Looking at La Salle
The Explorers got a huge monkey off their backs last season when John Giannini’s squad ended the school’s 20-year postseason drought with an appearance in the NIT.
That was a huge step forward for a storied program that had struggled in the past two decades. La Salle finished 21-13, which was just the fourth winning season in the last 20 years, and the Explorers reached postseason for the first time since the 1991-92 squad lost in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
And don’t expect the Explorers to take a step backward in 2012-13. In fact, it would be surprising if La Salle didn’t finish among the A-10’s best six teams and earn an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since the 1991-92 season.
La Salle is loaded in the backcourt with returning starters Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills. And Ty Garland, a transfer from Virginia Tech, will bolster that already talented group when he becomes eligible after the fall semester.
In Galloway, a senior who transferred from South Carolina prior to last season, the Explorers found a dependable scorer, tenacious defender and, most importantly, an on- and off-court leader. He looked like the best player in the city for the first month and a half last season before finishing a solid year by averaging 14.1 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent from long range. Galloway brought a needed winning mentality to the program.
Duren, a junior who averaged 13.2 points and 4.0 assists, is a tough and steady point guard who will run the offense and won’t turn the ball over. Mills is a good shooter and Garland, who is third in Philadelphia Public League history with 2,198 career points, can fill it up.
Add to that mix the talented Jerrell Wright, who averaged 9.8 points and 5.6 boards as a rookie last season, in the frontcourt and you can see why there is some genuine preseason excitement on Olney Avenue.
La Salle also has some good reserve pieces, like wing D.J. Peterson and big man Steve Zack, as well as some intriguing newcomers in big men Jermaine Davis and Darvin Hunt.
What can go wrong?
The chemistry was so good last season. It will be interesting to see how Garland fits in the backcourt mix. There are a lot of scorers and just one ball. If roles can be properly defined, then look out A-10. If not, it could be a struggle for La Salle.
With four guards on the floor, Giannini is content to concede the rebounding battle to take advantage of matchups at the offensive end. La Salle, however, will need more consistent play from its frontcourt, particularly against the more rugged teams in the league. Foul trouble, in particular, was a problem with the Explorers big men last season.
La Salle can play well but come up short in big games, as we’ve seen recently.
What can go right?
Galloway will play like he did in November and January, Duren will continue his development and Garland will provide another scoring option while maintaining the chemistry the team formed last season.
Zack and Wright will become a formidable inside duo.
What will happen?
The Explorers won’t disappoint their fans. They still will lose a few games that make you scratch your head (see Fordham and Delaware last season), but they will do enough to earn an at-large NCAA bid in a deep and talented A-10.
More La Salle coverage:
-Read the La Salle season preview by staff writer Cab Washington HERE.
-Follow all of Philahoops’ Explorers coverage on the La Salle page HERE.