“Year of the Dragon” was the mantra for the Drexel men’s basketball team this year. In a Colonial Athletic Association poll taken in October, the Dragons were favored to win the conference tournament with six of their returning top players. Unfortunately, Derrick Thomas was one of these top six, and he won’t be playing this weekend due to his interim suspension from the team.
Dragon fans everywhere were shocked when they heard the news of Thomas’ suspension. Thomas averaged eight points, 2.3 rebounds and 31.9 minutes per game. Where the Bronx, N.Y. native really contributed, though, was on the defensive end, as he has been one of the most tenacious defenders in the CAA since his freshman year.
How will this twist of fate affect the positive finale of this dark-horse team’s season? We think not so much. James “Bruiser” Flint has just earned another CAA Coach of the Year Award, his record-breaking fourth all-time. Dick Vitale, a well-noted ESPN college basketball analyst, recently said Flint should be considered a top-10 candidate for NCAA Coach of the Year.
Well, despite the tough circumstances, Flint and company have risen above it for the moment, coming off a victory over CAA rival Old Dominion University to finish the regular season. Thomas’ replacement, fellow junior guard Chris Fouch, scored 15 points, with his last free throw being the game winner.
Before the news of his arrest surfaced, Thomas was thought of as a genuinely stellar student-athlete who performed well both on and off the court. Not to say that the junior is not that same person, who simply made a mistake, but the point remains: He has put his team in a tough spot at the most crucial time of the season — the postseason.
The next couple of days will be filled with scrutiny. Will the Dragons be able to succeed without their No. 1 defender? Can they overcome the mistake made by a key member of their team?
Normally in this situation, the burden would fall on a single pair of shoulders — in this case Fouch could serve as those shoulders — but the Dragons will have to come together as a team.
The heart of the Dragons has gotten even younger after losing Thomas. It now consists of one senior, two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. Two team leaders, in addition to Fouch, will have to “clamp down” even more and preach team defense now that Thomas’ role is vacant.
Sophomore point guard and floor general Frantz Massenat and senior forward and captain Samme Givens will have to be the sole leaders of the Dragons. If they can continue their stellar play, and overshadowed players such as Daryl McCoy, Dartaye Ruffin and Aquil Younger can step up, they should be fine. And let’s not forget CAA Freshman of the Year Damion Lee, who should just keep doing what he’s doing.
Come March 6, the speculation as to which way the ball will tip on Drexel’s postseason will be over, and hopefully the Year of the Dragon will continue in our favor.