Cotlar’s Take on Drake
(St. Louis, MO) – Niko Medved seems to be ushering a new era of Drake basketball. His high energy, optimistic approach to coaching Bulldog basketball is producing big, early season results. Drake has defeated the ACC’s Wake Forest, has already won more games than either of the last two seasons and the Bulldogs lead the Missouri Vally with a 4-0 record.
With basically the same line up as last season, Medved has reconfigured the attitude, expectation level and on-court productivity of this senior-laden team.
Building around senior guard Reed Timmer, Medved has built a four guard offense and a tenacious defense with numerous interchangeable parts. Timmer is leading the Valley in scoring and the Bulldogs lead the conference in scoring, free throw percentage, assists and assist/turnover ratio.
But I wanted to go beyond the numbers to find out what’s really going on at Drake, so I turned to my friend, long-time Bulldog play-by-play announcer Larry Cotlar (@CotmanSports) for the real scoop. Larry has deep St. Louis ties, is an author and radio talk-show host. During his 12 years announcing Drake games he’s experienced the highs and lows of college basketball.
During his tenure the Bulldogs have won both the regular season title and tournament championship, but that 2008 title-winning year is one of just two where Drake finished above seventh in the MVC race.
Valley fans will be glad to know that Larry’s battle with prostate cancer is going well. The author of “The Biggest Rolodex in Sports” tells me his October surgery was successful and after a period of recovery (he did have to miss three Bulldog games) he is cancer free. I know I speak for members of the MVC family that we’re glad our prayers have been answered. You can hear his optimism about life and Bulldog basketball with every answer he gives concerning his beloved team.
Cotlar tells me that Medved’s enthusiasm and optimism have rubbed off on the players. The coaching staff of J.R. Blount, Dave Thorson and Ali Farokhmanesh are getting the most out of this veteran team.
Drake’s four-guard offense is a system that Medved used in the past, but also utilizes his current assets to the greatest degree. When he took the Drake job, he realized his team’s strength was its large group of talented guards.
Medved has instilled a confidence in the Bulldogs that has shown up in each player’s game. Timmer is a better playmaker than ever before. Sophomore post man Nick McGlynn has doubled his scoring output and has become a legitimate MVC big man. C.J. Rivers is a box score stuffer and De’Antae McMurray has grown into a solid offensive alternative if Timmer struggles.
Cotlar says an early season win over Wake Forest was a key confidence booster. He says Timmer was urging his team to believe they could defeat their ACC foe.
Speaking of Timmer, Medved says he has become a more complete player.
With a starting lineup that consists of one player over 6’3, the Bulldogs are in dire need of a post player that can defend, rebound and score. Sophomore Nick McGlynn has become that player. The 6’8 Wisconsin native is providing double digit scoring and Cotlar says his ability to defend without fouling is a critical factor in DU’s success.
Cotlar says McGlynn’s game has grown and that he has a unique energy level and passion for the game.
Cotlar calls McGlynn, and seniors C.J. Rivers (Cahokia, IL) and Graham Woodward (Edina, MN) the three most improved players on the team. Rivers is the quintessensial box score stuffer. The 6’2 guard defends the opposition’s power forward, leads the team in rebounding (5.6 per game), is one of three players that has accumulated 50 or more assists and is a defensive menace.
Medved says Rivers has bought in to the idea of defending much taller players as a way to help Drake win games and Cotlar says Rivers is a ‘dive on the floor’, do the dirty work kind of player.
So how does a team a team with so few personnel changes, make such a dramatic turn around? Cotlar says the players have bought into the new coaching staff’s optimistic approach. They’ve started to believe the mantra of ‘why not us?’
A program like Drake and a broadcaster like Larry, know that success can be fleeting, so when I suggested his team might not play in the Thursday night portion of Arch Madness (the play-in round), he speaks like a guy that recently came out on top in a tussle with cancer, he says it’s important to enjoy the journey, without stressing about what might be.
The Bulldogs are better this year, but more importantly, Larry Cotlar is cancer free. Our friend wants to make sure others know to pay attention to important health issues.
There is a beginning of a basketball revival at Drake and our friend Larry Cotlar is healthy again. Things are good in Des Moines.