La Salle returns bulk of team next season

La Salle returns bulk of team next season

March 29, 2013, 1:00 pm
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LOS ANGELES – When it was over –- when the run came to an end and there was nothing left to do but discuss what they accomplished –- Ramon Galloway stood up in front of his team. He didn't simply want to look back, though. He wanted to look forward, too.

It was appropriate. He was La Salle’s most dynamic player, but he was also one of the principal leaders. It was obvious what the other Explorers thought of him. They respected his game and, more than that, they respected him.

And so Galloway gave a little speech in La Salle’s locker room at the Staples Center after the Explorers lost to Wichita State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. It wasn’t a big space –- just a small room with no windows and a tiny corridor leading out into the main hallway. That was OK. It made sense. They’ve been a close group all year. What better setting for a team like that to gather around Galloway?

“I told them I was proud of the year we had,” Galloway said. “I said I want to see them do it again. It’s going to be different with me cheering them on from the stands. But they work hard. There’s a great chance that we’ll be back.”

Galloway won’t be with them. The senior, who was named first-team Atlantic 10, will graduate this year. The Explorers will lose their best scorer. That's the unfortunate reality for the program. But as Galloway told his teammates, they have an excellent chance to build on this season’s success because almost everyone else on the team will return next season.

Forward Jerrell Wright –- who had a team-high 16 points against Wichita State and was La Salle’s best post player all year –- will be a junior next year. Starter D.J. Peterson will be a junior, and so will 6-foot-11 center Steve Zack, who missed the last seven games of the season with a foot injury. Sixth man Tyrone Garland –- who hit the game-winner against Ole Miss –- will be a senior and will likely step into the starting role vacated by Galloway. Starters Sam Mills and Tyreek Duren will also be seniors. And the Explorers will bring in 6-1 point guard recruit Amar Stukes, who averaged 19.6 points in his senior year and became just the sixth player ever to score 1,000 points at La Salle College High School.

“It’s encouraging that we have almost everyone coming back,” said Duren, who was named to the Atlantic 10 second team this year. “Ramon was telling everyone ‘Don’t hold your heads. You all have something to look forward to next year.’ He said we’re only losing him and Garvin [Hunt] and we should be even better. The NCAA is going to have to deal with us again. We made it this far, and now we know what it’s like to be in the NCAA tournament. We should be well-prepared.”   

Indeed. The Explorers made their first NCAA tournament in 21 years. They won three tournament games in five days, which was one more tournament win than the program had in the previous 57 years combined. They reached their first Sweet 16 since 1955, and they became just the second team in NCAA history to go from the First Four play-in round to the Sweet 16.

“It’s a great group of guys, man,” Galloway said. “Me and Garvin are the only two that are leaving. You have Jerrell coming back, Tyreek coming back. I mean, the whole team is coming back. So everybody knows the feeling. Everybody knows what it feels like to be here now. We were in the NIT [last year]. We knew how that felt. We were in the NCAA tournament, we won games, got to the Sweet 16. We know how this feels. So I think it’s going to push our guys to work harder in the summertime and next year. Without a doubt in my mind, I know we’ll be back.”

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