Under Martin, Marist showing signs of life
Young talented teams can look like a conference contender one minute and within a matter of seconds, display struggles that belly their inexperience.
This was no more evident than Marist in last Sunday’s road game against their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference brethren,Iona, the team widely expected by experts prior to the season to win the conference.
The game was tied at 4-all in the first few minutes before the Gaels went on their 23-7 run to take a 16-point lead.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume Iona would rev up the pressure and make it a forgettable Sunday night for the visitors from Poughkeepsie, .NY.
But Marist, a team that boasts four freshmen (point guard Isaiah Morton, small forward Chavaughn Lewis, forward Manny Thomas, guard T.J. Curry) and four sophomores (forward Jay Bowie, center Adam Kemp, forward Anell Alexis, center/forward Peter Prinsloo) among their top 10 rotation players, would not wilt. They made it a game and even took the lead in the second half by five points, 54-49.
Eventually,Iona’s talent and experience won out 83-74. Despite coming up short, Marist flashed young talent, moxie and most of all – hope – that this team is building upon something as this season comes to a close.
“All year long, we’ve talked about us,” Martin said after the Iona game. “Iona is a really good team; statistically one of the best teams in the country. But we don’t come into the game thinking about Iona, they do what we do and my thing is ‘do what we do’ and if we are the best Marist team we can be, we’ll compete with those guys.”
Junior shooting guard David Price (13.6 points a game) and senior point guard RJ Hall (4.0 points) are the only upperclassmen currently in the rotation. The team’s young talent is spearheaded by the small forward Lewis, who’s averaging 13.2 points a game and Kemp, the sophomore big man who’s averaging 8.9 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.
Lewis moved into the starting lineup five games ago and has played tremendous this year. The Queens, NY native (St. Mary’sManhassetHigh School) was recently named MAAC Rookie of the Week. It’s an honor he’s won twice.
“They are growing up right in front of my eyes,” Martin said. “Chavaughn has become a better defender and ball-handler within the past three weeks.”
Last season, Kemp sustained a fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand in early December. His season ended in February because of the injury. This season, Kemp has started all 26 games and improved his overall game.
“(Adam) Kemp has started to develop nicely,” Martin said. “The team is starting to come together slowly but surely; they are going to be a good group of guys to coach.”
Martin continued, “Someone told me last week we have one senior on the team – R.J. Hall – and if I did not have him, I would have the eighth youngest team in the country. When you have four freshmen and a sophomore out there for most of the time, it’s something you live with sometimes.”
After last season, Marist’s leading scorer, guard Sam Prescott (11.4 points), transferred as did two other rotation players, guard Candon Rusin (7.8 points) and forward Menelik Watson.
To make it even tougher for the Red Foxes, junior swingman Dorvell Carter went down with a season-ending Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in the team’s third game againstVermont. At the time, Carter was averaging 11.7 points a game.
“Dorvell was a good player, he gave us 12 (points) and 6 (rebounds),” Martin said. “He gave us some toughness but (his injury) also gave some other guys an opportunity to play more.
“(Manny) Thomas would probably not have played as much but he’s starting to come along a little bit.”
The promise Marist showed in their loss to Iona continued at home against conference leading Loyola this past Wednesday night. The Red Foxes rolled over Loyola (MD) 72-54 at McCann Arena. The win for Marist (10-16, 5-10 MAAC) gives them the most conference wins in the Martin era. They’ve won three out of their last four and are one win away from having the most overall wins in the Martin era. They are 8-3 at the McCann Arena.
“It’s night and day,” Martin said as to how the team has played now versus the start of the season. “We got to .500 earlier in the season; and 5-5 in the non-conference.
Maris has a three-game conference home stand (Fairfield, Siena, Niagara) to close the season before the MAAC tournament commences March 1 in Springfield, Mass. Martin believes if his young team can work out some of the kinks, his team will be a thorn in any opponent’s side.
“In the month of February, we’re playing and competing against the best teams in the conference,” Martin said. “We have to clean some things up; we got to execute a little better and got to rebound the ball a little bit better in the critical moments.
“I feel like we can beat anyone if we are playing together and have the right chemistry.”