I Beg Everyone to Avoid the Obvious “Brady ___” Headline…

Matt Brady, who steps in for Dean Keener at JMU as the CAAs lone new coach, was 73-50 at Marist. Impressively, Brady improved the team’s wins total from the previous year during each of his first three seasons.

Clearly Brady can coach ‘em up, and JMU needs his strong hand as it continues to unpile from the Sherman Dillard mess. No indicator can better sum up Keener’s tenure than a snapshot of last year in Harrisonburg.

The Dukes opened the year by defeating NCAA tourney team Siena (the Saints beat Vanderbilt in the NCAA first round) and opened its conference season by beating defending champion VCU and stood tall at 9-3. JMU promptly had two key players go down with injury, tossed one player off the team after a fight with an assistant coach, and lost eight of nine and 12 of 14 games.

Invoking the head prison guard in the original “The Longest Yard,” that’s all his-toe-ree.

Three Key Statements

  1. Abdulai Jalloh is a fantastic scorer, but he has to cut down on the turnovers and bad shots that keep both teams in the game.
  2. Daz Thornton has lost 50 pounds and is killing people in the preseason.
  3. Brady steps into a program with as much dysfunction as talent and needs to play a bit of Gibson’s William Wallace and unite the tribes.

Season Shaper(s)

  1. I can’t remember the last time I used “JMU” and “defense” in the same sentence without also using some form of the word “bad.” The Dukes lost four games last season when they scored 85 or more points. For the second straight season, JMU was last in the CAA in points allowed, field goal percentage defense, and three-point field goal percentage defense. Yikes!
  2. It bears repeating that Daz Thornton has put in the work. Look, the kid was a Top 100 high schooler that Bobby Knight recruited. Love him or hate him, Knight knows talent when he sees it.
  3. Pierre Curtis has been pretty good for two years. He needs to take that step you always hear coaches saying. Of note: Jared Jordan entered Marist as a skinny little point guard and Brady made him an NBA draft pick. I’m certainly not saying that is in Curtis’s future, but it does imply that Brady can help.

The Underdog
Kyle Swanston: He allows JMU to be big and athletic on the wing, which is important in the CAA. You have to compete on the wing or you’re dead. Swanston can also shoot a little. For two years I’ve been unable to precisely figure it out, but JMU is always significantly better when Swanston is on the floor.

Hey Coach, What Happens If…

  • The new-and-improved Thornton is nothing more than a skinny version of the Terry Forster Thornton?
  • Your biggest talents-Jalloh and Curtis-continue to be turnover machines yet you are getting steady and boring play from Heiden Ratner?
  • You are 2-0 in conference and 9-3 overall and Swanston is hurt?

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak:

Brady has to shore to the two big Ds for JMU-defense and dysfunction. Those aren’t quick fixes, but better than needing a talent overhaul. Place range is sixth through 10th.

Special Note:
I don’t care if you would root for Communism before you’d root for JMU, when the Dukes come to your town I have a request.

When the JMU players are introduced, stop booing and give Juwan James a hand. The kid deserves it. He’s suffered through five- and seven-win seasons while being hammered by opponents. He’s made it through the turmoil and never publicly had anything even remotely negative to say. All he does is work hard.

The kid is an asset to everyone associated with the CAA. This is his senior season and he merits attention and appreciation.


~ by mglitos on October 17, 2008.

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