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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Coach John Giannini and the resurgent Explorers program are likely to take a step back next year after the loss of seniors Steven Smith (19.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg), the two-time A-10 player of the year, and guard Jermaine Thomas, the team's third leading scorer (12.2 ppg). Also departing is onetime project Lewis Fadipe (4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 34 blocks), who became a serviceable backup and post defender under the guidance of Giannini. Those three seniors led LaSalle to its first winning season since the school joined the A-10 in 1996, as the Explorers piled up 18 victories (vs. 10 losses) and achieved their highest finish (3rd place) in conference play.

The cupboard is by no means bare, however. Up front, LaSalle returns workmanlike 6-8 power forward Mike St. John (5.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) as well as a trio of youngsters, sophomore Darnell Harris, freshman forward Paul Johnson and big guard Marshall Taylor, a redshirt freshman. Harris (12.6 ppg, 39% 3PG) emerged as one of the best outside shooters in the A-10 in his second season and finished second on the team in scoring, while both Johnson (5.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Taylor (5.4 ppg) won A-10 freshmen of the week awards. Energetic swingman Sherman Diaz (3.1 ppg), a tough defender who has occasional scoring outbursts, will also be back for his third year.

Joining those players is, on paper, arguably LaSalle's finest recruiting class in almost two decades. Giannini signed five prepsters and welcomes a transfer from Providence College. All six are topnotch athletes who bring a variety of skills. From that group, Giannini needs to find one or two players who can help out St. John down low. The best post prospect, PC transfer Desean White, a 6-7 230-pound combo forward, won't be eligible until late December and has a penchant for playing on the perimeter. Until he suits up, Giannini may have to deploy Johnson or freshmen Brian Grimes or Yves Mekongo-Mbala in the paint. Given the team's lack of height and post experience, however, Giannini may opt to speed up the game to create more points on the fast break or off turnovers.

For the Explorers to be effective in transition, they need better point play. Junior-to-be Tabby Cunningham, the team's 5-8 point guard, had a rocky second season and is not viewed by most LaSalle fans as the answer. it's far from clear, though, if any of the newcomers is ready to handle the ball right off the bat. Still, expect Giannini to tinker. Incoming freshmen. Rodney Green and Ruben Guillandeaux are said to be good passers.

RECRUITS

1) Yves Mekongo-Mbala PF 6-7 220 Elizabeth, NJ

2) Brian Grimes F 6-7 218 Philadelphia/Brewster Academy (NH)

3) Kimmani Barrett F-G F 6-6 205 Patterson, NJ

4) Rodney Green G-F 6-5 190 Philadelphia, Pa.

5) Ruben Guillandeaux G-F 6-5 175 Brooklyn NY/St. Patricks (NJ)

6) Desean White F 6-7 230 Philadelphia/Providence College

Mbala is a rapidly improving combo forward with excellent athleticism, some decent post moves and even the ability to knock down 3-pointers. Mbala runs the floor well and hits the boards hard, but he'll need to work on his ballhandling and ability to take defenders off the dribble. He'll get a chance to play quickly given LaSalle's losses in the frontcourt.

Grimes, the former Philly hoops star, is a frontcourt tweener. He played with his back to the basket in high school and went the prep route to try to expand his game. He's supposed to a good faceup shooter from 15 feet but can also drop an occasional trey. More important, he's willing to do the dirty work inside and on the boards. Since he's older and more physically developed than some of the other recruits, Grimes might have an inside track on a starting position. Like several other LaSalle recruits, Grimes is an excellent student.

Barrett is an athletic slasher, a jack-of-all trades type of player who does what his team needs for them to win. He may have trouble finding a definitive role early on but his versatility should come in handy.

Green is yet another athletic wing player, but he has a good handle and the ability to man the point. He's at his best in the open floor and is a good finisher. In high school, he often posted up smaller opponents and covered the other team's top scorer.

Guillandeaux, a rangy combo guard, has a decent outside stroke and pretty good handle. He's also said to be a creative passer and wants to play the point. He might get that opportunity given LaSalle's shortcomings in that position.

White, a transfer from Providence, is small forward in a power forward's body. He wont be eligible until the second semester, but he would immediately become the team's biggest player and will likely be asked to play with his back to the basket. Just to keep opponents honest, White can step outside for long jumpers and has some ability to take defenders off the dribble. A heralded recruit at Providence, he showed some flashes of talent as a freshman, but he broke a bone in his foot before the start of his second year and only played six games before transferrring. White said he was homesick.
 

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WH, Mike St. John is only a junior. He is back next year. Our frontcourt is not totally depleted.
All of these recruits come from top programs, played in big games, and have had very good coaching. They all will step in and contribute.

While I will agree we will take a step back next year I still think we will have a winning season and this team is built to contend in this league 2-3 years down the road. 18 wins is probably a stretch.

I have seen every recruit play and they are a far cry from the non-superstar recruits Speedy Morris and Billy Hahn brought in. This team will be deep and deeper than it has ever been.

Better floor balance with better talent on the court at all times. Exciting times for LaSalle fans.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I saw a mention on the LaSalle board that St. John was only a junior but didnt look it up because I was positive he was a senior. Very weird. I really do think I have seen him for three years at LaSalle, but when I think about it, he did come in the class after Neal and Thomas. I shall have to edit the snap. Tks for the heads up, Mik, and any comments on the new guys is welcome.
 

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Giannini told me Mbala is the most mentally tough player he has ever recruited. 4.0 GPA Class Valedictorian and just blowing up right now. Was named MVP last night in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions Championship last night. Smart as they come.

Kimmani Barrett is an inside-out player with freakish athletic ability. Looks like Terrell Owen's twin. A very good defender as well. Guarded Duke's Brian Zoubek earlier this year and led his team to a win. Had 22 rebounds in the game to go with 24 points I believe.

Rodney Green is playing for a state championship Saturday. Named Philadelphia Public League Player of the Year. Incredible transition player. Best in the Philly area by far according to Ted Silary. Needs to work on a consistent jump shot. Also a good defensive player.

Brian Grimes played with Randy Ayers(Notre Dame) and Andrew Ott(Villanova) in high school. Giannini told me every time he went to see Germantown Academy play Ayers and Ott got all the hype but Grimes got all the points and rebounds. Also a very good student.

Ruben Guillandeaux is an excellent passer. Heady player. Now listed at 6"6 and will get shot to play point guard. Smart player who lets game come to him. Needs to get stronger.

DeSean White was a major player coming out of high school. Played better as a freshman than sophmore last year but he was hurt. Can play inside or out. Played with both Kyle Lowry and Shane Clark of Villanova in high school. I believe he is closer to 6"8 than 6"7.

G told me everyone will play significant minutes next year.
 

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Blue Dog said:
How'd the Explorers end up with such a big class? Is this fallout from the rape expulsions?

Should G have brought in a juco to try and balance the classes a little better?
Yes this class is big because of the rape situation and two transfers.

LaSalle has had 3 Jucos in the 22 years I have been following them. It is very difficult to get Jucos into LaSalle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
White, the transfer, is a sophomore. The other five are frosh, but someone might get redshirted and it's not clear that all will be eligible.

Come on, Blue Dog. LaSalle isnt Duke. They've got to sign all the good talent they can find. Giannini can worry about the numbers game later. It's highly unlikely that all six will end their careers at LaSalle, anyway. Few classes that size at any school do.
 

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No one is going to be redshirted WH. At least not at this point.

Rodney Green is the only question as far as qualifying. I have talked to one Philly recruiting guru that said he thinks he will qualify. LaSalle's lack of interest in available point guards this spring also tells me Giannini expects him to qualify.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I wouldnt expect any decisions on redshirts to be made until the season starts or thereabouts. Someone could get injured, so you never know.

I am almost as eager as you, Mik, to see all the new guys show up. I am particularly curious about what G will do with the offense.
 

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The other positive about this group is they all come from winning high school programs. These kids are used to winning which can't hurt.

Mbala (game MVP) and Guillandeaux led St.Patrick's High School to the championship of the NJ Tournament of Champions last night. NJ crowns 6 state champions. 3 different enrollment levels and parochial/non-parochial champs for each. The 6 champions go to the TOC where the overall state champion is crowned. St. Pat's is a traditional power and they have been ranked as one of the Top 25 high school programs for most of the season. They've played a national schedule so these kids are used to facing the best competition which will prepare them to step right in and contribute because with Smith, Thomas and Fadipe graduating, there will be over 80 minutes of playing time to be replaced.

Grimes played this season for Brewster Academy who finished in the top 3 of the Class A NEPSAC prep league where there is serious competition. He was a double-double machine for them. Coming out of Phila area powerhouse Germantown Academy last year, he was a 6'6", 195 lb power forward. Since then, he has grown to 6'7", 230 lbs and has extended his game out to 15-18'. He's also an Ivy League-level student, as is Mbala, who supposedly was #1 in his class at St. Pat's. Coach Giannini has compared Grimes to current Dayton forward Norman Plummer.

Barrett played for traditional NJ power Paterson Catholic. I believe PC had a slightly better than .500 record, but Barrett had an excellent season. He led PC to an upset win over one of the six NJ state champions Haddonfield HS and Duke-recruit 7'0" Brian Zoubek earlier in the season. Barrett put up something like 23 pts and 16 rbds against him and shut Zoubek down late in the game to seal the win. He had to shoulder most of the load this season after talented 6'8" twins Terrell and Jerell Williams transferred out of PC to Northfield Mt.Hermon Prep last September. The 6'6", 210 lb Barrett is a warrior and is more of a slasher and low post scorer than anything. He will need to work on his outside shot for the college game, but he's athletic and strong enough to play inside in the A10 until his perimeter game develops.

Green is the sleeper of the bunch, but he's really much more than that. He has led Phila Prep Charter to the PA Class AA state championship game which is being played on Saturday. This kid is a high-flying finisher and has a great feel for the game. He's also improved his perimeter game a lot over his senior season. Coach G sees him and Guillandeaux as his point guards of the future. Prep Charter, even though it's a small enrollment school, would have a legitimate chance to win the PA Class AAAA championship. Earlier in the season, Green scored 28 pts as Prep Charter blew traditional power Chester HS out by 21 pts. Chester was upset by 5 pts in last nights PA Eastern final.

White was a Top 100 recruit out of Cardinal Dougherty HS in Phila two seasons ago. He can score with the best of them and has a man's body. In high school, he had a shoot-first mentality, but if G can harness his talent, he has a legitimate shot to be an all-A10 player for the next 2 1/2 seasons. He should have an immediate impact as he's already been through a season of Big East wars where he avgd almost 6 pts and 3 rbds off the bench for Providence.

Coach G has put together an OOC schedule similar to this past season so his young team can gain some confidence before getting to the A10 games. Not sure if this has been finalized yet, but there are plans to take the team for a Canadian 4 or 5 game tour over the Labor Day weekend. Since that is after the school year begins, the freshmen are eligible to take the trip. They will be allowed to practice for two weeks prior to the trip so this will give our young team a chance to play together and get a head start on the season.

This coming year's team may take a step back, but not as much as people think. With an advantageous OOC schedule and an early start to the season with the Canadian trip, I like their chances to have another winning season.
 

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There are 4 classifications. 1,2,3 AND 4A. The 4 championships are this weekend.

It probably seems like every team is playing for the championship because it takes over a month to get down two the final two teams in each class. We have been winding these teams down for almsot 4 weeks.
 

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There are 4 different enrollment levels in the PIAA (Penna Interscholastic Athletic Association).

A, AA, AAA, AAAA

The more A's, the larger the enrollment. Not sure what the cutoff numbers are when determining what level a school is at. Typically, the champion of the Class AAAA is the best team in the state but that might not be the case this year. But you will always have 4 state champions in Pennsylvania. They should do what NJ does and have a Tournament of Champions at the end of the season.

Prep Charter, who comes out of the Phila. Public League, is playing for the Class AA championship tomorrow, and is actually a Class A school (their enrollment is less than 500 kids) but they are playing up a class in the playoffs. Not sure why, but probably because they would steamroll through Class A and the PIAA agreed to allow them to move up. They have already beaten a number of teams who would be considered Class AAAA level. They have at least 5 D-1 players on their roster. Rodney Green is the only senior in the starting lineup. They have 6'8" twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris who are being recruited by all the Phila schools and are getting looks from a number of Big 6 conference schools. They are supposedly a package deal.

Not all high schools in Pennsylvania belong to the PIAA and therefore cannot compete for the state title. The Philadelpha Catholic League is the most obvious exception. This year's champ, St.John Neumann-Goretti, would probably be the favorite to win the states if they were eligible to compete. Roman Catholic and St.Joe's Prep would probably be in the hunt as well.
 

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The PIAA determines the classification by dividing enrollment. The top 25% in enrollment are AAAA schools. Next 25% are AAA and so on. A school is permitted to play in a larger classification but not in a smaller one. You must declare at the start of the season if you want to play in a larger classification like Prep Charter did. Schools are divided into 12 districts. Some do not have 4A or 3A size schools. As was mentioned the Phila. Catholic League is not a member of the PIAA, but they are considering joining. The Phila. InterAc league is also not a member. Episcopal Academy with Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellington, two top 25 players, could not participate as they are an Interac school. Interac schools are Ivy League type high schools education and tution wise.

One correction that WH mention concerning DeSean White. He is eligible in early December not late. As soon as the first semester ends, you become eligible. He will miss 5 or 6 games.
 
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