OVC Preview: EKU Colonels
The Colonels (15-16, 6-10 OVC) of Eastern Kentucky University enter Head Coach Dan McHale’s second season. Will they be better?
Probably not just yet.
“I think everyone is going to see that we are going to be young, but we are not going to use youth as an excuse,” said EKU Head Coach Dan McHale. “We have a very, very tough non-conference schedule, probably the toughest in the league, to get these guys ready.”
Paul Jackson, Javontae Hawkins, Greg King, Jarelle Reischel
Marlon Adams, Asante Gist, DeAndre Dishman, Dillon Avare, Zach Charles, Lachlan Anderson, Trey Hill, Parker Chitty.
EKU lost 3.5 starters (Hawkins, Reischel, Jackson, King) from an average-performing team. Looking back the squad was probably struggling to adapt to McHale’s system. Also, it was McHale’s first full season as a D1 head coach. Perhaps he was adapting to the new gig, as well. Whatever the reason (DEFENSE), the Colonels were unable to put it all together and the results reflected that.
The 2016-2017 season is a new opportunity though.
It all starts with sophomore Nick Mayo. The obvious OVC Freshman of the Year, Mayo provided EKU with a true pivot in a world of dying post-play. The power forward can score in a variety of ways and rebounds at an All-Conference level. He will fight for OVC Player of the Year with Evan Bradds, Tahjere McCall, Jared Savage, and others.
“We are more athletic than we were last year,” said Head Coach McHale. “We obviously have a dominant low-post presence in Nick Mayo and some freshmen that are going to have an impact in this league.”
Coach McHale loves Asante Gist.
“Asante Gist, the dynamic point guard from St. Anthony’s,” said Coach McHale. “He has won two state Championships in high school playing for the legendary Bob Hurley. He is a winner, at all levels. He is going to have a big time, big time year for us. But, also a kid named Zach Charles, has really stood out.”
At OVC Media Day Coach McHale gushed bout Gist’s gifts.
“He would be a (eventual starter at a) lot of power-5 programs,” said Coach McHale. “I knew him when I was at Seton Hall. We offered him in seventh grade. I knew he and his father. To be honest with you, I was able to sell the league…what Murray State did with Cam Payne. That is big, for kids with aspirations to play at the next level.”
It is tough to envision what EKU’s team will look like, stylistically this winter.
“We obviously put up some gaudy offensive numbers last year, but our defense didn’t catch up,” said Head Coach McHale. “We are a much better defensive team this year. I have got more athleticism, more size. Unfortunately, the head of the snake defensively, Tay Weaver, went out with a torn ACL (out for season), so that is really gonna hurt us from a defensive standpoint.”
Coach McHale wants to win the close games and believes a hardened spirit defensively will help.
How good can EKU the program be?
Murray State kind of sets the bar for OVC teams. With their influx of transfers and a sparkling Class of 2017 (Peyton Broughton, A.J. Youngman, Dedric Boyd) the Colonels might be a 1st/2nd place OVC team with an NCAA appearance every three years soon. It is a league of young coaches right now. Coach McHale is clawing for the same bodies as several KY-based colleges.
It is tough to judge his future after a single season. So, OVCHoops.com will be patient and enjoy the 2016-2017 EKU Colonels.