Countdown to College Basketball: #31 Drake Bulldogs
Drake is coming off one of their best seasons in program history as they made the NCAA Tournament and even won a Tournament game as well. While there’s room for a drop-off, the Bulldogs return everyone but Joseph Yesufu from last season’s team and will be looking to run it back this season. Now the question turns to whether or not last year was a bit of a fluke or whether they can turn last season’s success into the start of the next great mid-major program.
Prior to Joseph Yesufu taking hold as being the top player for Drake, the team flourished with the leading scoring duo of Shanquan Hemphill and Roman Penn. Both players were injured late in the season and that coincided with the Bulldogs having some of their worst performances of the season. Penn is the leader of this team, while Penn isn’t a superstar scorer, he is a player that does everything else to have success. Penn is an elite passer, good defender, while he can be a premier scorer if needed. Shanquan Hemphill, otherwise known as Tank Hemphill will be the key piece inside. He’s a four-man that is a good scorer, rebounder, and a physically dominating force, while defensively he is able to switch as well.
Tremell Murphy and DJ Wilkins make up a duo of double-digit scorers that will both be returning to school for another season. Murphy was better late in the season and will be the player more likely to be the team’s leading scorer. Murphy is a good outside shooter, scorer, and defender, while he is able to play minutes at both the 3 and the 4. DJ Wilkins provides a perfect off-ball guard for the College game, he’s a selfless guard that is a sniper from deep, while he’s a tough defender who will get after opponents on the defensive end.
Darnell Brodie rounds out the starting-5, the former Seton Hall Pirate is a physically demanding big man who will be a good inside threat and dominant rebounder. Brodie is a 6’10 big man that is a good traditional back-to-the-basket big offensively, although he still needs to get better at finishing around the rim to unlock his full potential.
Garrett Strutz will be somewhat of a sixth man for this team, while undersized Strutz has a shiftiness and willingness to score around the rim. The prized recruit for this team will be Tucker DeVries, the son of head coach Darian DeVries. DeVries will be a good do-it-all guard, he projects as a modern-day wing while he has a reputation of being a good shooter, while he probably doesn’t start he will be a key piece in a reserve role. Noah Ferguson provides some much-needed interior depth shall players get in foul trouble. Jonah Jackson provides some additional shooting while playing in a bench role.
For the Bulldogs, last season’s success was something to be marveled at but not something that can be repeated. Their overall success largely came from beating up on a putrid schedule and that won’t be the case this year. Drake will have to bring it early in the season and collect some quality wins in non-conference play in order to make it back to the dance.
Fortunately for this team, it’s a well-organized machine that will bring it on every occasion and one that has an answer for every matchup. Should they face an undersized team, Brodie and Tank will dominate inside and take advantage of their size advantage. If a team focuses on the interior play too much, Penn, Wilkins, and Murphy can bury a team on the perimeter. This team is also going to be a menace on the defensive end with an answer to most matchups and one that can create offense through their defense. This Bulldogs team should be able to roll through most of the Missouri Valley and at a bare minimum earn an at-large bid, while they will be the favorite to win the Valley Tournament as well.
PG: Roman Penn
SG: DJ Wilkins
SF: Tremell Murphy
PF: ShanQuan Hemphill
C: Darnell Brodie
B2: Tucker DeVries
B3: Jonah Jackson
B4: Noah Ferguson