Just over two months ago it was reported that former Monmouth forward Marcus Ware, who completed his undergraduate studies at the school, would be transferring to Iona.
Turns out that Ware will remain in the MAAC, but he’ll be doing so at another school. Ware has transferred to Niagara to play for first-year head coach Chris Casey, with the school announcing its full list of newcomers on Tuesday. Also joining the Purple Eagles, who won the MAAC regular season title last season, are former Iowa State guard Cameron Fowler and freshmen Wesley Myers (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Ramone Snowden (Virginia Beach, Va.).
Like Ware, Fowler has been cleared to play immediately due to the fact that he redshirted at Iowa State last season.
As a redshirt junior at Monmouth Ware averaged 6.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, finishing the season ranked third on the team in rebounding. With the loss of leading rebounder Ameen Tanksley (6.0 rpg in 2012-13), the Purple Eagles will need Ware to contribute on the glass. But Tanksley wasn’t the only key loss for Niagara, with star guard Juan’ya Green also leaving the program after head coach Joe Mihalich accepted the head coaching position at Hofstra.
Both Green and Tanksley transferred to Hofstra, where they’ll sit out the upcoming season per NCAA transfer rules. That leaves wing Antoine Mason, who posted averages of 18.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last year, to lead the way offensively as Niagara looks to become the first repeat MAAC regular season champion since Siena won three straight from 2008-2010 (the Saints shared the 2008 regular season title with Rider).
But that mission will be a tough one for Casey and company, as both Iona and Manhattan have put together strong squads entering the 2013-14 campaign.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.