CAA Morning Session Done

By Phil Kasiecki - October 17, 2007

WASHINGTON -- We've just spent much of the past three hours talking with the CAA coaches about their teams and the conference as a whole. There's a little noteworthy from each team that we'll share, as well as some notable thoughts about the conference. We'll start with half of the teams, then come back with the other half and more after lunch and the post-lunch presentation.

Pat Kennedy says that this year, he has his "mystery team" in that he doesn't know what to figure yet. He feels good about his frontcourt, noting that Tommy Breaux's injury isn't as severe as first thought and he could be back by the end of the calendar year. But he also thinks Breaux isn't the first guy on the depth chart up front, which means he thinks newcomers like Tony Durant and Junior Hairston will lead the way quickly. He also thinks Rodney Spruill has made the biggest improvement since the end of last season. With Gary Neal gone, he said practice has been "interesting," as several players are now looking to be scorers, a change from last season when the complementary pieces tended to defer to Neal too much and not make themselves offensive threats.

New Georgia State head coach Rod Barnes talked a lot about change. He feels like his players are buying in to what he and his staff are trying to instill in them and wants the team to be competitive every night on the floor by working hard. With inexperience in the backcourt, which can often translate to offensive struggles, he will be emphasizing defense with this team more than normal, and he's a defensive coach to begin with.

Dean Keener can certainly feel that there are increased expectations at James Madison that come with his core holdovers being veterans and the additions of Abdullai Jalloh and Dazzmond Thornton. So far, he likes what he sees, and he's challenged chief holdover Juwann James to be a better rebounder. He thinks James should put up similar or even better numbers, but now they won't come out of necessity. Defense is something he has emphasized with this team, not surprising because they were the worst defensive team in the conference last year.

I had the chance to take in practice at Delaware a few days ago, so the focus of the discussion with Monte Ross was senior star Herb Courtney. He could average a double-double this year, but he's also a co-captain of this team that has several newcomers. Ross said the team has seen how he comes to work every day in practice and also takes care of things off the court, and they've taken to him as a leader. "He's never a problem off the court, he's never a problem as far as class or grades," Ross said of Courtney.

Benny Moss said all signs with T.J. Carter are positive thus far, and the school even went so far as to send him back to the same surgeon recently to make sure there were no doubts. In the meantime, he noted that with him away from the team, he couldn't be the leader by example he typically is and has become more vocal. His return should allow just about everyone else to play a role more suited to them, and the point guard spot is up for grabs with the departure of Temi Soyebo and Darryl Felder's injury.

William & Mary could be a real sleeper, as the Tribe brings back an experienced team with four starters. Head coach Tony Shaver noted that his two most improved players since the end of last season might be senior Peter Stein and junior Chris Darnell, which is notable because both play in the frontcourt. He also said he thinks that this team can be a little more consistent, as they had a long winning streak and two losing streaks, including a four-game losing streak to end last season.

Posted by Phil Kasiecki at 12:32 PM on October 17, 2007

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