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Jamaal Womack heads an improved St. Francis College basketball team for the upcoming season that opens with three straight road games, including one against Big East rival Seton Hall at the Prudential Center in Newark on Nov. 14.
Womack, a senior, heads a nice mixture of holdovers and newcomers, including four freshmen. The guard is the top returning scorer, averaging 12.1 points a game last season. He is one of the fastest players in the Northeast Conference and is a superb defensive player as well.
Joining Womack in the backcourt is sophomore Ricky Cadell, who averaged 9.3 points an outing. He displayed flashes of brilliance with his ability to convert from the perimeter and making clutch shots.
Coach Brian Nash expects a great deal from returning starter Womack.
“Last year I turned into mainly a scoring two guard, averaging in double figures,” Womack said. “My roles are to make sure that my team is on the same page with my coach, to provide proper scoring abilities when needed and to show my maturity level. I know what Coach Nash wants. I have to stay focused and be a leader.”
Womack progressed greatly from his freshman to senior years.
“I’m totally a different player, as I see a lot of things the way the coach seems them,” the 5’8”, 170-pound three-year starter said. “Now I’m starting to see things before they tell it to me. I have to be a student of the game.”
Joining the backcourt pair is junior forward Kayode Ayeni, who played at Transit Tech High School and then at Laurinburg Prep. At the latter school, he played with Division I prospects, improving on his game and gaining more confidence, before he entered St. Francis College.
“I have to do the things that I’ve done in the past and more so this year,” said Ayeni. “It’s a test but I’m ready for it. My confidence level is that much higher. I could do things now with my game that I couldn’t do in my first two years.”
The Terriers are still building and have a lot of potential.
“I think we’re at a point this year where we have our most talented team and we have more scorers than we had in the past,” Coach Nash said.
Perimeter scoring, led by Womack, Cadell, Stefan Perunicic, Tom Ward, Richard Clark and Rocco Rubino, depth, rebounding, speed and the leadership of Ayeni, Womack and Cadell are the major strengths.
A weakness is the fact that the Terriers have seven newcomers who are trying to blend in.
“We’re changing how we play a little bit, offensively,” Nash said. “We’re taking away a little freedom from our players. Now we’re running more of a structured motion whereas last year we ran a lot of motion giving the players freedom. The biggest difference from our team is the ability to shoot the perimeter shot. Our ability to shoot the ball from three-point range will help in our half court offense.”
The possible starters are Cadell, Womack, Ayeni, Perunicic and Herman Wrice.
“My goal first and foremost is for us to become a unified team,” said Cadell. “That’s before even the season starts. We have the talent to go into the playoffs and go far. Secondly, my goal is for us to win the league tournament and go to the NCAA championship.”
“We had three bad years, but now I feel it’s that time not only to make the playoffs but also to be among the top four teams to have a home game so a lot of people can see us in the playoffs,” added Ayeni.
Before the league starts, the team has non-conference opponents, playing six out of their seven first games on the road.
“I know we’re going to take our lumps early,” said Nash. “If we can gain some success early on, I think we can build some momentum on the road. If we progress like I think we will, I think we’ll be competitive in the league.”
Rounding out the team are Rainier Richards, Nigel Byam, Nigel Lee, Justin Newton, Richard Clark, and John Gooden.
Turning to soccer, the Terriers, who supported an eight game winning streak during the season, are battling for first place in the Northeast Conference. John Sallhug, Jeverton, de Lorenzi, and Anthony Matos are the top scorers. Chris Antonino with six shutouts played every minute of the season, after their initial 13 games.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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