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Hawks prepare to open year

MURFREESBORO – More fire.

That’s what the new Chowan University men’s head basketball coach and his players stressed during “Meet The Hawks” Night this past Thursday at Andy’s Restaurant in Murfreesboro. Chowan opens their 2010-11 season tonight (Tuesday) with a home game against Barton College at the Helms Center.

Dan DeRose makes his debut on the bench tonight, coming to Chowan from NCAA Division-II Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania where he was an assistant for a year and prior to that spent six seasons at the Community College of Beaver County where he guided the men’s basketball team to six straight 20-plus winning seasons.

At his hiring press conference, DeRose was referred to as “the next Jim Valvano,” but listening to his coaching philosophy and what he brings to Chowan he sounds more like his style is closer to Roy Williams.

“The Valvano comes from my being Italian,” he joked at Andy’s, “but I actually learned from Roy Williams a long time ago when he was at Kansas.  It’s playing an up-tempo style and aggressive defense.

“It’s been an exciting style to coach,” he added, “and I know it’s been an exciting one for the kids to play and the fans to watch.”

Last season the Hawks finished 18-10, going 13-7 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and finishing second in the old CIAA-West Davison.  In their first year of play in the vaunted and historic CIAA Tournament, Chowan shocked defending tourney champ, Johnson C. Smith, in the quarter-finals before falling in the semi’s to eventual champion, St. Augustine’s College.

“The players have all bought into my system and what I’m trying to teach them, which is very good,” DeRose said.  “They’ve worked extremely hard,” he added, “and this is one of the hardest working groups I’ve ever had. Every drill and everything we do they embrace it and they go hard at it.”

The Hawks return two starters from the ‘09-‘10 squad in Suffolk, Virginia junior Mark Brown who averaged 14.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and Chapel Hill senior shooting guard Charles Rhodes who shot 35 percent from beyond the three-point arc and averaged 8.0 points a game.

“Its fast-break and up-tempo with really smothering defense,” said Rhodes.  “It’s a little different from what we were accustomed to, but everyone has been willing to put the work in and hopefully it’s going to pay off.

“I worked hard in the off-season,” he added, “to get better at the things I needed to improve on (for my senior year) like ball handling and getting my shot.  Now I’m ready to prove that it’s paid off.”

“Everybody can use their basketball IQ,” said Brown. “It’s a lot more game changes; we go to the floor, we get in your face with more changes on defense and it’s a lot more exciting because everybody gets to really be a part of the game.”

Also returning as lettermen for the Hawks is 6’9″ center Zach Hicks, along with forwards Anton Shoetan and Don Smalls, plus guards Jerry Fairley, Stephon Anderson and Lee Branscome.

“He’s brought in a lot of new players,” said Charlotte native Branscome, “and we all really mesh well together. Once we got the system down where you know where everybody’s going to be and we’re really running, pressing, and high scoring, we liked it a lot.

“Coach feels playing this way gives us the best chance to win,” he added. “We’ll be trapping a lot, getting easy buckets, and taking a lot more shot attempts. It’s definitely going to be a lot more high-scoring and I think that’ll benefit us.”

While the CIAA season is a ways off, not beginning until January 6 when Chowan hosts Johnson C. Smith, DeRose is emphasizing the non-conference agenda of tonight’s opponent, the Mt. Olive Pickle Classic this upcoming weekend; and home games with St. Andrew’s and Holy Family, plus road games with Barton and St. Andrew’s and the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Every game counts,” said DeRose, “if you want the NCAA to take you seriously.  I want this team nationally-ranked and fighting for seeding in the playoffs no matter who your opponent is.  If your goals are higher you’ll win the CIAA, and that’ll take you higher.”

Among the newcomers to watch: guard Aaron Allen from Pittsburgh, Jordan Dupree of Delaware, and Greenville’s Mike Tyson.  Also Jordon Dupree, James Young, Mark McGlone, and Christian Um Kamen; along with forward Joseph Hassell will be on the squad.

“Think the big picture,” said DeRose, whose team won their lone exhibition game against Newport News Apprentice a week ago. “It’s not what you do on paper; it’s what you do on the court.”

(By Gene Motley, Sports Writer)