Marist enters a season in which it has garnered higher expectations than any team head coach Chuck Martin has led in his time here. 2011-12 saw an increase in wins from 6 to 14 for the Red Foxes, going 10-4 in front of the home crowd at the McCann Arena. The Foxes’ projected starting five will not see any changes from last season, which is welcome news to a team that has been no stranger to roster turnover in recent years. However, amid the budding excitement for this year’s team, Chuck Martin does not believe the expectations from the Red Fox-faithful will have an effect on the way this team prepares for the season.
“I’m not sure if the expectations of the public affect us at all,” Martin said. “One of the things we try to do is: We want to be the best Marist team we can be every day. We feel like if we can maximize everything we have in us every day, that we’re as good as anybody in the MAAC.”
Being as good as anybody in the MAAC could be a bold statement for a team that finished 8th in the conference last season. However, wins at home over eventual conference champion Loyola as well as Siena showed the potential this team has. Adding a year of experience to the roster that showed these occasional flashes of brilliance has Chuck Martin and the Foxes excited.
“When you get a taste of winning, you get excited, and you want more,” Martin said. “The excitement of finishing the season out the way we did last year has our guys a little bit more focused and a little bit more driven.”
One thing this year’s Red Foxes will have to work to correct is their ability to win on the road. The Foxes finished 2-12 on the road last year, with their lone road victories coming at Saint Peter’s and Maine. Martin believes the core of the roster remaining in tact will help the team succeed in this area.
“Without a doubt, one of the issues I’ve had since I’ve been here is continuity with the roster,” Martin said. “When you have a team coming back, losing no one, it’s going to help you to win games on the road.”
Junior forward Jay Bowie echoes the sentiment that the continuity will help this team where it struggle on the road.
“It’s no secret we’ve had road problems over the last two years,” Bowie said. “I think it really comes down to chemistry and trust with each other. Now that we’ve been with each other for a long time over the last two years, we’ve really picked up our chemistry.”
There are few players on the Foxes’ roster who represent continuity better than Devin Price. A senior guard from Inglewood, California, Price is going to be heavily relied on by the Red Foxes this season, as he was last season, when he played 33.9 minutes, and scored 13.6 points per-game. Recently named a captain alongside Bowie and redshirt senior guard/forward Dorvell Carter, Price is embracing his leadership role with the team.
“Being a captain, I have to lead by example, show them how to work, by doing it myself,” Price said. “You never want to stop working. You have individual goals, you have team goals, and the best way to do both is to be better yourself.”
Price, who comes into this season with 901 total points and is expected to pass the 1,000 point threshold this season, is holding himself to a high standard in terms of his on-court performance this season.
“Chuck wants me to be the player that I am,” Price said, “One of the best players in the conference, so, for myself, that’s the standard I hold myself to.”
Carter was averaging over 12 points per-game last season for the Red Foxes before he sustained his second torn ACL in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. It was the second time Carter sustained the injury during his time at Marist. In his fifth year with the team, Carter believes that he can provide wisdom and leadership to this team.
“We talk to the freshmen all the time,” Carter said of himself and Price,
They’ll make a play or they’ll make a mistake and we just say ‘We went through that same thing, it’s a long season, hold your head up, we all make mistakes.’ Being a captain is a big leadership role, and it’s a role I accept.”
However, as Price had become a steady hand for the Foxes last season, a pleasant surprise for the team and its fans was the meteoric rise of freshman forward Chavaughn Lewis, who led the team with 14.4 points per game last season. His performance earned him freshman All-MAAC, Hall of Fame Tip-Off All-Tournament Team, and Mid Major All-American honors, and Lewis believes he is ready to take the next step in his development this coming season.
“If there’s a bigger role for me to take, I’m willing to live up to the expectations,” Lewis said. “Whatever the team needs, whatever coach needs, that’s what I’m willing to do.”
The Foxes take the court for the first time this season on Friday, November 9, against Stony Brook. It will be the first step in discovering if chemistry and veteran leadership are what it takes for this team to take the next step, and challenge for a MAAC championship.