CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

By Jake Fischer

Head Coach – Matt Matheny (6th season)

Last Season – 18-14 (11-5, Southern Conference)

Losses – F Lucas Troutman, G Sebastian Koch, F Ryley Beaumont, G Jack Isenbarger,

Newcomers– G Demitri Thompson, F Collin Luther, F Jack Anton, F Jack George, G Elijah Bryant

Entering their first season as members of the Colonial Athletic Association, the Elon Phoenix are bound to endure one of the more disappointing seasons in recent program history. Elon graduated its top three scorers from a year ago in Troutman, Koch and Beaumont, leaving coach Matheny without a returning player who averaged double digits in scoring in 2013-14.

Now it’s time for 6-4 junior guard Tanner Sampson to claim the reigns of the Phoenix. Sampson played in all 32 of Elon’s games last year, making 22 starts. He averaged 9.4 points on a night on a ridiculous 43.4 percent clip from three-point land. He has the potential to challenge Towson’s Four McGlynn and Delaware’s Kyle Anderson for the top shooter in the CAA.

Sampson will have some comfort in three seniors who all saw significant minutes last season in Austin Hamilton, Kevin Blake and Ryan Winters. However, of those three, only Hamilton managed to contribute to Elon’s offense on a nightly basis.

Matheny has a large incoming freshman class, a group that makes up the entirety of Elon’s “newcomers.” This team’s success will likely be determined by whether a true freshmen can step up and play second fiddle to Sampson. Keep your eyes on Elijah Bryant, a 6-4, 225 pound guard.

Bottom Line– There’s a reason why the newcomer Phoenix were projected to finish last in the conference in the CAA Preseason poll. This team is going to struggle on offense in a league that features some very defense-heavy squads. Elon was a deadly shooting team a year ago, draining 37.5 percent of their attempts from deep as a team. Prowess from beyond the arc will likely be the only way this team can stay in games this winter.