By: Jake Fischer
Last Season: 19-14 (12-6 CAA, share of CAA title)
Departures: G Shawn Wilborne, G Dante Sterling, F Hari Hall
Newcomers: G/F Shakir Brown, G Kevin Kangni, F Ramone Snowden
The Dukes claimed a share of the Colonial Athletic Association regular season conference title for the first time in 15 years one season ago, and three years after James Madison went dancing with a senior-laden group in 2012, Matt Brady has another deep, talented and athletic veteran core.
Senior point guard Ron Curry is the head of JMU’s snake. The 6’4 point guard from South Jersey has been knifing his way through opposing defenses since his high school days at Paul VI in Pennsauken, N.J. Curry is crafty enough to get all the way to rim off the bounce and strong enough to finish at the cup amongst the trees. When he doesn’t get to the basket, he has an array of shooters rotating around him. A 42.2 percent shooter from the outside in his own right a year ago, Curry is certainly a leading preseason candidate for CAA Player of the Year.
Curry has a plethora of shooters to feed on the perimeter. The Dukes don’t have a single center listed on their roster — and that’s by design. Brady prefers a five-out, motion style offense similar to, but less complex to Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats. Junior guard Jackson Kent drained 42.0 percent of his triples last season. Senior guard Winston Grays connected on 34.6 percent of his own. Red-shirt junior Dimitrije Cabarkapa, a 6’10 stretch-four, sank 40.0 percent of his own three-point tries.
James Madison has its sights set on repeating as CAA champs this winter. The Dukes would have been better positioned if swingman Andre Nation was running alongside Curry as well. Nation has been dismissed from the program after countless disciplinary issues left him off the court more often than he was hounding opponents’ best perimeter players.
To overcome the loss of Nation, the Dukes have added Shakir Brown, a 6’6, 225-pound forward from Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. Brown averaged 20.3 points and 10.8 rebounds last season and will have two more years of eligibility remaining. JMU has also added 6’6, 210-pound forward Ramone Snowden from Niagara. Snowden, however, must sit the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Bottom Line: The veteran Dukes are primed for success once more this winter. Brady, Curry and company will likely be one of the tougher opponents to storm Matthews come conference play.