Saturday, November 30, 2013

Preview: Rider Men Look To Be Solid Contender

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 12-6 in the MAAC, 19-15 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Guard Jonathon Thompson (13.1, points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists), guard Nurideen Lindsey (8.0, 2.5).

KEY NEWCOMER: 6-3 freshman guard Jimmy Taylor.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-5 senior guard Anthony Myles (12.4 points, 4.6 rebounds last season), 6-7 senior forward Daniel Stewart (10.6, 7.2), 6-2 sophomore guard Zedric Sadler (5.1, 2.8), 6-3 freshman guard Jimmy Taylor, 6-4 sophomore guard Khalil Alfred (1.7, 0.8).

NOTABLE: Off to a 2-3 start, but the losses all to tough opponents, two quality mid-majors Lehigh and UAlbany and high-major Purdue. One of the wins came earlier this week, a nice overtime victory over Rice in which Myles continued to establish himself as one of the better players in the MAAC with 27 points and 7 rebounds in 41 minutes of court time ... The loss of do-everything guard Thompson to graduation is a big one, although Myles is capably stepping into the go-to role on the perimeter ... The loss of highly-touted Lindsey, who never came close to matching expectations, wasn't nearly so great. He opted to leave Rider to pursue opportunities overseas ... Myles is currently sixth in the MAAC in scoring (17.8). He and senior forward Daniel Stewart, one of the hardest workers in the conference, provide a very good outside-inside combo. Both are second-team preseason all-MAAC selections ... While it's still early, amazingly 6-2 sophomore guard Zedric Sadler is the team's leading rebounder to date with 5.5 per contest. He's also averaging 12.0 points and 2.2 assists per contest and has developed into a nice third offensive option ... Rider, thus far, also getting the same long-range accuracy from 6-2 senior Tommy Pereira off the bench as it did a year ago when he made 40 of his 45 field goals from beyond the stripe. This year, he's 7-of-17 from long range ... Khalil Alfred has also getting into the starting lineup. The 6-4 sophomore guard is averaging 6.4, 2.2 thus far ... Rider has been going small early in games, but brings some beef off the bench in the form of 6-9, 235-pound junior Junior Fortunat (5.6, 3.0) and 6-7 sophomore Shawn Valentine (2.6, 2.4) ... The best addition is freshman point guard Jimmy Taylor, who coach Kevin Baggett immediately threw into the starting lineup with strong results. Taylor, a do-everything high school guard (24 points, 10 rebounds, 6.4 assists per game in Florida) is averaging 11.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists so far. He's also No. 2 in the MAAC in field-goal percentage (55.6), so he's taking good shots ... The Broncs also have one of the league's biggest players in 7-foot-0, 245-pound center Matt Lopez on the bench after he transferred in from Utah State and has to sit out this season. This is Lopez's third school (he started at La Salle), and this scribe's view of him from AAU ball several years ago left the impression that he aimed too high at his first two locations.

STRENGTHS: Outstanding veteran leadership and production from Myles and Stewart, the type almost required for any team at this level to be more than competitive. Sadler has really stepped up so far, and Pereira adds the long-range dimension. The key, though, will be whether Taylor can keep up his early season pace, but so far so good.

WEAKNESSES: A little small when Fortunat isn't on the court. Also, not many freshmen step in and have year-long success at the point. We'll see about Taylor.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: League coaches picked Rider to finish fourth in their preseason poll, and there won't be much debate about that here. It looks like Manhattan and Iona are the clear-cut top two. After that, Canisius, Rider, Fairfield and Quinnipiac should compete for third-through sixth.

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