Recently this blogger promied to opine on the top newcomers to conference programs this season. Yet, while doing the research, yours truly discovered that the top five picks would all be players with past college-level experience, either tranfers from other four-year programs or from junior colleges.
So, the look at top newcomers will be split into two segments, the first (below) highlighting the five top newcomers with past college experience. Later, we'll check in with the top incoming freshmen.
A little insight on the selections ... this isn't necessarily a list of the most-talented newcomers (although talent is a factor), but of players who will be the most-productive, ones who will have the most impact. Opportunity is also a part of that equation. These players fill specific needs for their respective teams, and will all get significant playing time and the opportunity to put up good numbers.
Here's the top five incoming players with previous experience, and all five should have considerable impact on the fortunes of their respective teams.
- Jhamar Youngblood, 6-1 guard, Rider: A transfer after two seasons at Monmouth, where he averaged 12.3 and 12.1 points per game those two years. He was the Northeast Conference's Rookie of the Year in the 2006-07 season. A legitimate long-range shooter who is a perfect fit as a replacement for Harris Mansell, a player of similar skills who graduated this past May. One MAAC coach's simple, yet revealing comment about Youngblood: "He's good."
- Daye Kaba, 6-3 guard, Marist: The Red Foxes need plenty of help after losing their top two players from last season's last-place team, so there's a real need here. Kaba, a real "physical specimen" at a solid 215 pounds, is in position to provide plenty of help. He's a transfer from Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and has three seasons of eligibility for MAAC play. He didn't get much time at BC, though, just 17 total minutes over nine games there as a freshman.
- Shane Walker, 6-10 center, Loyola: A lanky (210 pounds), athletic player who can run the floor, block shots and will rebound. Not likely to be a big scorer. In a Q & A with the Baltimore Sun recently, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos had this prediction for Walker: "I'd say if he's getting 10 points and 10 rebounds (per game), it would be a successful year." Those numbers are probably a little optimistic. Figure on, maybe six/seven points and seven/eight rebounds per game, still pretty good.
- Rico Pickett, 6-4 guard, Manhattan: A definite need here for a scorer, and Pickett appears capable of filling it, after averaging 17.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game at Miami Dade Community College last eason. The junior guard began his career at Alabama where he started 20 games as a freshman and averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 rebounds. He joins seniors Darryl Crawford and Antoine Pearson to give the Jaspers a very good perimeter trio.
- Jeron Belin, 6-6 forward, St. Peter's: Another junior college transfer, he averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Monroe CC last season. He also fills a definite need, replacing Akeem Gooding who had a year's eligibility remaining, but graduated in May and opted not to return. How good the Peacocks will be this year will depend in some part on Belin's contributions. St. Pete's already have all-MAAC caliber players in 6-7 forward Ryan Bacon and 6-2 guard Wesley Jenkins. If Belin can come close to matching his junior college numbers, then he'll be a productive third option in his team's attack and the Peacocks could be very good.
AND, ONE MORE ...
Let' not forget about the biggest transfer joining the conference, 6-10, 275-pound center Casiem Drummond at Marist. Drummond transfers in from Villanova where he had some big games over his time there. He averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds as a sophomore (2007-08), but only played two games last season before ankle and foot injuries, along with some disciplinary situations, ended his season. He's eligible to play for Marist after the first semester ends. If everything goes well, he could have a considerable impact. But, his physical status and the fact that he'll miss the first semeter of games keeps him off the list of top five newcomers for now.
NEXT UP: A look at the conference's five "Freshmen of Influence."