant long-shot for a championship and an NCAA tournament bid.
The goals for the rest of the season should be seeing what the future will look like for Bulldog basketball.
Head coach Ray Giacoletti should keep giving Timmer and Woodward minutes, as they will continue to lead the backcourt for the next two years. Arogundade should keep getting starts as he continues to prove his worth as an integral part of the team.
For the big men, Olejniczak and junior Jacob Enevold need more practice being physical in the paint and not relying on their height. Being seven feet tall can only earn you so many rebounds and sure doesn’t translate into scoring points, making the shots is what keeps you in the game.
As for Abrahamson, a redshirt junior who first donned a Drake uniform this season after transferring from Northwestern, he still needs to find his role with the team. He’s proven his ability to score (a lot), but still relies on his 3-point shot too much.
He’s shooting .349 from three, which is acceptable, but not as superb as it could be if he picked his shots better.
Abrahamson also could benefit from getting more physical in the paint, as his defense could be described as ‘decent’ at best. He’s an undeniably talented player, considering his ability to drive the lane and deep ball threat, but still isn’t refined or disciplined.
Much of his 6-foot-8 stature is left unutilized as he continues to settle for jump shots when he could better earn shots inside the arc and maybe even get to the free throw line. He isn’t a shooting guard, even if his playing style makes it look like he is
Still, with these assets the future of Drake Basketball looks bright. Only one player will be graduating at the end of the season – fifth-year senior guard Karl Madison – which means that the Bulldogs squad should be one of the more experienced teams in the MVC in the coming years, a pleasant change from the years spent rebuilding since Drake’s 2008 NCAA Tournament berth.
Even if the Bulldogs’ title hopes are bleak this year, don’t be too surprised if they challenge the MVC’s top teams in the not-too- distant future.