The Dunleavy Era Begins For Quinnipiac Basketball
Some of Chaise Daniels' good friends and teammates left the Quinnipiac men's basketball program months ago.
He responded with some conversations, becoming a little more introspective and, ultimately, dropping a few pounds.
"I wasn't sure about my future here, if they wanted me," said the 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior forward from Meriden and the Bobcats' top returning scorer (13 points per game) and rebounder (6.2). "We had a nice meeting. I did some thinking about what would be best for me at this time. I gave it a chance and things are going good. They cared about me and my development my senior year. That was important but as a team we have a plan. I like the structure and where we're heading as a program."
Daniels was coming off the court this week, sweating, motivated and almost 20 pounds lighter than last season following one of his first practices under first-year and first-time head coach Baker Dunleavy, son of the former NBA and current Tulane coach, Mike Dunleavy Sr.
Baker Dunleavy will employ the 1-4 offense, four guards wrapped around a big man that brought fame not to mention the 2016 national championship to Villanova, which Dunleavy helped win as the associate head coach sitting next to Jay Wright.
Daniels will be the "one" dominating the post in most situations; losing the weight won't hurt him. Will losing the Bobcats' top two scorers from a season ago, then-freshmen Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss rolled out to St. John's and Rutgers? Well, that was one of Daniels' concerns.
Dunleavy, who turned 35 last week, won't miss what he's never had, however. Dixon (16.5 points per game) and Kiss (13.3), both All-MAAC freshman team selections, would have made his job easier. But Moore, now an assistant at Rhode Island, likely would have had to recruit both of those players again given the outstanding seasons they had and the trend transferring has become for potentially better opportunities.
The 1-4 would have been perfect for sweet shooters such as Dixon and Kiss.
"As soon as I get the job it's my job to recruit the guys on the team," Dunleavy said. "And in recruiting you have to evaluate does this guy want to be here. Those guys felt like they had other options, they wanted to be somewhere else and as soon as that decision happens you have to move on to the next guy. We were sad to see them go but we were excited to work with the guys we had and we also had guys come in from the outside and choose us and say 'That's where I want to be, that's the team I want to be with'. If there was a rule forcing a guy who didn't want to be here to be here it would hurt your team no matter what the talent was it would find a way to hurt your team. It is a team game so you're better off having guys that will function as a team and all in."
Others Quinnipiac players transferred or graduated, and Dunleavy has brought in transfers such as Penn State guard Isaiah Washington, who graduated in three years, has two years of eligibility and can play right away, and 6-8 Kevin Marfo from Georgetown, who has to wait until next season.
"I'm enjoying coach and what he has planned for us," said Washington, who was also recruited by Dunleavy to Villanova out of (Williamsport, Pa.) high school. "He's a good teacher and player's coach because he adapts to who he's teaching. It's not just a cookie-cutter situation here. One of things he stresses is playing hard and let him teach you. I like it because you're not worried about making mistakes and all that."
Dunleavy is talked about in some circles as the heir apparent to Wright at Villanova because he is an excellent coach and recruiter.
At Quinnipiac, he's been charged, in short, but not in short order, to build the program into a consistent contender in the conference and reaching the NCAA Tournament, which the program has never done in 10 seasons under Moore. The team was 10-21, 7-13 in the MAAC, last season. Conversely, the women's program has won multiple conference titles and reachedthe Sweet 16 for the first time last season.
Dunleavy is working on building the program over time; he said he's in it for the long haul.
"Whatever it takes," he said.
As for now, the 1-4 needs ball-handlers. In addition to Dixon and Kiss leaving, Reggie Oliver and Phil Winston transferred, further weakening the Bobcats' backcourt. Twins Aaron and Andrew Robinson, both juniors, are back but they're more spot-up shooters. Washington can handle the main ball-handling responsibilities but he's more of a combination guard. Dunleavy said some things can be tweaked to make it work effectively, though.
Freshman point guard Rich Kelly, a Cheshire Academy graduate and Shelton native, could see a lot of time. He's also one of those guys who "chose" Quinnipiac.
Moore offered him a scholarship, which he said he was strongly considering but then the coach was let go. Dunleavy offered Kelly a scholarship and he committed.
"I did some research, saw what he had done, sat down with him and felt confident in his abilities and the school in general and, like a lot of guys on the team, I feel good about where the program is heading. Coach is doing it the right way with guys who want to be here."