Rowan men’s basketball begins season with new coach, drops first game

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The Rowan University men’s basketball team begins its follow-up to last season’s 9-16 campaign with a new but familiar face at the helm.

While there are newcomers galore on the roster, arguably the biggest change going into the 2016-17 campaign is the introduction of Joe Crispin as head coach.

Crispin had been the assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams for the past two years. He brings a polished resume into his first season as head coach. A former standout player at Penn State University, Crispin spent some time in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.

“Well, it’s different,” Crispin said. “I tell my guys that I’ve spent a boatload of time more as a player than a coach. So, I never want to lose thinking like a player. I do approach things differently because of my experiences as a player, and hopefully that will help with this group.”

The Profs bring in a strong mix of youth and experience this season, as they introduce a 16-man roster split even between underclassmen and upperclassmen. Of the eight underclassmen, six are freshmen. The only sophomores on the team are brothers Nick and Rob DePersia, two of the team captains.

Six seniors are on the roster, including fellow captains Shawn Wilson and Josh Borrelli. Manor College (PA) transfer Teirique Robinson joins returner TJ Booth in the backcourt as the only juniors on the squad.

After not making the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament last year, the outside expectations for the team aren’t that high. The Profs were projected to finish seventh in the NJAC in the preseason league coaches poll.

Crispin said that his expectations don’t just include wins and losses, however.

“I always have high expectations. It’s more being competitive, consistent, positive, really practicing consistently,” Crispin said. “We are trying to build a winning culture here, and we are setting up the foundations for that. Our mission isn’t just to win, but to be a blast to watch and have people love coming out to support.”

Last season, Rowan was neck-and-neck with their opponents statistically. The team posted more steals, assists, and a better free-throw percentage, but opponents held a better scoring margin by a slim 1.3 points per game.

Rob DePersia ranked first in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and second in assists with 4.7 a game. His brother, Nick, was seventh in free-throw percentage and tied for eighth in three-point makes per game (2.0). Wilson was eighth in free-throw percentage and 13th in scoring. Fellow senior Gary Carthan finished tied for 15th in blocks per game (0.6).

The Profs tipped off the season against Neumann University on Tuesday, falling 113-96.

The DePersia brothers combined for 41 of the team’s points and Wilson chipped in 19 more.

The first conference game for the brown and gold is scheduled for Nov. 22 on the road against Stockton University. Rowan doesn’t play its first home game until Dec. 3, against NJAC rival William Paterson. 

“Our mission is to make Rowan a happier place because we are here. Everything revolves around how we can make the Rowan community more excited about basketball,” Crispin said. “The primary message is to remember what we are all about. Your strategy and everything else, is secondary.”

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