Steve Masiello

2013-2014 MAAC Preview: Manhattan, Canisius, Iona at the top

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source:
Billy Baron (GoGriffs.com)

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.

Last season was supposed to be the year that Manhattan, in Steve Masiello’s second year at the helm, made their move in the MAAC. They were coming off a 21-13 record in Masiello’s first year, and George Beamon, the leading scorer in the league in 2011-12, was returning for his senior season. An ankle injury to Beamon derailed Manhattan as they got out to a 6-15 start, yet they rebounded by making it to the MAAC championship nearly beating Iona. With a healthy Beamon back for a fifth year, Ashton Pankey, a Maryland transfer who sat out last season, now eligible, and two time defensive player of the year Rhamel Brown returning in the frontcourt, the Jaspers are the favorite to win the MAAC and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

Many point to Iona, Manhattan’s bitter rival, as the primary challenger. Understandably so as the Gaels have been to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons and return two of the league’s top players in Sean Armand and David Laury. While they will no doubt challenge, Canisius is poised to have a big year with Billy Baron returning for his senior season. Factor in guard Chris Perez, who is using his final year of eligibility after graduating from Stetson this past May where he earned All-Atlantic Sun Second Team, and Canisius has the top backcourt in the league.

Two programs that may be on the uptick are Rider and Marist. The Broncs surprised everyone last year finishing second in the league, and return two of the top players in Anthony Myles and Daniel Stewart. Marist, meanwhile, struggled for much of last season finishing with a 10-21 record, which proved to be the demise of Chuck Martin. In comes Jeff Bower, an assistant at Marist from 1986-1995 and former general manager of the New Orleans Hornets, to try and right the ship. He steps into a program that returns Adam Kemp and Chavaughn Lewis who both earned Third Team All-MAAC honors last season.

In their first season in the MAAC, Quinnipiac will be instantly competitive as they return Ike Azotam and Ousamane Drame in the frontcourt.

While they don’t figure to contend right away, Siena, under first year coach Jimmy Patsos, will be a story to watch all season. Patsos successfully transformed Loyola (Maryland), formerly of the MAAC, into one of the league’s top programs.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Monmouth and Quinnipiac
Out: Loyola (Maryland)

source: Getty Images
Sean Armand (Getty Images)

PRESEASON MAAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Billy Baron, Canisius

Baron (17.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.0 apg) has the ability to fill it up like a shooting guard, go off the dribble like a two-guard, and has the handle of a point guard. As Canisius’ starting point guard for the second season, Baron will look to lead Canisius to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Antoine Mason, Niagara: Losing Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley to Hofstra makes Mason, a First Team All-MAAC player from last season, the focal point for first year coach Chris Casey.
  • Sean Armand, Iona: One of the best shooters in the country at any level, Armand was one of just ten players to drill 100 or more three-pointers last season.
  • George Beamon, Manhattan: Arguably the top player in the MAAC, the Jaspers will go as far as Beamon takes them, and that may be to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Chavaughn Lewis, Marist: After averaging just a shade over 8 ppg midway through the non-conference schedule, Lewis ripped up the MAAC averaging nearly 20 ppg in league games.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @nybuckets

PREDICTED FINISH

1) Manhattan
2) Canisius
3) Iona
4) Rider
5) Marist
6) Quinnipiac
7) Fairfield
8) Siena
9) St. Peter’s
10) Niagara
11) Monmouth

Illinois PG expected to be ready for practice

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Illinois point guards and injuries have been an unfortunate trend over the past two seasons with Tracy Abrams, who missed the past two seasons with a torn ACL followed by a torn Achilles the next year.

On Sunday, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported some good news for an incoming Fighting Illini floor general. Te’Jon Lucas, a three-star prospect from the Class of 2016, will be fully cleared for the start of practice, according to Rothstein. In February, Lucas had broke his fibula in his right leg in two places during a game.

Lucas had committed to Illinois the previous September.

Abrams received a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in June, and he decided to remain in Champaign for his final season. If healthy, he’ll be the starter. Jaylon Tate is also back for another season. But they are both seniors, which makes Sunday’s report important for John Groce’s program. Lucas will be on the floor Day 1 of practice, being molded for the future by two experienced guards.

The 5-foot-11 Lucas is the only true freshman on the roster.

Illinois begins the 2016-17 season on November 11, hosting Southeast Missouri State.

Xavier adds to class with three-star center

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Xavier added a fourth piece to its 2017 recruiting class on Sunday morning.

Kentravious Jones, a 6-foot-11, three-star recruit, committed to the Musketeers. He announced the decision via Twitter.

Chris Mack’s current recruiting class is headlined by four-star swingman Naji Marshall. The incoming quartet also includes guard Elias Harden and forward Jared Ridder. But Jones’ commitment fits an area that needs to be addressed for the Musketeers moving forward. Xavier isn’t particularly deep when it comes to big men. That frontcourt only gets thinner once RaShid Gaston, a graduate transfer from Norfolk State, exhausts his eligibility after this season.

Jones, along with current freshman forward Tyrique Jones, gives Xavier a young foundation for the future. Jones is an old-school, big-bodied center. He’s got a nice back-to-the-basket game, and had his best stretch of the summer during the UAA Finals. In three games with the Atlanta Xpress, he averaged 15.3 points, shot 59 percent from the field, and grabbed nine boards per game.

Conditioning will be the emphasis for him over the course of the next year. However, we have seen Xavier work well with a big, skilled centers in the past (see: Stainbrook, Matt). According to Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jones has dropped 30 pounds.

Sunday morning’s news may not even be Xavier’s last score on the recruiting trail. The Musketeers have one scholarship remaining (two, or three if Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett enter the NBA Draft this spring), and are in play for several coveted prospects like point guards Paul Scruggs, Quade Green and Matt Coleman, as well as forward Kris Wilkes.

Minnesota center to miss a month

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Illinois State Redbirds and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Wichita State Shockers fight for control of a loose ball during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Minnesota’s projected starting center is sidelined, but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Reggie Lynch, the Illinois State transfer, had surgery on his left knee, the program announced on Friday night. According to Marcus R. Fuller of the Star-Tribune, the Golden Gophers are anticipating that Lynch is available for the season opener on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 6-foot-10 Lynch has been in the news this offseason prior to his impending debut with Minnesota. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. On August 1, the Hennepin County attorney’s office was announced he would not face charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Lynch spent two seasons at Illinois State, averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Redbirds as a sophomore. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Minnesota is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten with an 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten) record.

Women’s hoops coaches boycotting recruiting events

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs her team during practice prior to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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For some high-major women’s basketball programs, the final evaluation period of 2016 is being used as a vacation from the recruiting trail.

According to a report from Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, are not attending events during this weekend’s recruiting period for a host of reasons.

First, many are fed up with the price of tournament packets, booklets of rosters that college coaches receive upon paying their entry fee. Packets are supposed to be chock-full of contact information for the prospects, but sometimes aren’t accurate or up-to-date. (This has become a well-documented issue on the men’s side of college hoops. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on it this summer.) Furthermore, there are so many events now that college coaches are often forced to pay obscene amounts of money to watch just one player at a single event, and play recruiting hopscotch around the country, criss-crossing the nation to see so many events and spend thousands of dollars. One Power Five coach said her staff crunched the numbers, and found that in just two years, they’ve spent more than $4,000 more than they did in 2014 on packets alone. Another coach told a story of sending an assistant across the country for one day, to one event, to watch one team. When the assistant arrived, the team had left early for its next event. No refund was available for the college that had paid what turned out to be a useless entry fee. The head coach called it “exasperating.”

Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who spoke to Notre Dame head coach and eventual Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw for his report, estimated that the cost for one of the coaches packets — the ones that include player contact information, rosters, etc. — can cost each school an average of $600 per event.

This era of grassroots basketball has taken off in recent years with Nike, Under Armour and adidas all creating their own sponsored leagues. All three run exceptional events from the staff to the facilities, all the way to the three, free meals a day for coaches. Organizers of these events will argue that there’s a cost to running such high-end events. These packets, some of which are so in-depth they include players’ GPAs, help fund these tournaments (events, paying a staff, etc.).

Coaches, mostly mid to low-major coaches, will argue that these packets aren’t worth the cost, considering that every coach (head and assistant) must purchase them in order to gain entrance. And you will find packets where the information inside is either inaccurate, or missing or both. For elite programs, this isn’t an issue. You show up, you’re seen, you leave, you go to the next event, repeat. For mid to low-major coaches, this really puts a dent in their budget, especially when they have to travel to multiple events (buying packets at each one) because you have to land that “steal,” you have to find that player who is overlooked.

This protest, or boycott (or whatever you want to call it) will hurt those these events are intended to help the most: the players. If coaches continue to avoid these tournaments, that late-bloomer may miss out on a scholarship, or that player with mid-major offers won’t get the chance to play in front of high-major coaches.

According to Schnell, there is a proposal, voted on in April, to eliminate a live recruiting period in April and September. But many coaches in women’s basketball have made it clear this weekend how they feel about the issue.

USC lands commitment from three-star center

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USC added to its 2017 recruiting class with a commitment from a 7-foot big man.

Andy Enfield and the Trojans beat out Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for the services of Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) center Victor Uyaelunmo. He announced his college decision on Friday afternoon.

“It was the best fit for me academically and athletically,” Uyaelunmo said according to David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. “The basketball coaches really wanted me to come, and I thought it was the best place for me.

“They told me how they were going to use me, and they have a couple of guys leaving this year, so I just fit in right.”

Uyaelunmo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals, however, ESPN rates him a four-star recruit. He joins a two-man class which includes four-star forward Jordan Usher.

The departure of Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans’ leading rebounder during the 2015-16, was a surprising one, and one that left USC with a hole in the middle. While Uyaelunmo still has one more year before arriving on the Los Angeles campus, the Trojans have a promising piece in the paint for the future; a long, athletic big man who has the potential, in time, to become one of the nation’s top shot blockers.

Uyaelunmo played for Nike South Beach in the EYBL this spring and summer. In 12 appearances, he averaged 5.0 points. 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.6 minutes per game.