It’s the narrative heard 'round University City.
Last season, the Drexel Dragons were picked to win the Colonial Athletic Association after narrowly missing the NCAA tournament the year before. Instead, they finished with the third losing season of head coach Bruiser Flint’s 12-year tenure with the program.
“It definitely was a step backwards, that goes without saying,” Flint said. “Everybody knows that.”
The Dragons’ failures were due in large part to the injury guard Chris Fouch, then a fifth-year senior guard, who broke his ankle in the third game of the season and spent the remainder of the season on the bench.
Fouch said it was hard to go through his final year thinking it might be wasted on the sidelines.
“It was bad because I just wanted to get out there and help however I could,” Fouch said. “It was real tough seeing as I’d had a good first few games, and I just wanted to help them but I couldn’t.”
However the NCAA’s eligibility rules granted Fouch one last year of college eligibility -- as a grad student -- and his return can’t come fast enough, both for him and his team.
“Right now, it feels like my freshman year,” Fouch said when asked about his anticipation for this season. “I just want to get out there and start playing.”
In the 2½ games he played in last season, Fouch was firing on all cylinders, scoring 50 points in just 81 minutes. He was shooting 48 percent from behind the arc, and it seemed like the New York native had reached another level in his game before the injury derailed his offensive explosion.
If he can keep up that pace, Fouch will turn Drexel’s dormant offense, which ranked second-to-last in the CAA last season, into a powerhouse.
He fully expects to.
“Honestly I think I’ve passed that level,” Fouch said with a smile. “I haven’t felt this good since coming out of high school. I feel real energetic and I just wanna get out there and show what I’ve got.”
And Fouch’s presence is truly the key to the offense’s success. His return means improvement for the other two components of Drexel’s veritable Big Three, senior point guard Frantz Massenat and junior shooting guard Damion Lee.
Last season, both Massenat and Lee were asked to leave their natural playing styles in lieu of increased shot volume. Drexel was short at the guard position, and they were called upon to make up the difference.
The results were markedly negative. Massenat’s shooting percentage dipped six percent, and Lee was inconsistent throughout the season.
With Fouch’s return, these two will be great beneficiaries of a lightened load.
“[Fouch] and I actually talked a couple of times,” Massenat said, “and it’s definitely going to be easier with him coming back since he scores a lot of points. This way, I can get back to being a point guard player, and guys won’t have to worry about scoring as much as last year.”
Drexel kicks off its season Friday evening with a road game against UCLA. In mid-November, the Dragons compete in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament, facing Davidson and Southern Missouri during non-conference play.
But the Dragons’ season will be determined in conference play against a small-but-potent crop of eight CAA teams. Their main competition for the Colonial’s title this season will be the Towson Tigers, whose Jerrelle Benimon was named the conference’s preseason player of the year and is one of the best mid-major players in the country.
If Drexel can find a way to counterbalance Benimon’s play, the conference title should be within reach.
Yet after last season’s disappointing result, the Dragons are not keen about talking hypothetically. It’s time for Bruiser Flint’s squad to continue the jump they made two years ago. Lee made that abundantly clear.
“I think this year we really need to put things into action, and we can’t be a team that talks about it,” Lee said. “We have to just do it.”