Summer School in the America EastPosted by Brian Goodman on August 26th, 2010
Matt McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.
Around The America East:
- A Carousel for Two: Hartford coach Dan Leibovitz jumped ship after his program took a sharp decline following a 2008 run to the AE title; he will join Penn as an assistant coach. Taking the reins is former Hartford assistant John Gallagher…who served last season as a Penn assistant.
- Just a Fling: Binghamton‘s All-America East performer Greer Wright filed for a transfer waiver and flirted with the idea of attending Connecticut or Cincinnati before deciding to return to Binghamton for his senior season.
- The Departed: Binghamton was less fortunate with last season’s AE Rookie of the Year, Dylan Talley, who decided to take his services elsewhere. Other notable transfers are Vermont’s All-Defensive team player Garvey Young and UMBC leading scorer Chauncey Gilliam, who packed his bags for Akron.
- Big Haul: After having only three players left on Boston University‘s roster at the end of last season’s AE runner-up finish, second-year head coach Patrick Chambers hauled in a seven-man recruiting class to surround the league’s premier player, John Holland.
- Break Out the Vegemite: Coach Will Brown and his Albany Great Danes have welcomed freshman Luke Devlin from Australia to campus. The 6’8 Aussie has three-point range and should quickly become a favorite among a fan base eager for something to cheer about.
- Catching On With the Clippers: Vermont standout Marqus Blakely received a two-year, partially guaranteed contract with the LA Clippers and has angled himself towards a spot on the roster.
- Boston University: The Terriers’ hopes revolve around two-time all-conference star John Holland, the heir apparent to the AE POY title. An NCAA trip is hardly guaranteed – an exodus of senior guards leaves BU with only three returning players (none of whom are guards) and many question marks. The loss of Corey Lowe especially hurts; the four-year starter carried the Terriers to last year’s title game when teams cued in on Holland, the league leader in scoring. During the AE tournament, Holland was held to an eFG of 38% and 10.3 PPG, well below his season averages of 52% and 19.9, respectively. Alongside Holland, BU returns 2009 AE ROY Jake O’Brien, who can score in volume, and hard-nosed center Jeff Pelage, who is a banger inside. Former Marquette swingman Patrick Hazel should make his presence felt immediately, but the most pressing question is which of the four incoming freshman and two transfer guards will land the role of primary ball handler.
- Maine: Maine’s defense propelled them to a surprising 11-5 conference record last year, but the Black Bears were promptly upset by New Hampshire in the first round of the conference tournament. Despite the setback, they are well-positioned to build on last year’s success. They graduated Junior Bernal, an all-league defender, but the core of their lineup returns. Central to the offense is all-league guard Gerald McLemore, the league leader in three-point field goals. Last season, the offense exhibited a tendency to stall if opponents could take McLemore’s shot away (as UNH did in the tournament). Help could be on the way for the offense in the form of juco transfer Raheem Singleton, a point guard whose game and appearance is eerily reminiscent of former Pittsburgh floor general Levance Fields. Maine fans are also excited about incoming forward Alasdair Fraser, who has had a stellar summer playing for Scotland in the European under-18 championships, and could form a formidable frontcourt alongside Sean McNally.
- Stony Brook: Stony Brook won the conference regular season title, but will have to defend that title without conference POY Muhammed El-Amin, who graduated in the spring. What was a very effective supporting cast will be forced into a starring role. The identity of the team will likely flow from Tommy Brenton, the best defensive big man in the league at only 6’5. Brenton personifies hustle and is a rebounding machine – he averaged nearly ten boards per game last season. The x-factor for the Seawolves is speedy guard Chris Martin. He was one of the best in the nation in drawing fouls and should continue to frustrate opposing guards, especially if he can improve his jump shot (44% from the floor last year). The emergence of Martin is essential to keeping the defense from focusing on marksman Bryan Dougher, who led the AE in three-point shooting percentage.
- Binghamton: The return of Greer Wright changes the entire outlook for the Bearcats. He can stuff the stat sheet as a rebounder, scorer or distributor, and when he is attacking the basket and drawing fouls, he’s nearly unstoppable. Without him, Binghamton would likely have experienced a calamitous season in the wake of several off-court incidents and investigations. If Dylan Talley had opted to return, Binghamton could have made a compelling case for league favorites. Talley’s production as the #2 scorer will be hard to replace, but a solid (and near unpronounceable) supporting cast returns to aid Wright — Chretien Lukusa, Moussa Camara and Mahamoud Jabbi. Jabbi, the league’s top shot blocker and offensive rebounder, will anchor the middle, but the former two will need to provide more consistent scoring. No team in the AE is going to be happy to find themselves matched up against this team come March (assuming Binghamton is eligible this year).
- New Hampshire: The Wildcats return their top four scorers, but that isn’t necessarily a boon for the worst offensive team in the conference. Guard Alvin Abreu put up some big numbers last year, but needed to use an inordinate amount of shots to do so. The transfer of assist man Russell Graham doesn’t help the situation, but the fate of UNH likely will depend on the development of sophomore wing Ferg Myrick. If he can become a reliable scorer, as some strong performances at the end of last year indicated, Abreu and Tyrone Conley should be able to find better looks and UNH could transform into a serious contender.
- Vermont: With the graduation of Marqus Blakely (17 PPG, 9 RPG, 4 APG), Maurice Joseph (14 PPG), Nick Vier and the puzzling transfer of Garvey Young to Quinnipiac, Vermont loses four out of five starters and their most dependable scorers. The man left behind to shoulder the offensive load is 6’8 senior Evan Fjeld, who was hyper-efficient last season as the third option (11 PPG, 65% FG in league play). His offensive polish should allow him to be successful, but there isn’t an abundance of support on the depleted Catamounts roster. The development of sophomores Simeon Marsalis and Brendan Bald at the guard position is crucial and Fjeld will look for help in the frontcourt from incoming UMass transfer Matt Glass. If this team manages to compete for an AE title in a rebuilding year, it will mostly come from a masterful coaching job by Mike Lonergan.
- Albany: The Great Danes must replace the production of UVA transfer Will Harris and Scottie McRae, both lost to graduation, but after a 2-14 record, they are equally desperate to find leadership. To that end, coach Will Brown will look to Mike Black, a sophomore point guard who is a capable shooter and distributor (47% 3PT FG, 3.4 APG). A three-point threat needs to emerge in addition to Black if the Danes are going to reverse their fortunes, a role that any of the four new faces could hypothetically fill. Transfer Jacob Iati, younger brother of Albany’s 2004 AE ROY Jon Iati, Aussie Luke Devlin and two juco transfers come in with strong three point credentials. Also intertwined with the Danes’ success is the final year of the enigmatic Tim Ambrose. The senior guard leads all returners in points, rebounds and assists, but his explosive athleticism is unrefined, as he was benched late in the season.
- UMBC: Chris De La Rosa was the leading assist man in the AE last year, but he’s going to have to find new teammates to be on the receiving end this season. Along with the departure of sharpshooter Chauncey Gilliam, Shawn Grant has gone west for junior college, and seven-foot center Robbie Jackson is not returning due to academic reasons. 6’5 sophomore Adrian Satchell will be one of the primary beneficiaries of playing time, as should Jamar Wertz, a 6’4 guard who redshirted last season due to a knee injury. Coach Randy Monroe is hoping that return of big man Justin Fry (who was also injured for the entirety of last season) and the incoming recruiting class will help reset the tone at UMBC. Freshman forward Chase Plummer, who was high school teammates with blue-chippers Kyrie Irving and Mike Gilchrist, should help provide some toughness inside to a team that was often defenseless last year.
- Hartford: The Hawks have a disquieting combination of upheaval and stability. John Gallagher and his new coaching staff are teamed with last year’s top five scorers, a group of seniors which managed to win only six games. The team is lead by guard Joe Zeglinski who returns for his fifth campaign at Hartford (he redshirted after ten games in ‘08). Zeglinski regularly launches over ten threes per game and makes a handful of them, but he will need more help if the Hawks are to compete with the upper echelon of the AE. A key for Coach Gallagher will be to find production off the bench; Zeglinski, Morgan Sabia and Milton Burton were all overworked, posting the top three minutes per game averages in the league.
- Eye on the Prize: Head coach Patrick Chambers at BU seems to be lapping the field in recruiting, getting very good commits and getting them early. Running through the past AE championship coaches, it doesn’t take long to realize the AE has not been a launching pad for coaches. Chambers, a former Villanova assistant, seems to be positioning himself nicely to move to the next level. If he guides BU to the NCAA tournament, expect to hear his name starting being circulated in connection with head coach openings.
- Hot Seat in Albany: After back to back NCAA trips in 2006 and 2007, Albany was again in the thick of the title race halfway through AE league play in 2008-09 when they abruptly lost five straight games. Last season, when it was all supposed to come together, the Danes went into free fall. On paper, UA’s roster has the talent to compete for a title and one of the top stories this season is whether Will Brown, who is in the last year of his contract and suddenly in the hot seat, can rally this team to meet its potential.
- The House That Jimmer Built: Well, at least the match-up that Jimmer Fredette made. On December 8, Vermont hosts a “neutral site” game in Jimmer’s backyard at the Civic Center in Glens Falls, the building where he carried his team through the New York Section II Class A playoffs. Fredette heads an offensive juggernaut at BYU that should torch an overmatched Catamounts squad. There is every reason to believe this game will have the feel of a victory lap.