Drexel's men's (pictured) and women's basketball teams will open the 2011-12 season in November.
With talented veteran teams returning, anticipation surrounding the start of Drexel men’s and women’s basketball season next month is undeniable. Students, staff and supporters will have ample opportunities to get to know the teams in the coming weeks in preparation for their mid-November tip-off.
Led by three-time Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year, James “Bruiser” Flint, the Drexel men are already considered by sports media pundits to be a chic pick as this year’s surprise team -a la George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth in recent seasons. A number of key contributors return from last year’s team, which boasted a 21-10 record and posted impressive victories over nationally ranked Louisville and Final Four participant Virginia Commonwealth. Among the group are All-Conference selections Samme Givens and Chris Fouch and All-Rookie Team members Frantz Massenat and Dartaye Ruffin.
“We have an experienced group of players coming back this season,” Flint said. “We know that the expectations are going to be much higher than they were a year ago, but with an experienced group we understand that and look forward to the challenge.”
The team opens its season in pursuit of its third 20-win campaign in the last six years with a 6 a.m. contest at Rider that is part of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon on November 15. From there the Dragons travel to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to take on a field that includes national powers Virginia, Marquette and Mississippi in The Paradise Jam, a tournament that will also give the team national television exposure. Fans will have their first chance to see the Dragons at home on December 10, when they host the Princeton Tigers at Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Game-day atmosphere at the 2,532-seat DAC is one of the unique Drexel experiences and one of the most intimidating environments for opponents to play. Students can get a taste of this phenomenon on November 5, when Head Coaches “Bruiser” Flint and Denise Dillon welcome the Drexel community to the DAC for the 2011 Midnight Madness Event. A season-opening tradition that allows those in attendance to get their first glimpse at the 2011-12 teams and meet the players and coaches, this year’s event also includes the alternative hip hop stylings of Chitty Bang and The Jane Doze. The event is sponsored by the DAC Pack, the Office of Student Life and the Student Activities Fee Allocation Committee and it is free to all students with a valid Drexel ID as well as season ticket holders and members of the Blue & Gold Club. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the first 500 fans in attendance will receive commemorative t-shirts.
“The crowds at the DAC have grown each and every year,” Dillon said. “We count on our fans, because it’s tough to play in front of a big crowd on the road, and when the DAC is packed, that’s an advantage for us against even the best opponents. We hope fans want to come out and watch this team and these seniors after following them through the most successful years of the program.”
Denise Dillon’s women’s basketball team is in a similar position to that of the men’s team in the eyes of many coaches and media around the conference. The Dragons have qualified for post-season play in each of the last three years, which is an unprecedented feat for the program. A veteran-laden team will vie for a return to the CAA Championship game for the first time since 2009 when the Dragons won their first conference title. Last season the Dragons put together signature victories against Villanova and at Penn State en route to their second straight postseason WNIT appearance.
All-CAA guard Kamile Nacickaite, who is one of four returning seniors that have been at the heart of Drexel’s recent success, will lead the Dragons into the season on Nov. 11 against Long Island at home as part of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Drexel will also host Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Head Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina on December 28 and face city rivals Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Penn in non-conference play.
“We’re excited to get practice underway,” Dillon said. “We have a lot of veteran players returning and they understand what needs to be done to be successful and win a championship. I think our team and our schedule has a lot to offer for our fans. Playing in the Preseason WNIT forces you to be ready from the very beginning to face top competition.”
Both coaches will be discussing the upcoming season and the outlook for their teams as part of CAA Media Day on Tuesday, October 19, in Arlington, Va. ESPN3 is video streaming the day’s events online from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Fans will be able to view live interviews with the coaches, find out where the Dragons are picked to finish in the conference standings this season and see how their favorite players measure up against the rest of the league when the preseason all-conference teams are revealed.
For full season schedules and ticket information visit www.drexeldragons.com.