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SFU men have everyone returning next year

Rob Krimmel has already rebuilt a struggling Saint Francis basketball program once, and the Red Flash lifer will try to start the process again after a very rough season for his team.

Saint Francis opened with an historic win at Pitt, then lost six in a row and had to deal with a COVID pause. Things didn’t really get much better, as the Red Flash finished 6-16 overall and 5-13 in the Northeast Conference, equaling the low-water mark in league play of Krimmel’s first season as head coach back in 2012-13.

Saint Francis did manage to play all 18 NEC games, and the team was highly competitive in most of the losses.

Still, the Flash finished tied for last in the league with Central Connecticut State, after several years of being one of the best teams in the NEC.

Here are some of the main focal points for the program going forward, and Krimmel spoke about these and other things in his season-ending press conference Monday.

Everyone is back

The Flash are expected to return every player next season except for one, seldom-used senior Dan Henry. So, that should give the program a good chance to turn things around quickly.

In theory.

Every other team in the NEC also can return all of its players, thanks to the NCAA allowing for an extra year of eligibility. So, depending on what the other teams bring back, Saint Francis’ roster still could be behind a lot of teams in its league.

“Just because everybody’s back doesn’t mean that everything’s going to be great,” Krimmel said. “So, I’ve challenged the staff and their positional responsibilities to come up with one, maybe two things that these kids can can build on.”

Saint Francis has a good mix of young and veteran players, ranging from freshmen Maxwell Land, Ronnell Giles Jr. and Josh Cohen, to seniors Ramiir Dixon-Conover and Mark Flagg, as well as juniors Myles Thompson and Marlon Hargis, plus sophomore Bryce Laskey.

If everyone returns, that group gives SFU a solid nucleus.

The transfer portal

There is no guarantee, however, that everyone will indeed be back. Any one of these players can transfer and play immediately somewhere else, without having to sit out a year.

Saint Francis has never really had major issues with transfers, such as, say, Robert Morris has, and Krimmel takes a lot of pride in being able to keep players as part of the Red Flash family for four years.

“We all know that the big elephant in the room is transfers, and we’ve been very fortunate to not be in that situation,” Krimmel said. “I’m not naive enough to think that it’s never going to happen. At the same time, Saint Francis is a special place.”

Krimmel needs to be able to hang on to the talented freshmen trio of Land, Giles and Cohen, three guys he can build the program around in the coming years.

No more Keith and Isaiah

Keith Braxton became an NEC legend as the first player in league history with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He was NEC Player of the Year in 2019. Isaiah Blackmon won that award in 2020.

Both of those players were diamonds in the rough that Krimmel found, convinced them to come to Saint Francis and helped them become stars.

It was evident this season, with those two gone, that the Flash just didn’t have the kind of closers you need to win tight games. Saint Francis was in most games, and Braxton or Blackmon would have helped the team get over the top had they still been around.

The question, though is this: Will Saint Francis be able to land another Keith or Isaiah?

Krimmel hit home runs finding those unheralded recruits who became stars, and the coach was asked if that type of extremely good fortune is repeatable.

“Yes,” he said, “because we have young kids in the program that want to be great. I go back to Earl Brown and Ronnie Drinnon and those guys that came before them, they got Keith and Isaiah on that trajectory.

“(The players now) want to be great, they want to be coached. And we have a staff that will do those things. So, development will always be at the heart of what we do, and the experience that these young kids got this year will help us develop them.”

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