John Krikorian stepped into some mighty big shoes this past June when he replaced 26-year head coach C.J. Woollum, who retired to focus on his duties as Christopher Newport athletic director. Krikorian won 60.7 percent of his games at the
, and his team went 24-5 last season.
How well that success translates to the Captains, who lose two starters from the 15-13 squad that rallied down the stretch last year to give Woollum the USA South tournament championship as a going-away present, remains to be seen.
Back are the Captains' top two scorers in junior guard Conley Taylor, who averaged 13.2 points per game, and senior forward
, who averaged 11. Junior forward and Denbigh grad Brian Hermann also returns after averaging 8.7 points.
"With any coaching transition, there's new faces and time that it takes to implement a new system," Krikorian said. "We're kind of feeling the whole process right now, and I imagine it's going to take us a couple of games to figure out who we are."
Coach: John Krikorian (first year at CNU, 65-42 in four years overall)
Last year: Lost in the first round of the Division III
The opener: Nov. 19 vs. Lynchburg
Five games to watch: Nov. 11, vs. Bridgewater, CNU Invitational; Jan. 5, vs. Shenandoah; Jan. 12 at N.C. Wesleyan; Jan. 15 vs. Ferrum; Feb 22, USA South quarterfinal.
What is the team's greatest strength? The unknown. With any change comes a certain amount of excitement, and that's the case with what Krikorian said will be "first and foremost a man-to-man defensive team" that will also look for opportunities to push the ball. Such a style requires conditioning and discipline, and should be fun to watch – if properly executed.
What's the team's greatest weakness? The unknown. Krikorian inherits a team that loses three of its top six scorers from last season, including center Mark Blasingame, who averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds, and has neither a true big man nor a true point guard. Krikorian, encouraged by improvements he's seen so far, is eager for more.
What is the team's conference outlook? The defending tournament champion Captains received one first-place vote in a preseason poll of conference coaches, who picked CNU to finish second in the USA South, behind Ferrum. Shenandoah, picked third, also received a first-place vote, and will provide a quick test in the Captains' league opener on Jan. 5.
What's the best-case scenario? The Captains jell immediately, with the sharp-shooting Taylor and Green quickly adjusting to their tweaked roles in Krikorian's new system as CNU's newcomers meld seamlessly with the more experienced players. The instant chemistry carries CNU to a repeat tournament crown and NCAA appearance for its first-year coach to match Woollum's retirement gift.