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Atlantic 10 Preview

November 13, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments




Atlantic 10 Conference Preview

by Chris Silva

The only Atlantic-10 Conference off-season news that made headlines was the return of Xavier’s David West, the reigning conference player of the year on the lone A-10 team to make it to the Big Dance last season. Throw in the minute coaching carousel at Richmond, the loss of several players on the Fordham squad, the sophomore seasons for seven coaches and the 2002-2003 A-10 season brings tons of questions and not enough answers.

With the exception of Xavier, the main question of the season is if the A-10 can send more than one team to the Big Dance. Temple missed the tournament for the first time in almost two decades last season and St. Joseph’s was a flop after the hype over the departed Marvin O’Connor. LaSalle was on the verge of slipping into the NCAA’s, but will now have to search for its swagger after Rasual Butler graduated and entered the NBA.

The A-10 is filled with a bunch of young guns to tag along with the sparse upperclassmen leadership. It could be a season of growing pains and restructuring for some teams; while others did some dirty work during the off-season, bringing in some newcomers with plenty of potential and grooming its returning players.

What’s to be expected from a conference that’s mediocre in RPI and has no big names to market besides West and Temple’s John Chaney? I’m not sure yet and at the halfway mark of the season there still might be some uncertainties. The A-10 could very well be decided at the conference tournament, which has changed venues from Philadelphia to Dayton, Ohio for the next two years.

Teams listed in predicted order of finish. Last seasons’ statistics and records are given.

East Division

1. Temple (19-15, 12-4)
Head Coach: John Chaney (675-253, 30 years)

Key Returning Players: G David Hawkins (Jr., 15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg), F Alex Wesby (Sr., 11.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), G Nile Murray (5.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg), G Brian Polk (Jr., 8.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

Top Newcomers: G Maurice Collins (Fr., 17.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg), C Keith Butler (Fr., 24.0 ppg, 16.0 rpg), F Antwayne Robinson (Fr., 6.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), G Chris Gaither (Fr., 26.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

Key Players Lost: G Lynn Greer, C Ron Rollerson, F/C Kevin Lyde

Outlook: The Owls look stacked in the statistics, but don’t let them fool you-they still have to replace Greer at the point and on the stat sheet after missing the NCAA’s for the first time in twelve years. Hawkins will get the go at the point and did a fair job filling in for Greer during the NIT. Wesby will bring his experience and ability to play the perimeter and inside. The incoming freshman have a lot of promise, especially Collins, who was a late bloomer at Simon Gratz H.S.. Chaney has pointed out that there is a good if not certain chance of him starting three freshman-Collins, Butler and Robinson-and noted that Butler will have to learn on the go; any coach would be crazy not to play a 7-footer. Butler has been struggling with the matchup zone and he could prove to be one of the biggest pieces to Temple’s puzzle. The Owls will once again miss some of their offensive punch in the first half of the season as Polk was suspended for breaking a team rule and highly touted point guard Michael Blackshear failed to qualify academically.

2. UMass (13-16, 6-10)

Head Coach: Steve Lappas (243-188 15 years)

Key Returning Players: G Anthony Anderson (Jr., 10.0ppg, 3.4 rpg), F/C Micah Brand (Sr., 9.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), R

Top Newcomers: G Mike Lasme (Fr., 25.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), F Jeff Viggiano (Fr., 28.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), F Alassane Kouyake (15.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg)

Key Players Lost: Shannon Crooks, Kiwana Rhymer

Outlook: The loss of Crooks (14.6 ppg) is huge, but the incoming freshman class should add some size to the frontcourt. Anderson will be looked upon for instant offense after capturing freshman of the year honors and the return of senior forward Jackie Rogers should help after missing last season. Lappas is entering his second year at UMass and the teams’ transition to his offense will control the Minutemen’s fate.

3. St. Bonaventure (17-13, 8-8)

Head Coach: Jan Van Brenda Koff (191-141 11 years)

Key Returning Players: G Marques Green (Jr., 15.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg), G/F Patricio Prato (Sr., 11.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg), F Cortez Sutton (So., 10.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

Top Newcomers: G Ahmad Smith (Fr., 14.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

Key Players Lost: J.R. Bremer, Vidal Massiah

Outlook: The Bonnies were the nations’ 14th best scoring team, averaging 80.5 ppg and led the country with 10.5 three-pointers per game. Much of this had to do with the graduated J.R. Bremer, who led the A-10 in scoring with 24.6 ppg and Massiah, who chipped in 10.0 ppg last season. Green, a workhorse on both sides of the ball, will be called upon often and the offense will carry a heavier load than the undersized frontcourt. This will be Van Brenda Koff’s second season at the helm and he will need fifth-year senior Robert Cheeks to be more of a presence in the paint and junior college transfer Terrell to develop quickly if the Bonnies want to stir things up come tournament time and reach the postseason for the fourth straight year.

4. St. Joseph’s (19-12, 12-4)

Head Coach: Phil Martelli (126-90 7 years)

Key Returning Players: G Jameer Nelson (Jr., 14.4 ppg, 6.3 apg), G Delonte West (So., 5.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg), C Alexandre Sazonov (Sr., 3.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg)

Top Newcomers: C Dwayne Jones (Fr., 25.8 ppg, 17.8 rpg), F Dave Mallon (Fr., 21.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg), G Dwayne Lee (Fr., 21.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), F Mike Williams (Fr., 19.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg)

Key Players Lost: Marvin O’Connor, Na’im Crenshaw, Bill Phillips, Damian Reid

Outlook: With all the height and scoring options the incoming freshman and transfer class may bring, Martelli will have to wait as it looks like he will only start one freshman, that being the 6’10” Mallon. Nelson is the only returning starter from last years underachieving squad. Sazonov takes up too much space and the development of the freshman big men could take a while. Look out for frosh Lee, who played high school ball for St. Anthony’s of Jersey City.

5. Rhode Island (8-20, 4-12)

Head Coach: Jim Baron (214-222 15 years)

Key Returning Players: G Dawan Robinson (So., 21.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), G Dustin Hellenga (So., 9.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg), G Brian Woodward (Sr., 8.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

Top Newcomers: C Jon Clark (Fr., 19.0 ppg, 14.0 rpg), F Terrence Mack (Fr., 19.6 ppg, 11.6 rpg), G Bamfield Harmon (Fr., 14.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

Key Players Lost: Troy Wiley, Dinno Daniels

Outlook: Baron will be entering his second year as head coach and is still in the rebuilding mode. This years’ crop of newcomers are a work in progress but looks to be promising, especially center Chris Holm, who at 6’10” seems to be a mainstay after Baron arrived only to have his best two players leave the program. He laid the foundation at St. Bonaventure and it’s only a matter of time before he builds a contender in Rhode Island; just not this year.

6. Fordham (8-20, 4-12)

Head Coach: Bob Hill (34-52 3 years)

Key Returning Players: G/F Michael Haynes (9.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg), G Mark Jarrell-Wright (Jr., 8.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

Top Newcomers: F Mani Messy (Fr., 20.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg), G John Blackgrove (28.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg), G Jermaine Anderson (Fr., 20.0 ppg, 8.0 apg), G Drew Williamson (Fr., 18.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg)

Key Players Lost: Smush Parker, Jeff McMillan, Adrian Walton

Outlook: Bob Hill just can’t seem to keep anyone in the Big Apple. Why not? He has created a name for himself while in the NBA and was supposed to tap the recruiting waters of homegrown talent and lure them to The Bronx to keep them close to home. Well, it turns out that his backcourt flew the coup (Parker and Walton) and his inside presence transferred to USC (McMillan). Now the holes must be filled by Haynes, who will be able to display his pure athleticism, and 360 lb., 6’11” center Glenn Batemon will be able to show the conference if he has any athleticism at all as his minutes should heavily increase.

West Division

1. Xavier (26-6, 14-2)

Head Coach: Thad Matta (50-14 2 years)

Key Returning Players: F David West (Sr., 18.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg), G/F Romain Sato (Jr., 16.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg), G Lionel Chalmers (Sr., 12.0 ppg, 4.2 apg)

Top Newcomers: F Anthony Myles (Jr., 13.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg), G Dedrick Finn (Fr., 18.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg), F Brandon Cole (Fr., 22.3 ppg, 11.2 rpg), F/C Will Caudle (Fr., 13.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)

Key Players Lost: Kevin Frey

Outlook: The Musketeers are returning all their fire power and have added a few sparks along the way to be a potential Final Four team. The return of two-time conference player of the year West could allow the team to shift him along the interior with the new big men. Chalmers adds scoring to his ball handling and Sato could be the most skilled player in the conference. What will scare teams the most might not be Sato and West on the offensive end but rather on the defensive side of the ball. Xavier is in a class of its own in the A-10 and should have no problems breezing through the competition and deep into the NCAA tournament.

2. Dayton (21-11, 10-6)

Head Coach: Oliver Purnell (232-185 14 years)

Key Players Returning: G/F Brooks Hall (Sr., 13.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg), G Ramod Marshall (Jr., 13.3 ppg, 3.1 apg), F/C Keith Waleskrowski (Jr., 9.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg), C Sean Finn (Jr., 7.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

Top Newcomers: G/F Marques Bennet (Fr., 22.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), G Logan White (Fr., 20.2 ppg, 4.5 apg) G Warren Williams (Fr., 15.0 ppg, 7.0 apg)

Key Players Lost: Yuanta Holland

Outlook: The Flyers destiny could rest on the shoulders of Finn, who broke out of his shell during the second half of the season and learned how to use his 6’11” frame. Hall is the floor general and has a knack for getting his teammates involved. One player who has continued to blossom season after season is Marshall, whose point production jumped last season by five from his freshman year. Dayton returns all four of its top scorers and playing host to the A-10 tournament could make the Flyers a tournament sleeper.

3. Richmond (22-14, 11-5)

Head Coach: Jerry Wainwright (136-103 8 years)

Key Players Returning: G Reggie Brown (Sr., 14.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg), G Mike Scrocki (Jr., 12.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg), C Eric Zwayer (Sr., 10.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), G/F Tony Dobbins (Jr., 9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

Top Newcomers: G Jamaal Scott (So., 15.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg), F Jermaine Bucknor (So., 20.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg), C Kevin Steenberge (Fr., 24.0 ppg, 17.0 rpg), G Will Holloman (Fr., 28.3 ppg, 6.0 apg)

Key Players Lost: Bill Ungerer

Outlook: In their inaugural A-10 season, the Spiders advanced to the NIT quarterfinals and have the potential to go even further this season. Through all the coaching shifts, one thing that remains is the importance of defense-Richmond finished 14th in the nation for scoring defense (61.5 ppg). The loss of Ungerer will thrust senior guard Jeff Myers into the point guard role and the Spiders will continue to shoot the long ball with the hot hands of Scrocki and Brown. The return of a healthy Zwayer and the incoming Steenberge will give the frontcourt some balance. What will help the Spiders the most being able to place several players at virtually any position.

4. George Washington (12-16, 5-11)

Head Coach: Karl Hobbs 12-16 (1 year)

Key Players Returning: G Chris Monroe (Sr., 21.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg), G Greg Collucci (Jr., 10.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg), G T.J. Thompson (So. 9.8 ppg, 4.2 apg)

Top Newcomers: F Omar Williams (Fr., 22.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg), C Alexander Kireev (Fr., 10.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg), F Jaz Cowan (Fr., 18.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg)

Key Players Lost: Jason Smith

Outlook: The Colonials have the A-10’s top returning scorer in Monroe and not much else. The addition of Kireev is expected to be an immediate impact. Collucci will be expected to compliment Thompson and Monroe in the backcourt with his long-range ability. The main question for second year coach Hobbs will be the progression of Williams, who at a lanky 180 lbs, will be tested early on against opposing frontlines.

5. LaSalle (15-17, 6-10)

Head Coach: Bill Hahn 57-62 (4 years)

Key Players Returning: G Mike Cleaves (11.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg), F/C Chukwunike Okosa (Sr., 11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg), G Rasheed Quadri (Jr., 5.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Top Newcomers: G Jermaine Thomas (Fr., 25.0 ppg, 7.1 apg), F Steven Smith (Fr., 16.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg), G Gary Neal (Fr., 17.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Key Players Lost: Rasual Butler, Julian Banks

Outlook: The loss of Butler is enormous and his absence will be seen, but the arrival of Thomas, the Maryland state player of the year, could be a gift worth waiting for. Cleaves will head an offense that gelled toward the end of the year and will return one of its other front court presences in Okosa. In another season Hahn might have himself an A-10 contender after this being his first recruiting class.

6. Duquense (9-19, 4-12)

Head Coach: Danny Nee 377-298 (22 years)

Key Players Returning: C Simplice Njoya (So., 9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg), G Kevin Forney (Sr., 11.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Top Newcomers: G Jimmy Tricco (Jr., 1.5 ppg, 0.7 rpg), G/F Elijah Palmer (Jr., 16.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg), F/C Ron Dokes (Jr., 12.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg), G Bryant McAllister (Fr., 20.7 ppg, 5.5 apg)

Key Players Lost: Wayne Smith, Jamal Hunter

Outlook: In his second season at the helm, Nee will bring in Tricco, who appeared on two Sweet 16 teams with Gonzaga, and transfers Palmer and Dokes to compliment the improving Njoya, who has a knack for shot blocking. But the losses of the Dukes’ leading scorer, assist man and rebounder will take its toll. Duquense will need Forney to be as consistent as he was last season if the team is to see any improvements.

All Conference Teams

First-Team
G Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s
G David Hawkins, Temple
F Romain Sato, Xavier
F Brooks Hall, Dayton
C David West, Xavier

Second-Team
G Chris Monroe, George Washington
G Lionel Chalmers, Xavier
G Marques Green, St. Bonaventure
F Alex Wesby, Temple
F Mike Scrocki, Richmond

Third-Team
C Sean Finn, Dayton
G Anthony Anderson, UM
G Mike Cleaves, LaSalle
G Reggie Brown, Richmond
G Dawan Robinson, Rhode Island

Player of the Year:
David West, Xavier

Newcomer of the Year:
Maurice Collins, Temple

Defensive Player of the Year:
David West, Xavier

Best NBA Prospect:
Romain Sato, Xavier

Coach on the Hot Seat:
Bob Hill, Fordham

     

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