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Brennan, Eagles ready for season opener

FILE - American University head coach Mike Brennan watches his team during a practice session for their NCAA college basketball tournament game Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Milwaukee. American plays Wisconsin in round two on Thursday, March 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

WASHINGTON — With the loss of senior point guard Darius “Pee Wee” Gardner, American University head coach Mike Brennan is ready to see who will emerge as the Eagles’ next on-floor general.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop talking about Pee Wee,” Brennan said on his weekly radio show, AU Hoop Talk. “He just did so many things during games that made you win.”

Gardner was the Eagles’ starting point guard the past two seasons and was a Second-Team All-Patriot League Selection both years. He was also the Patriot League Tournament MVP in 2014 and the Eagles’ No. 1 option with the game on the line.

“Now we have a new team and a lot of different faces,” Brennan said. “So we’re looking to see who is going to be the guy or guys that are going to be out there and doing the things that you will make you win.”

Brennan doesn’t have to wait much longer to find out who those players may be. AU opens the regular season on Friday against the Rhode Island Rams (8 p.m., 1050AM & www.wfed.com).

“It’s going to be a tough challenge as a first game,” said Brennan, who is entering his third season at American. “They’re a veteran team; they’re sort of ahead of us right now, so it will be interesting to see what our guys do.”

While the Rams return four starters from last year’s team that reached the second round of the NIT, the Eagles will rely heavily on seniors Jesse Reed and Marko Vasic. Reed led AU in scoring last season (14.3 points-per-game) and was selected to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team.

“It’s going to be a challenge for him,” Brennan said. “He’s a scorer and now he has to do all these other things that I’m talking about — all the tough plays and all the gritty stuff — but he’s still got to keep looking to shoot and score. That’s a difficult balance, but he’s been terrific so far and we have to make that he continues to be aggressive offensively.”

Sophomore Alex Paquin and freshman James Washington are among the options to replace Gardner as AU’s primary ball-handler.

“We’re looking to see what both of those guys can do,” said Brennan. “But to be honest, that’s not a huge question for me (who will carry the ball up the floor). It’s more, once we get over half court, what happens there? That’s where Pee Wee was so effective — we didn’t get pressed a whole lot. So that’s something that we have to think about.”

Catch AU Hoop Talk with Mike Brennan Friday Nov. 13 at 7:15 p.m. on 1050AM and online at www.wfed.com. Immediately following the show, stay tuned for AU’s season-opener against Rhode Island.

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