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Mount St. Mary's
When Jamion Christian took the reins of the program before last season, the school had only won 19 games over the previous two years. But what looked like a rebuilding project became the fourth-best Division I season in Mountaineer history, with Christian's squad finishing 18-14 (and earning a spot in the Northeast Conference championship game.
Christian (above left) said his team's surprise season came from focusing less on wins and losses and more on establishing a "process of winning." He hopes the players will continue buying into that process in his second year.
"It begins with how you conduct yourself going to class, knowing that you represent your teammates and university," he said. "Secondly, you have to create a high level of work ethic and understanding how important your role is. It's just about the process."
The process is helped by highlighting versatile players in Christian's "mayhem" system, a pressure defense coupled with a 3-point-centric offense. Senior guards Rashad Whack (13.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, pictured above right) and Sam Prescott (11.1 ppg, 4.2. rpg) were the team's leaders in both shooting and rebounding last year.
Whack's ability to make open shots on the perimeter -- he shot .359 from 3-point range -- was especially important.
"We ask him to guard the best player on the other team and also lead us in scoring," Christian said. "He has the opportunity to do that every night."
Mount St. Mary's was picked sixth in the Northeast Conference after finishing tied for fifth in the regular season last year (11-7). A difficult early schedule will test the Mountaineers' mettle. They play their first five games on the road, with an opener at West Virginia on Friday and a trip to face Villanova on Wednesday.
Mount St. Mary's is expected to field a lineup of mostly upperclassmen, but there still are a few young players with potential. Will Miller, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward from Dallas was mentioned by Christian as a polished shooter who could contribute.
"We've had a good plan for our freshmen here," Christian said. "We'll work on a person¿s positives and strengths to make sure he can help us at some point this year, then sometime before next year we'll work on their weaknesses. They'll get better at their [strengths] faster anyway."
-- Nicholas Fouriezos
December 19, 2012