2016-17 NEC First Look: Central Connecticut State

Will replacing the longest tenured head coach in the NEC revitalize the CCSU program? New CCSU head coach Donyell Marshall is hoping to do just that. (Photo – uconnhuskies.com)

2015-16 results: 4-25, 3-15 (NEC), Last place in NEC.

Impact Losses:

Brandon Peel (F) – 11.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, All-NEC Third Team – graduated
J.J. Cratit (G) – 7.1 PPG, 1.4 RPG – transferred – Now at: Missouri Southern State (D2)
Jahlil Nails (G) –  6.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG – transferred – Now at: Palm Beach State College (JUCO)

Who’s In:

Tyson Batiste (G)
Kashaun Hicks (G)
Chris Williams (F)
Harrison Kay (C)
Tafari Whittingham (F) – 5th year senior
Donyell Marshall, Jr. (F) – Walk-On

What Went Right:

Senior forward Brandon Pell ended his college career being named on to the All-NEC Third Team by averaging 11.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game last season. He finished second in the NEC in double-doubles with sixteen. Freshman Austin Nehls was named to the All-NEC Rookie Team after averaging 11.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game while shooting just over 38 percent from three which was good for sixth among NEC players.

What Went Wrong:

Everything else. Central Connecticut finished with just four wins after a five-win season the year before and led to the retirement of their long-time head coach Howie Dickenman at season’s end. CCSU went out and hired from UConn star and NBA player Donyell Marshall as their new head coach. The Blue Devils lost their first 18 of 19 games before going 3-7 in their final ten games once Dickenman made it known he was retiring at the end of the season. CCSU was last in the NEC in scoring margin at -13.1 ppg and turnover margin at -3.52 tpg. They allowed teams to shoot 47.5 percent from the field which was also last in the NEC. CCSU was also dead last in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency in which they were allowing 118.0 points per 100 possessions. Ouch.

Potential 2016-17 Starting Five:

Sophomore Austin Nehls returns after a solid first season which landed him on the All-NEC Rookie Team. (Photo- CCSUBlueDevils.com)

Kevin Seymour (G) – Started in 18 of 29 games played last season. Averaged 4.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game.

Austin Nehls (G) – Started in all but one game as a freshman. Tied for first on the team in scoring at 11.7 ppg.

Khalen Cumberlander (G) – Started in 21 of 26 games played last season. Led CCSU in assists and finished third on team in scoring at 10.8 ppg.

Mustafa Jones (F) – Made 17 starts last season in 28 games played. His 3.8 rpg is among tops for CCSU returnees. 

Tafari Whittingham (F) – The 5th-year senior played the last two season at South Alabama. Started in South Alabama’s last 18 games in playing all 30 games last season. Averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

2016-17 Non-Conference Schedule:

11/11 (Fri) Hartford
11/13 (Sun) @ Seton Hall
11/16 (Wed) @ Binghamton
11/22 (Tue) Penn
11/30 (Wed) @ Maine
12/3 (Sat) Brown
12/6 (Wed) @ Rutgers
12/10 (Sat) @ Duquesne
12/13 (Tues) @ Yale
12/18 (Sun) @ UMass Lowell
12/21 (Wed) @ Fordham

Early Outlook:

Obviously, it is hard to gauge how long a program takes to adapt to a new head coach and his philosophies especially a rookie head coach who has no prior head coaching experience and more so when said head coach is replacing the longest-tenured head coach in the NEC. As I noted, this program has fallen on hard times in the past two seasons so it is going to take a while for this program to get back to what it was when they were constantly in the mix for an NEC title.

Usually with a new voice at the head coaching position, you see more life, more energy out of a team. Look no further than what FDU head coach Greg Herenda did to the FDU program when he first arrived and you could quite well see a similar thing happen at CCSU in year one under Marshall. Although it is not going to take too much to improve upon the four wins they got last season, Marshall’s arrival should bring more competitiveness and more spirit into what had become a dormant CCSU program.

CCSU has same talent with players like Khalen Cumberlander, Austin Nehls and Mustafa Jones returning back but they will sorely miss All-NEC star Brandon Peel. The rest of CCSU’s roster consist of guys who have little to no experience so undoubtedly it is going to be a work in progress all season long for Marshall and his coaching staff. It is hard to gauge right now if this team is capable of working their way out of the NEC basement but the NEC has had another offseason in which some big names decided to move elsewhere which could open opportunities for teams like CCSU to begin improving and winning more games next season.

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