While last year’s campaign for the men’s basketball team ended with a first-round exit in the MAAC tournament, there’s a silver lining. There’s always a silver lining if you look hard enough. In John Dunne’s first season at the helm, the team went 12-19. That’s not all too impressive, but it’s a mark the team hadn’t reached since 2013. Slowly but surely, one could say Dunne is changing things. Some are out of his control — the departure of five senior-starters being one — but the multitude of additions is entirely his choice.
“Well there’s ten new guys, three of which were here last year but they redshirted,” Dunne said talking about his roster, explaining how it will feature a lot of new faces this upcoming season. The three redshirts were guards Michael Cubbage and Matt Turner, as well as center Jordan Jones. Dunne credits their redshirt seasons for making huge improvements in their development. “All of these guys have done wonders, vastly improving their game.”
Dunne looks to use Jones as a “back to the basket player,” also complimenting him for his skills inside but also has faith in him as a shooter. “He has the ability to make 17 footers.” With Turner, Dunne sees the prototypical two-guard, someone who can “put some points on the board for us while being efficient.” Last year, the team turned to senior Brian Parker as their main scoring option. This year, perhaps that role could belong to Turner.
As for Michael Cubbage, Dunne has high expectations. He mentioned that he’s capable of “controlling the game, playing point, scoring when we need to score, while also distributing the ball.” Cubbage later spoke on how excited he was for this year, saying, “I feel like I haven’t seen a referee in almost two years. I can’t wait for the first game.” Cubbage decided to transfer to Marist from Paris Junior College in Texas in order to “get closer to home… so my parents can see me play. They haven’t seen me play since my senior year of high school.” Come Friday, that can change.
Four of the new ten players on the roster this year will be freshman, something that can certainly be considered a double-edged sword. But Dunne had specific praise for each of them, harping on the attributes they’ll bring to the team.
“Henry Makeny is a long exceptionally athletic defender, who — by the time he’s an upperclassman — will be in the running for defensive player of the year,” Dunne said of the Sydney, Australia native. He dubbed Tyler Sagl a “shooter,” a praised echoed by Cubbage in turn (“Our guy from Toronto… he shoots from deep.”) The other two freshmen are guards Tyler Saint-Furcy and Jack Cavanaugh, rounding out this year’s class. Coach Dunne is still figuring out who will play this year out of the four, and who will sit as a redshirt. He put it simply: “We are not going to be able to play all four.”
Two of the ten will be joining the Red Foxes as transfers from Junior Colleges, one of them being forward Braden Bell. Bell is coming from Texas where he played at Ranger College. The other is Zion Tordoff, who Dunne noted is “a guy who has the ability to play some forward, some center,” and is “extremely quick-footed for a big [player].” Dunne’s defensive mindset is already established; last year, the team ranked fourth in average points allowed (69.3) and total points allowed (2,147), and fifth in defensive margin (-2.0). Tordoff fits right in, and Dunne credits him for “being able to guard multiple positions. He’s definitely going to be a big part of things for us.” Tordoff, who is from Bradford, England, played the last two basketball seasons at Casper College in Wyoming.
The final addition to the team — and perhaps the most exciting — is transfer Victor Enoh. Enoh played center for Memphis before transferring over to Marist this summer. While Enoh will eventually be a big piece for Marist, he has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
With all of these exciting young players on the roster, there is a downside: the aforementioned inexperience issue. “Anytime you have brand new players and you’re relying on first-year guys and freshman, there’s always inconsistency,” he said.
One of the struggles Dunne faced during his first year as head coach was time. “Last year, you knew you only had a certain amount of time with the group,” Dunne explained. “Everything that was new for them… we were trying to speed the process up, which isn’t easy when you’re trying to play a way they haven’t played.” The added pressure by only having limited time with his first squad restricted the big-picture approach. With what he is building now, there’s something bigger on the way. The youth — Tobias Sjoberg is their lone senior — will eventually turn into a wealth of experience. In three years, the four freshmen will be four seniors. That’s obvious math, sure, but it’s also a smart from-the-ground-up strategy.
What further gives this team hope is their drive to play for their coach. Jordan Jones summed up Dunne’s philosophy in the perfect way: “If you’re willing to run through a wall for me, I’m willing to run through the wall for you.”
“The biggest thing for us is to get consistent by the second half of the MAAC season and not get in too big of a hole,” Dunne said, talking about his expectations for the team. In a conference where the battle for the top spot has a chance to be close, Marist will have to win important conference games to remain in contention. The ideal scenario for Dunne is that the overhaul isn’t just a new look. It’s new and improved results.
Edited by Will Bjarnar & Amelia Nick