THE HORNETS' NEST -- Season 65 preview
The new era begins in WInchester. The most successful senior class ever at Shenandoah has moved on after posting the most successful season in the history of Shenandoah. The question now is whether Red Nu can produce another 20-win season without those bodies on campus.
The Hornets begin this season, once again, with one of the most athletic (#25) and defensively inclined (#14) teams in the nation. Dennis Frisch was named a second-team Preseason All American, another first for Nu's tenure in town. Frisch will certainly be leaned on to take on an even greater leadership role than he did last year, when he burst on the scene as a point guard, posting his second straight season of averaging 11+ points per game. Frisch is also on the prowl for the school record in career steals. Theodore Fields and Joseph McBride will have to step up and produce more in support for Frisch, who will certainly miss the plethora of weapons he dished the ball off to a season ago.
There are five new faces in town this season to take the place of the departed graduates. Many eyes will look to this group and the shoes that were left for them to fill are significant:
-- George Dixon
will grow into a post role for the Hornets. His offensive game won't bloom much, but he has high rebounding and shot block potential and the defense will rise to lockdown standards. Outside of that, the Hornets believe he has good court vision for a big man and should be able to distribute the ball well by the time he graduates. Like others before him, Dixon was a D2 wannabe who didn't make the test scores and opted to enroll in the Hornets' academically superior wine-tasting school to earn his education.
-- Richard Pursel
was getting a lot of attention from Centre before opting to become a Hornet. It might take a season for Pursel's athleticism to hit a level where his rebounding and shot blocking -- both of which could end up in the 90s -- really start to show up on the floor, but the coaching staff is committed to giving Pursel at least 10 minutes per game this season in an effort to see it develop. Pursel's low post game won't grow much, but he has a high-potential jump shot that could make life interesting if it grows significantly.
-- James Lehner
arrives in town from Albuquerque, a familiar stomping ground for Nu in the off-season. With high potential in the low post, on the perimeter and in defense, it is hoped Lehner develops into a force at the small forward slot rather than fizzling like some previous impact SF wannabes seem to have done in Nu's motion scheme. At worst, he should be a 7 point per game senior in the motion. At best, he'll turn into the sort of flex player that can line up in a number of positions and make life interesting for opponents.
-- Hugh Veras
will redshirt this season, meaning the Hornets will use an 11-man rotation throughout the season. Veras had a host of low high-potential categories, but kept his high-high in perimeter shooting, which should allow him to become a critical contributor after a redshirt year. We'll do everything we can to spike that perimeter number this year so that he can step in as an SG next year if needed.
-- Roger Smith
arrives all the way from Alaska as this year's class held a decidedly western flavor to it. Smith will be a PG mainly as his speed could enter the 80s or higher. With high potentials in both low post and perimeter, he could blossom into an amazing threat with the rock. At the very least, his speed will hopefully draw some contact from time to time.
Overall, the recruiting class ranked #12 according to the news stand magazines. The Hornets were one of 15 additional teams to receive votes in the preseason top 25 poll and begin the year as the No. 40 team in the country.
Fans ought not expect another top-10 finish or a trip to the Sweet 16 and 28 wins. This is a reloading season in the program. That said, this should not be a return to the .500 seasons or worse of a few years back. After three consecutive 20-win seasons, Nu's program looks to be established now. The team might not get to that 20-win plateau this year, but if the stars align, a serious run at 20 wins could be made. If that comes to pass, then also expect the Hornets to be suiting up in some sort of tournament after the conference postseason for the fourth consecutive year.