Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman sat in his office Wednesday reflecting on his 18th season at his alma mater and looking ahead to his 19th. He talked specifics – strengths, weaknesses, highs and lows – and then generalities.
“We’ve got to get back in the mix near year,” Dickenman said. “This one-and-done thing is not a good feeling.”
Central, Northeast Conference champions in 2002, 2002 and 2007, has finished seventh and lost an NEC tournament quarterfinal at Wagner each of the last three seasons. Since going 19-12 in 2010-11, Central has finished with records of 13-17, 13-16 and 11-19 this past season.
The Blue Devils will return most of their core next season. Senior guards Kyle Vinales and Malcolm McMillan, sophomore guards Matt Mobley and Khalen Cumberlander, junior forward Brandon Peel and senior forward Faronte Drakeford will be major contributors.
Forward Juwan Newmen, who transferred from College of Southern Idaho and will have one year of eligibility remaining, is considering a transfer, perhaps to a Division II school, because he wants more playing time. Newmen, 6-foot-8, averaged 12.1 minutes and 3.8 points this season. He and Dickenman met to discuss his future Tuesday and will again in the coming days.
Dickenman expects to have four new players next season, and two are already signed – Shakaris Laney, a 6-4 guard from St. Benedict’s in New Jersey; and Mustafa Jones, a 6-7 forward from Cardinal Hayes in New York. Central is looking to use two more scholarships on a combination guard and a big man.
Though Peel has emerged as a solid power forward, the latest lost to Wagner underscored Central’s need for more depth up front.
“They were long,” Dickenman said. “You drive into the lane and get it blocked, or your at a disadvantage because I don’t think you can have 100 percent concentration knowing [there are tall defenders in the paint]. It’s a detour sign. We’re missing a big guy. We gave up too many second-shot opportunities. Too many put-backs. We also have to do a better job getting to the foul line. We were over 71 percent [71.7], but you’ve got to get to the line. We spend hours on free throws, and we’ve got to get some dividends from that. The best way to do that is slash, penetrate more.”