2020–21 CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

Last Season: 13–21 (7–11, seventh place CAA); lost to Northeastern in CAA semifinal

Head Coach: Mike Schrage, Second Season

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Fifth

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Seth Fuller — 1/0/1 (26/19/100)
  • G Andy Pack — 2/1/0 (23/28/85)
  • F Duje Radja — played six games
  • G Marcus Sheffield II — 18/5/3 (42/40/82)

Additions

  • G Darius Burford (Top 15 player in his class in Illinois, via Prep Hoops Illinois)
  • F Michael Graham (Three star recruit, via 247 sports)
  • F Brandon Harris (Three star recruit, via Rivals.com)
  • G Charles Mendys (Transfer from Roanoke College, stats N/A)
  • G JaDun Michael (Four Star Recruit, via 247 sports)
  • G Ikenna Ndugba (2019–20 with Bryant: 7/5/3, 42/31/69)
  • G Lars Nilsen

By Peyton Doyle

Last year Elon improved under first year head coach Mike Schrage. Although they ended up finishing seventh in the CAA and started off conference play with a 1–7 stretch, the Phoenix made impressive strides as the season went on and upset William & Mary in the CAA quarterfinal before being eliminated by Northeastern in the next round.

Last season their scoring came from their backcourt, with grad transfer Marcus Sheffield II setting a program record for most points in a Division I season. The dynamic freshman Hunters (Woods and McIntosh) combined for 22 points and five assists per game. McIntosh was also named to the Kyle Macy Freshman All American team last season. Sweet-shooting sophomore Zac Ervin showed scoring potential last season, but will sit out this year after undergoing knee surgery to fix a torn ACL.

Elon’s biggest addition is four-star recruit JaDun Michael. Michael earned All-State honors his last two years in high school and should fit well with the duo of McIntosh and Woods to solidify a strong perimeter attack for Elon. But he is recovering from a late May shoulder surgery that may dampen his minutes and production for a bit.

Shrage will also hope for significant production from incoming freshmen Michael Graham and Brandon Harris, who were ranked 41st and 51st at their positions nationally. Graham provides a 6’10” presence in the paint, Harris versatility on the wing.

Another notable addition is grad transfer Ikenna Ndugba, who notched 14 points and five assists per game in 2017–18 with Bryant University. The following year, however, Ndugba suffered a season-ending injury and did not have quite the same production in 2019–20, so it will be interesting to see how Schrage uses him.

Similar to last year, Elon will get most of its production from small, versatile lineups. The only true “big” they have is newcomer Graham.

Bottom Line: It will be difficult for the Phoenix to make up for Sheffield’s scoring, but there is hope for this young squad. Woods and McIntosh already showed their talents in their freshmen seasons, and if they can get help from newcomers JaDun Michael, Michael Graham, and Brandon Harris, the Phoenix could be an explosive offensive squad with a tournament run in its future.

CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

Last Season: 11–21 (7–11 CAA, eighth place), lost in CAA first round

Coach: Mike Schrage (first season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Tenth

Losses

  • G Dainan Swoope
  • G Sheldon Eberhardt
  • G Steven Santa Ana
  • G Nathan Priddy
  • F Tyler Seibring
  • F/C Karolis Kundrotas

Additions

  • G Hunter McIntosh
  • G/F Zac Ervin
  • G/F Hunter Woods
  • G/F Jerald Gillens-Butler
  • G/F Marcus Sheffield II

By Gabe Bibliowicz

A disappointing 2018–19 season sent Elon head coach Matt Matheny from the hot seat to unemployed. In his 10 years as Elon’s head coach (151–169 record) Matheny suffered through five losing seasons, last year’s being his worse since his inaugural. A disappointing CAA finish and three players entering the transfer portal was enough to end Matheny’s tenure.

Director of Athletics Dave Blank took only a month to replace Matheny, settling on Mike Schrage (SHRAW–gee). The Atlanta native spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State under Chris Holtmann and worked under college basketball legends Mike Krzyzewski (nine seasons) and Bob Knight (four seasons).

Along with a new coaching perspective, Schrage will look to improve Elon’s recruiting. Over his years as an assistant, he helped recruit multiple nationally ranked classes, including a top-25 class at Ohio State in 2018 and a top-10 class in 2019.

In May, Schrage announced the addition of the 6’5” forward Zac Ervin to Elon’s 2019 recruiting class. Ervin was awarded the 2018–19 Mountain 7 District Player of the Year after averaging 33 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. He was a three-time First-Team All-State selection.

The Phoenix graduated their top four scorers from last season, including Tyler Seibring, a perennial all-conference forward who led the team in points and minutes. The 6’9” forward was an efficient scorer and a deft passer, and his departure leaves a gaping hole in Elon’s offense. Sheldon Eberhardt snagged the CAA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last year and finished ninth in the CAA in assists. Steven Santa Ana, Elon’s second-leading scorer, won Player of the Week on March 4th after averaging 27 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists that week. Elon was a bottom-tier team with them, and now they’re gone.

Guard Nathan Priddy (seven ppg last year) was expected to be the Phoenix’s top returning scorer. But Priddy has decided to leave school and work for his brother, per Brian Mull.

The only returning rotation players are sophomores Chuck Hannah and Kris Wooten. The 6’6”, 230-pound Hannah is a defensive asset and rebounds well, but lacks Ervin’s offensive upside. Guard Kris Wooten was fourth on the team last year with 43 three-pointers, though he shot just 34 percent from beyond the arc. Guard Marcus Sheffield II, a grad transfer who averaged six points per game in three years at Stanford, is perhaps their best hope for a consistent top scorer.

Bottom Line: Schrage’s hiring is a move in the right direction, and his recruiting skill means the program is primed for a speedy rebuild. But this year’s team is short on talent and experience. Anything besides a last-place finish would be a surprise.