Majok Majok’s career with Fairfield University is over before it even started.
Majok, the 6-foot-8 forward from Northfield (N.H.) Mount Hermon High School who gave Fairfield a verbal commitment in the spring, did not meet the requirements for eligibility and therefore, will not play for the Stags in the 2010-11 season.
“He did not qualify as per NCAA regulations for Division I basketball,” Stags head coach Ed Cooley said Tuesday afternoon after his team went through a 45-minute workout at the Walsh Athletic Center. “He’s a non-qualifier and therefore, we (Fairfield) cannot accept a non-qualifier. With these new rules, you’re either eligible or you’re not. He’s (Majok) not.”
Majok averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds for Northfield Mount Hermon last season, which lost in the Prep School National Championship finals. Majok does have the option of playing immediately at the Division II level or to enroll at a junior college. Depending on what road he takes, Fairfield does have the option to try and recruit him to play in 2011-12, however, so does every over Division I college.
“It stinks for us but he didn’t qualify, but there’s nothing that I can do,” Cooley said.
What Cooley can do is work with the players he has and one player that the coach is excited to see playing again – heck, he’s just excited to see him back on campus and with the team – is forward Greg Nero.
Nero, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, is slowly working himself back into shape after he missed the entire 2009-10 season with a weakened immune system. He played in 28 games in 2008-09 (missing six games with back spasms) and averaged 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.
“We had a workout today (Tuesday) and he got through it, a little tired but not as bad as he was before. I think he’s around 60 percent and he’s trying to get all his bearings back,” Cooley said. “Sitting out the whole year was tough on him. Mentally tough, not being able to do much of anything … if we can get anything from Greg, it’s all gravy. And from what I’ve seen in his first couple of workouts, it looks like he’s back on track but I don’t want to get past myself because he could always go back and revert to just being exhausted all the time.
“I was happy that he got through the workout but I’m also happy that he’s around us again. The fact that he’s able to participate … he’s making gains every day and that’s good news to us.”
Someone who isn’t making gains, though, is senior forward Warren Edney. The 6-foot-5 forward is still being bothered by discomfort in his right Achilles and is going to have to play the 2010-11 season with some level of pain, according to Cooley.
“He didn’t get through the workout like I wanted him to,” the coach said. “He was in some pain. He didn’t move laterally well, he’s still having a lot of irritation with his Achilles. I don’t know if it’s mental with him but he’s nowhere back to being ready to play.”
Edney averaged 9.1 points a game, playing in the first 17 games of the 2008-09 season before injuring his Achilles and undergoing surgery. He missed the entire 2009-10 campaign.
Another player coming off surgery is senior forward Yorel Hawkins, who missed the last 12 games in 2009-10 after injuring his right knee. He averaged 14.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 19 games before getting hurt.
“Yorel is at about 85 percent. He had a good workout,” Cooley said. “He had a little bit of discomfort but for the most part, he did a really good job. It was very good for me to see him do that.”
And while the eyes of Stag Nation will be watching Edney’s Achilles and Hawkins’ knee, Cooley’s eyes will be on Ryan Olander’s shoulders, looking to see if the 6-foot-11 junuior center can handle the added responsibilities that will be expected of him this season. Olander averaged 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds last season, numbers that Cooley hopes could double in 2010-11.
“He’s one of our captains (along with Lyndon Jordan and Derek Needham) and I think he’s ready to expand his role. We need him to be a dominant interior presence for us and complete the plays he’s supposed to complete,” Cooley said. “He’s a lot more confident. He’s grown in a lot more ways. We think Ryan is going to have a breakout year for us.”
As (hopefully) will Cooley’s returning guard foursome of Needham (the MAAC Rookie of the Year), Jordan, Colin Nickerson and Sean Crawford.
“I feel all of them will have a better understanding of the game. They’ve all tasted some success, not a lot, but some success and that’s making them work even harder,” Cooley said. “I like what I’m hearing from them. I like what I’m seeing from them. They all had great workouts today. I’m encouraged with what I see. Now, it has to translate once the season starts and they have to continue to work.”
I asked Cooley if he had to pick one of the three freshman – Keith Matthews, Jamel Fields and Maurice Barrow – which one could be a potential impact player, Cooley was totally truthful.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “They all had good workouts today, not great. I’ll be able to tell you that as I continue to see more of them. Today was their first workout. So, I don’t know. I can’t tell you that just yet.”
And when asked what Stag Nation can expect this season, Cooley said,
“With some of our players, we have like, interchangeable parts. We’re probably going to ultilize a lot of guys differently. Sometimes we may go real small and use four wings and a point guard, we may go really big, so he’ll (Barrow) will be like a combo forward, like Warren and Yorel and Keith. They’re all interchangeable and that’s what makes our roster so unique.
“We’re going to continue to do try and improve on what we did well last year. We’re going to press a little bit more, we’re going to try and get the game up-tempo. We’re going to have to … and I don’t think we as small as people think. Our wings are pretty big for our level. Our guards are very physical, so we’re not a small as people think. I think we’ll play a lot bigger than what we’re showing on paper.”