RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

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If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Northwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest, Mountains and Southwest) are located here.

It’s time for the tenth and final installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of cool, wet Pacific states known as the Northwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Northwest Region (AK, WA, OR, northern CA)

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  • Matt Bouldin - G, Sr - Gonzaga.  As anyone in Spokane or among Gonzaga’s growing national fan base can tell you, most of the talk about Gonzaga this off-season has concerned itself with what the Bulldogs have lost.  Understandable, as the excellent Zag firm of Daye, Heytvelt, Pargo, and Downs are a tough bunch to replace, to say the least.  Consider also that Gonzaga is bringing in something like 37 freshmen onto this year’s squad, and one can easily conclude that Mark Few finds himself with his most interesting coaching predicament yet.  With such an inexperienced squad, what’s the one thing Few needs most?  A savvy, intelligent senior leader.  Enter Matt Bouldin, a 2010 preseason Wooden Award nominee to absolutely nobody’s surprise.  Check these stats from last year:  49.1% from the field, 42.3% from three-point range…but only 13.6 PPG.  Even with several other offensive options on his team, you’d expect a shooting guard with those percentages to average more than 13.6 PPG.  But, this means that when Bouldin does shoot, it’s usually a good shot in terms of shot selection, something coaches will tell you is one of the real keys to winning at this level, and an incredibly difficult thing to teach.  Mind you, those percentages are up from his sophomore season even though he registered more attempts as a junior.  Without a doubt, Bouldin’s touches and minutes will increase this season, despite leading last year’s team with 31.7 minutes a game.  He might need to get to the line a little more this year, but with his ability to take care of the ball, Coach Few should have no apprehension adding this to Bouldin’s responsibilites, if he chooses.  Bouldin’s 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio was third in the conference (behind two of his teammates!) and is exceptional for a shooting guard.  So go ahead, feel sorry for Gonzaga if you must.  We know what they lost, and we know Portland might be a fun pick in the WCC.  But with a coach like Few, a leader like Bouldin, and a non-conference pressure-cooker like the one Gonzaga has in store, if Portland so much as twitches, Gonzaga will take them down.  And look at their NCAA Tournament history.  Except for 2007, Gonzaga does best when they get a 10-12 seed and nobody’s looking.  Mark Few is spectacular when it comes to keeping numerous talented players happy and, perhaps better than anyone in the country, instilling in all of his players an immense pride in the name on the front of the jersey as compared with the one on the back.  When you watch Few’s Gonzaga teams, you can almost feel the love the players have for that uniform.  Matt Bouldin possesses this pride just as much as any of his Wooden-list predecessors like Morrison or Dickau.  We guarantee you — he will not go quietly.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest and Mountains) are located here.

It’s time for the ninth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of hot, dry, desert-y states known as the Southwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, southern CA)

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  • Rihards Kuksiks – F, Jr – Arizona State. Advice to Pac-10 coaches writing up their scouting reports for when they go up against Arizona State this season: when Rihards Kuksiks enters the building, get a man on him. Don’t bother waiting until the game actually starts. You don’t want him getting comfortable, because he’s the kind of shooter who can change a game just that quickly. The guy can touch the ball a few times and the next thing you know you’re down nine before the first TV timeout. Or you get a little comfortable with your late-game lead and after Kuksiks gets a couple of touches the lead is gone and you’re wondering how time can tick so slowly. You want numbers? Fine. Kuksiks is third in terms of returning individual leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3%) in the country among players who hit at least two threes a game and finished 8th in that category last year. A recent article on FoxSports.com by Jeff Goodman reveals some other incredible stats: in games decided by 2 points or less, Kuksiks shot 47% from behind the 3-point line; against ranked opponents he shot 46% from beyond the arc, and in the loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament’s second round last year, he put up his career high in points with 20, with 18 of those coming from long range. In other words, the man steps up during big games. If the numbers don’t interest you, then consider the fact that many of these threes are not from a hair behind the line. They are often from distance. And they are often clutch (ask Arizona about a couple of late ones he nailed in that February game last year). Most importantly, watch the form. It should be an instructional video. He gets good height on his jumper but doesn’t overdo it, and you can see how he gets his legs into the shot. He releases the ball out in front just a little bit, but then the follow-through is a perfect example of that “reach into the cookie jar” that basketball coaches start teaching kids from the moment they can lift a basketball. By the way, he’s 6’6 and more than happy to mix it up in the paint, if needed. My favorite bit about Kuksiks comes from an interview he did for a site called EuropeanProspects.com in which he was asked what kind of player he was. The first words out of his mouth? “I am a sharpshooter.”  This is confidence, not cockiness, from the big man from Riga, Latvia. But I think it’s just fine if there actually is a little cockiness there. Long-range shooters are like neurosurgeons. They’re often asked to do the most difficult things in their field…and if I get to the point where I need to depend on one, I want them a little bit cocky.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Mid-Atlantic Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 9th, 2009

impactplayers

Last week we took a look at the five impact players in the Northeast Region, so now we’re ready for the second installment of our ten-week RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

impactplayers mid-atlantic

Mid-Atlantic Region  (NYC, NJ, PA, WV, MD, DE)

  • Scottie Reynolds - Sr, G – Villanova. There might be players in this region who can score more points or dish out more assists or shoot a higher percentage from the floor than Reynolds.  There might be more physically imposing and athletically gifted players than the 6’2 guard from Northern Virginia.   There could even be a few ‘upside’ guys you’d pick before him if you were starting an NBA franchise.  But is there any player as capable of putting his team on his back and doing this (ok, maybe Vasquez, but he hasn’t done it yet)?  Is there another player on this list who you’d prefer to have the ball in his hands as the clock is ticking down, knowing that he’ll give your team a superb chance to win?  Reynolds is the player that every coach loves to have on his team – he plays heavy minutes, never misses a start, shows great leadership and clearly has a calming effect on his team whenever he’s on the floor.  This is a long way removed from the early days of his career, where the ‘Nova legend has stated that he had trouble seeing the ‘big picture’ due to trust issues with coaches and other players.    There are no such issues now, as everyone in the Big Five (and the Big East, for that matter) understands who the top dog in the Philadelphia area is.  If things come together right for Reynolds and VU in 2009-10, he could look back on a collegiate career that includes three all-Big East nods, an all-american selection, the second-most number of steals (he needs 58), and the most points (Kerry Kittles) in the long history of the Villanova program (he needs 624).  Considering all that, Reynolds will captain the best team in the Big East and may also have another Final Four appearance in his sights.
  • Da’Sean Butler - Sr, F – West Virginia. If there’s a team that should challenge Villanova (on paper) as the class of the Big East in 2009-10, it should be West Virginia.  The biggest reason for that is Butler, the 6’7 wing set to replace Pitt’s Sam Young as the most multi-dimensional player in the conference.  Butler scores (17.1 ppg), rebounds (5.9 per game) and even finds time to play the passing lanes (1.7 spg).  Last season he seemed to really find his groove in the conference slate, as his numbers all rose, culminating in his 43-pt explosion during a blowout win against Villanova on Friday the (Feb.) 13th.  But it was his performance over the summer at the World University Games that really caught our eye – on a team with shooters such as Robbie Hummel and James Anderson, it was Butler who led the squad in three-point percentage (55%) by nailing nearly two per game.  His perimeter shooting has always been solid (~35%), but if his shot improves next season to the 38-40% range to replace Alex Ruoff’s deadly range, Butler’s ability to get to the rim and finish becomes even more of a threat.  With sophomore Honorable Mentions Devin Ebanks’ size and rebounding, Truck Bryant’s scoring and playmaking, plus the addition of two five-star recruits to the roster, it’s clear why WVU looks to improve on last year’s 23-12 record and first round NCAA exit.  Mountaineer fans have an expectation of a top ten team in Morgantown and it’s understandable why they think so – it’ll be up to their star Butler to deliver on those expectations.
  • Jeremy Hazell - Jr, F – Seton Hall. Jeremy Hazell’s inclusion on our Mid-Atlantic all-region team was the toughest decision we had to make.  There’s absolutely no question that the 6’5 guard/forward who blew up on the Big East last season has talent.  You don’t score 20+ against sixteen Big East defenses without the ability to score the ball from every which way (22.8 ppg).  The primary issue was that it’s difficult to claim to be an impact player if your team isn’t very good, and last year, the Hall finished 7-11 in the conference with all seven of those wins against fellow bottom-feeders.  Nevertheless, we recognize that past results do not necessarily predict future outcomes, and with three impact transfers arriving (Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson and Keon Lawrence) amidst a much leaner Big East landscape, it wouldn’t surprise us if Seton Hall, led by Hazell, made a run at the NCAAs this year.  Getting back to Bobby Gonzalez’s star player, his scoring numbers might actually decrease this season depending on how well the new players orient to North Jersey, but with fewer shots (he took 32% of SH’s shots last year) he could become a more complete player by improving his shooting percentages (43%/36%) and offensive efficiency (28th in the Big East).  Regardless of how this season goes, Hazell is undoubtedly one of the most talented players the nation has yet to hear about.
  • Talor Battle – Jr, G- Penn State. While the electric Penn State point guard Talor Battle may have been known within Big Ten circles and around Happy Valley, national attention wasn’t forwarded his way until one performance on February 1 in East Lansing, MI. The heavily favored top-ten ranked Spartans, a team that would reach the championship game just months later in Detroit, fell to the underdog Nittany Lions, who were 0-16 in their Big Ten history at the Breslin Center. During that game, Battle emerged as one of the top scorers in the conference and the nation. In a league where hard-nosed defense on every possession is the norm, Battle averaged 16.7 ppg, including seven 20+ point performances in conference play. And on that night in East Lansing, Battle scored 29 points on 11-19 shooting and 6-12 from three, leading Penn State to a 72-68 upset win. Battle certainly has some areas to improve – namely shooting 34% from deep and hitting just 70% of his free throws – but the scoring guard truly has the capability to put up 30+ points on any given night. With Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle no longer at PSU, the onus lies almost completely on Battle to lead the way for Penn State and coach Ed DeChellis if they have any hope of reaching postseason play again. Considering such a lackluster supporting cast, one could argue Battle will have the most singular impact of any player in this entire region, as on many nights Penn State will completely rely on Battle’s scoring potential to win basketball games.
  • Greivis Vasquez – Sr, G- Maryland. Love him or despise him with every bone in your body, there’s no denying the talent of Greivis Vasquez. There’s also no denying that Vasquez’ decision to stay at Maryland for his senior season rather than enter the NBA Draft had the greatest impact of any April decision in the country, vaulting the Terrapins from a likely-NIT team to a possible top-six seed and ACC contender. Much like Battle’s performance against Michigan State, one 2008-09 performance from Vasquez defined his season and launched the fiery Venezuelan into Maryland basketball lore – a 35-11-10 triple-double in an 88-85 overtime win against #3 North Carolina in College Park when Maryland was lingering around the bubble. Vasquez backs up his never-resting mouth with impressive play on the court, notably being named to the all-ACC second team for the second straight campaign and, in Oscar-like fashion, leading his Terps in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes, becoming just the sixth player in ACC history to accomplish said feat. The main knock on Vasquez during his first two seasons in College Park was a recurring propensity to commit foolish turnovers, but that criticism is quieting after Vasquez finished third in the conference in assist/turnover ratio a season ago. There’s no argument against Vasquez making a tremendous impact for Maryland and Gary Williams once again this season.
  • Ryan Thompson (MM) – Sr, G- Rider. In doing research for this feature, I have yet to find one thing that Ryan Thompson does not do well on the basketball court. The younger brother of Kings forward and fellow Bronc Jason Thompson, Ryan is surely creating his own identity as a bona fide NBA prospect.  A first team all-MAAC performer a season ago as a junior, Thompson did it all for Rider: ranking second in the conference in scoring, first in minutes played (he played 40+ minutes in nine games), second in three-point percentage, seventh in assists, eighth in field-goal percentage, eighth in free-throw percentage and eighth in rebounding. That’s right, Thompson can shoot from deep, score inside, rebound, pass and play nearly every minute. While the competition doesn’t always rank with other elite performers in college basketball, one could argue Thompson is the top all-around player in the game this season. He also plays his best when the stakes are high, totaling 57 points and 17 rebounds in two conference tournament games for his Broncs, including a bucket with 3.4 seconds left to knock off Siena last year. The sky’s the limit for Thompson in 2009-10, an already immensely talented individual playing with motivation as Rider has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament in his three seasons in Jersey, and coming off of a rare and disappointing seven points on 2-13 shooting against Liberty in his season finale.

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Honorable MentionLavoy Allen, Temple.  Sean Baptiste, FDU.  Jamal Barney, Loyola (MD).  Darryl Bryant, WVU.  Jermaine Dixon, Pittsburgh.  Devin Ebanks, WVU.  Corey Fisher, Villanova.  Darrin Govens, St. Joseph’s.  Rodney Green, Lasalle.  Charles Jenkins, Hofstra.  Anthony Mason, Jr., St. John’s.  Herb Pope, Seton Hall.  Mike Rosario, Rutgers.  Damian Saunders, Duquesne.  Corey Stokes, Villanova.  Devin Sweetney, St. Francis (PA).

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RTC’s 2009-10 Impact Players – Northeast Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 2nd, 2009

impactplayersYesterday the calendar moved into September and we’re all foaming at the mouth around here to get started on the 2009-10 season preview materials, but we realize it doesn’t make much sense to start really gearing up on that until October.  Nevertheless, one feature we want to start that we’ll be publishing weekly all the way up to the start of the season is our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series.   Each week we’re going to pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Northeast Region (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, Upstate NY)

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  • Joe Trapani – Jr, F – Boston College. Al Skinner hit the jackpot when Vermont transfer Joe Trapani elected to join the BC basketball program for the 2008-09 season after a successful debut campaign with the Catamounts, averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and earning America East all-rookie team honors. Trapani wanted to challenge himself at a higher level of competition, transferring to nearby Chestnut Hill where the 6’8 forward made quite an impression in his sophomore season, upping his scoring average to 13.4 ppg and rebounds to 6.6 per contest. Trapani earned a spot on this list mostly due to his all-around game; in fact, the skilled big man led the Eagles in assists in four games. His best performance may have come against Kyle Singler and Duke at home, an upset win for BC in which Trapani registered 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Not many 6’8 forwards can score, rebound, dish and shoot 36% from deep. His inside-outside game reminded many of the Eagle faithful of the recently departed Jared Dudley and will be even more vital to the Eagles success in 2009-10 without leading scorer Tyrese Rice. While the rest of the roster returns, it is Trapani who must lead the way if BC wants to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Rakim Sanders, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and other Eagles will contribute, but Trapani’s model of consistency and constant leadership makes him indispensable to Skinner and the BC program.
  • Arinze Onuaku – Sr, F/C – Syracuse. The Syracuse behemoth is one of the most puzzling players in all of college basketball. There are two statistics that jump out at you when analyzing Onuaku’s 2008-09 junior season with the Orange: 67% and 30%. Incredibly, that was Onuaku’s field goal and free throw percentage last year… in order. That’s right, Onuaku was an insanely efficient 178-267 from the floor, higher than Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Nevill, Patrick Patterson, DeJuan Blair or anyone in college basketball. On the flip side, his free throw shooting (37-124) was abysmal and downright embarrassing, meaning if Onuaku doesn’t improve in this area mightily over the summer and into the upcoming season, Hack-A-Onuaku will be explored greatly by Big East coaches in 2009-10. The big man MUST improve to at least 50% if he doesn’t want to greatly cost the Orange. Onuaku’s impact to Syracuse is mostly positive, though. The field goal percentage speaks for itself, along with 10.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and a 19/12 double-double against Cole Aldrich and Kansas last season. With Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris gone to riches (just kidding for two of them), Onuaku will be relied on heavily by coach Jim Boeheim to be a reliable force in the paint by blocking shots, staying out of foul trouble, scoring with efficiency and scooping up rebound after rebound. With Blair and Thabeet departed, nobody can have as much of an impact down low at Onuaku both in the Big East conference and in the entire Northeast region.
  • Jerome Dyson – Sr, G – UConn. When Jerome Dyson knocked knees with an unidentified Syracuse player and crumpled to the floor during a routine win for the 23-1 Huskies on Feb. 11, you could almost hear the collective groan from the UConn faithful throughout the Northeast.  You see, the dirty little secret for UConn was that Dyson at 34.8% was one of the only two players on the roster (AJ Price at 40.2% was the other) who could reliably nail a three-pointer for the Huskies.  UConn was never going to be confused for a team of marksmen, but it’s no coincidence that a team who was shooting a robust 36.4% from deep on the season at the time of injury shot a horrid 29.8% from outside the rest of the way.  It was painfully obvious in the F4 loss to Michigan St. that once the Huskies got in the hole, the three-pointer – a useful offensive weapon in comeback attempts – simply wasn’t available to them (2-6 for the game).  Dyson should be back at 100% this season, as his meniscus injury is completely healed and he has a chip on his shoulder from seasons lost.  With four key contributors gone from last year’s team, Jim Calhoun will be looking at his senior guard to put the team on his back and take the lead in crunch time.   This shouldn’t be much of a problem considering Dyson’s scorer’s mentality and natural abilities.  If UConn is going to avoid a major letdown from its 31-win season, it’ll be largely due to the poise and play of the player who has always seemed just on the cusp of greatness, but due to some bad decisions mixed in with worse luck, has never quite made it there.
  • Kemba Walker – Soph, G – UConn. Kemba Walker is the latest in a long string of NYC-bred point guards who is set for stardom in the Big East.  As a freshman backing up AJ Price in 2008-09, it was easily apparent to anyone watching that Walker was the player with the quicker first step, better touch around the basket, and ultimately, brighter future.  As such, he’s a projected first rounder whenever he decides to come out for the NBA Draft.  However, perhaps typical of many Big Apple products, his outside jumper is still a work in progress (27.1% from deep last year), but he needn’t rely on 22-footers because he can get to the cup and finish with anybody of any size (52% on twos, which is phenomenal for a six-foot guard).  Walker had some ups and downs during his freshman year, but the reason he’s on our Northeast Region squad has a lot to do with his performance in the Elite Eight against Missouri where he sliced and diced the Tiger defense so effectively (23/5/5) that we should be forgiven for thinking he was the best player on the floor.  Several of our braintrust believe that he could double his offensive output this season en route to becoming an all-american playmaker for the Huskies in the mold of former point guards Chris Smith and Khalid El-Amin.  Regardless of postseason accolades, we should expect the UConn backcourt of Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker to be one of the very best in the nation this year.
  • Ricky Harris – Sr, G – UMass. While the Minutemen may have underachieved in 2008-09, the scoring production provided by Ricky Harris on a game-by-game basis did not go unnoticed.  With point guard Chris Lowe and shot-blocking extraordinaire Tony Gaffney departed, Harris will be the centerpiece for Massachusetts in Chris Kellogg’s second year as the Minutemen head coach. Harris reached the top six in scoring in both his sophomore and junior campaigns at 18.2 ppg, so predicting a 20+ ppg senior season out of Harris is not outside the realm of possibility. He could very well challenge Dayton big man Chris Wright for A-10 POY this year and should be the #1 scoring force and premier outside shooter in the entire conference. Want more proof? This past season Harris became the 40th UMass player to accumulate 1,000 points in his college career and has scored in double-figures in 61 of his last 66 games along with 28 career contests with 20+ points. He lit up ACC foe Boston College for 35 points on 12-19 FG and 6-11 3PT in an overtime loss. While his rebounding and passing game leaves much to be desired, Harris will make or break whether the Minutemen surprise in a weaker Atlantic 10 and reach a postseason tournament this season. Now that Tyrese Rice and A.J. Price are no longer amateurs, nobody in the entire Northeast region can match his scoring potential on any given night. Harris’ ability to catch fire and will the Minutemen to victory earns him a spot on our all-Northeast squad.
  • DJ Rivera (MM) – Sr, G – Binghamton.  Our mid-major “sixth man” for this region shouldn’t be viewed as a slight of any kind.  We recognize that Rivera, the 6’4 do-anything guard from upstate New York can capably play with anyone in the Northeast region.  In fact, the player who was openly snubbed by America East coaches when it came to conference POY votes last season might just be the top mid-major player in the entire country in 2009-10.   You know the story: the nephew of Philly legend Hank Gathers, Rivera transferred from St. Joe’s after his sophomore year, received a hardship waiver from the NCAA, and proceeded to dominate the America East unlike anyone has, um, ever?  Rivera showed his clutch abilities by averaging 25/11 against league rival Vermont in two games last year, and even dropped 20/5 on 9-14 FGs against Duke in Binghamton’s first-round blowout loss to the Devils.  He’s an absolute stud, and we expect that after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft, he’ll be back with an enormous chip on his shoulder this season given the way the rest of his league treated him.  It’s our wager that  Rivera, with a substantial amount of his team returning, will make a run at a national scoring title (#5 returning scorer in the NCAA) and another trip to the NCAA Tournament to solidify his standing. 

Impact Players NE 2

Honorable MentionTim Ambrose, Albany.  Will Harris, Albany.  Rakim Sanders, BC.  John Holland, BU.  Corey Lowe, BU.  Ryan Wittman, Cornell.  Louis Dale, Cornell.  Jeremy Lin, Harvard.  Matt Janning, Northeastern.  Sharaud Curry, Providence.  Ryan Rossiter, Siena.  Alex Franklin, Siena.  Edwin Ubiles, Siena.  Andy Rautins, Syracuse.  Wesley Johnson, Syracuse.  Stanley Robinson, UConn.  Marqus Blakely, Vermont.

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