2013-2014 America East Preview: Stony Brook breaks through

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Dave Coley (AP photo)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click hereTo see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Dating back to 2003, Albany and Vermont have owned the America East — Albany has won the league championship three times and Vermont five times. The Catamounts’ momentum was built by Tom Brennan and continued by Mike Lonergan and now John Becker. Will Brown has championed the effort at Albany taking them from obscurity to respectability at the mid-major level.

For the past few seasons though, Stony Brook has been on the verge of bucking the trend. Steve Pikiell has been tantalizingly close two of the last three seasons losing in the league championship game, but the Seawolves finally get over the hurdle in 2014. Featuring the league’s top player and last year’s Rookie of the Year Jameel Warner in the frontcourt and the veteran presence of Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson in the backcourt, Pikiell has a solid core. Finding a way to replace Tommy Brenton, however, will be an early season challenge.

Vermont is nearly on par with Stony Brook as they have the top senior class in the league consisting of Clancy Rugg, Brian Voelkel, and Sandro Carissimo. The Catamounts Achilles heel will be at point guard, once again, and whether Carissimo is able to effectively run it. While a solid and tough player, he isn’t a true PG, and often times Voelkel becomes the de facto point guard.

One of the youngest teams in the country a season ago, Hartford emerged as an elite team in the America East, and will only be stronger this season as they return virtually everyone from a team that finished 17-14 and 10-6 in the league. The inside – outside play of Mark Nwakamma on the interior and Wes Cole, Nate Sikma, and Yolonzo Moore on the perimeter is deadly.

Relegated to the basement in recent years, Binghamton will be vastly improved in 2013-14. They bring back Robert Mansell (14.0 ppg in 2011-12) who sat out last season injured, Fordham transfer Rayner Moquette is at full-go after missing the second half of last season, and return last year’s Rookie of the Year Jordan Reed. Expect the Bearcats to make a big jump in year two of the Tommy Dempsey era.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Massachusetts Lowell (Northeast-10, DII)
Out: Boston University (Patriot League)

PRESEASON AMERICA EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jameel Warney, Stony Brook

Warney (12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg), only a sophomore, feasted on America East competition last year, and figures to do the same this season. At 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, he has the size of a defensive end, but skills of a smooth forward. With Tommy Brenton having graduated, Warney will own the paint this season for the Seawolves.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Jordan Reed, Binghamton: Rising sophomore guard Jordan Reed is a bright spot for a Binghamton program that has had plenty of blemishes lately. As a freshman, Reed averaged 16.6 ppg and 9.5 rpg.
  • Mark Nwakamma, Hartford: Under-recruited coming out of high school, Nwakamma has developed into Hartford’s top player and was a unanimous selection for First Team All-League as a sophomore last season.
  • Brian Voelkel, Vermont: The term “glue guy” is one that is thrown around far too often, but Voelkel fits this description aptly — 6.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.4 spg. He fills up a box score better than anyone.
  • Dave Coley, Stony Brook: One of the toughest on-ball defenders in the league and veteran presence for a young Stony Brook team.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @onebidwonders

PREDICTED FINISH

1) Stony Brook
2) Vermont
3) Hartford
4) Albany
5) Binghamton
6) New Hampshire
7) UMBC
8) Maine
9) UMass Lowell

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.