CALGARY, Alta. — The 2017 NBA Draft is coming up in just over a week, which means it’s time to start looking towards the 2017-18 college basketball season.
The off-season following the 2016-17 season has been a hectic one, to say the least. Hundreds of players have changed programs, while a couple hundred still haven’t made their transfer decisions. There have been several key coaching changes, with the most recent one being Chris Holtmann to the Ohio State Buckeyes, and then LaVall Jordan to the Butler Bulldogs.
With all of the changes that have happened, it’s tough to keep up with everything. Which is why, over the next month or so, we are going to be highlighting ten players to watch in each conference for the upcoming season.
From the power conferences, down to the lowest of the low-majors, we will look at each and every conference and highlight players who are set to become household names this year.
Up first, we visit a conference that is one of our personal favourites: the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Last season, several youngsters emerged onto the scene as bonafide stars in their first year in Division I. Add them to a healthy dose of experienced players, and there’s a ton of talent from top to bottom in the MEAC in 2017-18.
Here are ten players from the MEAC to take note of in advance of the 2017-18 season.
Tiwian Kendley – Morgan State Bears
2016-17 Stats: 21.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.2 spg; 37.3% FG
Fresh off a 2016-17 season that saw him finish in the top-20 in points per game in the country, Tiwian Kendley is back and will look to lead Morgan State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
Known as one of the elite scorers in the country, Kendley brings more to the hardwood than just a knack for putting up points. He recorded three double-doubles on the season with points and rebounds, finishing second on the team in rebounds per game in the process.
Despite missing seven games, Kendley scored in double-figures in every game he played last season. He scored a season-high 40 points on December 6th in a double-overtime win over the Manhattan Jaspers.
If Kendley remains in the lineup all season in 2017-18, expect the same type of performances once more, and put his name atop the list for preseason MEAC Player of the Year in the process.
Dexter McClanahan – Savannah State Tigers
2016-17 Stats: 16.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.1 spg; 43.6% FG
While Savannah State will be without last year’s leader in Troyce Manassa, they don’t have to look very far to find this year’s go-to offensive weapon. McClanahan and Manassa gave the Tigers arguably the best one-two punch in terms of guards in the MEAC a year ago, combining for over 33 points per contest.
Like Kendley, McClanahan does more than just score for the Tigers. He has excellent court vision, and can control the offense without having to be the one putting up the points. With that said, he has a knack for filling the basket, as he put up double-digit performances in each of the team’s final 10 games of the year.
The news surrounding the Savannah State athletics department this off-season hasn’t been overly positive, as they announced that they were dropping down to Division II. So, the 2017-18 season will be a ‘farewell tour‘, of sorts, for the men’s basketball program. With McClanahan, Austin Dasent, and Joshua Floyd leading the way in the back court, it could end with a MEAC championship come March.
Jeffrey Altidort – Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
2016-17 Stats: 5.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.1 apg; 38.5% FG
The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats will look considerably in 2017-18 than they did a year ago. Both Brandon Suggs and Quinton Forrest transferred out of the program, while Diamante Lewis and Reggie Baker have both graduated. While Jordan Potts will be back in a Wildcats’ uniform after missing all of last season, there are still plenty of opportunities for others to step up and take on considerably larger roles.
One of those players should be senior guard Jeffrey Altidort. In his first season at the Division I level after playing at the State College of Jacksonville, Altidort showed flashes of what fans can expect from him as a senior in 2017-18.
In a triple-overtime loss to the San Diego Toreros back on November 22nd, Altidort scored a season-high 20 points, while also recording seven rebounds, six assists, and five steals.
He only played 22.3 minutes per contest as a junior, but with the high turnover on the roster coming into this season, his minutes should see a steady increase. If Altidort can prove his worth early in the year, he will be in for a steady influx of production on both ends of the floor.
Jermaine Marrow – Hampton Pirates
2016-17 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg; 34.3% FG
Jermaine Marrow was one of the many talented underclassmen to emerge onto the scene last season in the MEAC. The case could be made for the MEAC having one of the better freshmen contingents out of any mid-major conference in the NCAA.
Year after year, the Pirates find themselves in contention in the conference race, and with Marrow leading the way as a sophomore in 2017-18, Hampton should be near the top once more.
As a freshman, Marrow played close to 1,000 minutes for the year (961), and put up close to 500 points (483). As he gains more experience, his shot selection will improve, and in turn, he will improve his shooting percentages from all over the floor.
After Quinton Chievous left following the 2015-16 season, it was unclear as to who the next star for the Pirates would be in the back court. Hampton fans didn’t have to wait long to see who was next in line. Look for Marrow to build off his impressive first year, and have an even bigger second season in the NCAA.
Charles Williams – Howard Bison
2016-17 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.6 apg; 39.6% FG
The Howard Bison found themselves in a similar situation to the Hampton Pirates during the 2016-17 season. With James Daniel being limited to just a pair of games due to an injury, and his career with the program coming to an end, the Bison were looking for another go-to guard to step up on the offensive end.
Little did they know at the time, their next offensive star would come in the form of freshman Charles Williams. The native of Richmond, Virginia appeared in all 34 games for the Bison last season, and put up points in bunches as the year moved along.
It took some time for Williams to find his groove at the Division I level, as he reach double-figures just once in the first six games of the season. Following a 21-point performance against the Maryland Terrapins, Williams posted another 21 double-digit scoring totals over the course of the year.
A 37-point night against Savannah State showed Bison fans everywhere what to expect from Williams in the future.
Logan McIntosh – Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks
2016-17 Stats: 8.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.2 apg; 41.9% FG
For the second year in a row, the roster for Maryland-Eastern Shore will look considerably different than it did a year prior. Last season, the Hawks had to deal with the losses of Dominique Elliott and Devin Martin, both of whom graduated following the 2015-16 season and went onto play professionally overseas.
This season, the Hawks will be without the likes of Bakari Copeland, Dontae Caldwell, and Michael Chambers. However, with the duo of Ryan Andino and Logan McIntosh back to lead the way in the back court, Eastern Shore can contend once more in the MEAC.
Last year, McIntosh had a strong season that flew under the radar in the conference. He finished third on the team in scoring, while leading them in assists per game and was fourth in rebounding. As his minutes increase this season, his production will undoubtedly increase.
He will have every opportunity to be the leader from the back end, and is a nice compliment to Andino, who is known for shooting the long ball.
Donte Watson – North Carolina A&T Eagles
2016-17 Stats: 6.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.4 apg; 51.0% FG
With Sam Hunt now out of the picture after transferring following the 2016-17 season, the Aggies are in search of a new front-man to lead the way on offense. Eliel Gonzalez is the logical candidate, having finished second on the team in scoring a year ago. Further down the roster, you can find a player who is due for a big year in 2017-18.
Coming off a season in which he missed 12 games, Donte Watson is in position for a big increase in both minutes and production in 2017-18. Last season, he averaged 6.8 points per game over his 20 appearances. He was highly effective from the field, shooting 51.0% from the floor (53-of-104).
After a nine game absence, Watson put together an 18-point, seven rebound performance against Delaware State. Two games later, he put up 19 points against the Coppin State Eagles. Scoring isn’t the issue for Watson, but staying healthy and remaining in the lineup is the biggest concern.
Watson will be given plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents early in the year. If he can seize them early on, look for him to have a big year as he closes out his collegiate career.
Tashombe Riley – South Carolina State Bulldogs
2016-17 Stats: 11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.8 apg; 49.8% FG
Heading into the 2017-18 season, the back court for South Carolina State will look vastly different than it did last year. Ed Stephens transferred to the Austin Peay Governors, and Eric Eaves has graduated from the program.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Tashombe Riley returns to anchor the front court, and will be an impact player on both ends of the court. He was second on the team in scoring, trailing only Eaves, and he was the team’s top rebounder.
He showed flashes of versatility last season, using his shooting range at times to stretch out opposing defenses. Riley shot 30.8% (8-of-26) from three point range on the year. While it’s nothing spectacular, and only reflects 8.6% of his total field goal attempts, it adds another element to the offensive repertoire for the team.
If Riley can enhance his shooting stroke from distance and open up defenses more often, it will lead to more opportunities for himself in the paint, as well as more open looks for teammates.
Kavon Waller – Delaware State Hornets
2016-17 Stats: 10.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 apg; 41.5% 3PT
The trend for the MEAC heading into the 2017-18 season is very similar for virtually all 13 teams. Several star players have moved on to the next chapter of their respective basketball careers, and teams are looking for someone to step up and take on a lead role on both ends of the court.
Delaware State is in that boat, with Devin Morgan Jr. transferring to the Youngstown State Penguins, and DeAndre Haywood having graduated. Luckily for them, they don’t have to look far for their next go-to player.
Kavon Waller was one of four players to score in double-figures for the Hornets last season, averaging an even 10.0 points per contest. He gives the Hornets veteran leadership and offensive talent that can help keep the team in the top half of the MEAC standings this season.
At 6’5”, he adds size to the back court, while also having the versatility to play the wing. Add in his ability to shoot from beyond the arc, the unique combination of size and shooting ability will help him become a star this season. He has shot better than 41% from three point range in each of his three seasons in the NCAA, and this year should be no different.
Marcus Barham – Florida A&M Rattlers
2016-17 Stats: 12.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.1 spg; 38.5% FG
For the first time in a couple of years, Florida A&M was able to hold onto most of its star talent in the off-season, as opposed to losing them on the transfer market. With the exception of Craig Bowman, Jr., who played in just 19 games last year, the Rattlers will have their fair share of talent returning in 2017-18.
The Rattlers return their top three scorers from last year, including senior guard Marcus Barham. In his first season with the Rattlers, Barham finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per contest.
Much like Andino from Eastern Shore, Barham loves to shoot the long ball. He attempted 180 jumpers from beyond the arc, which made up 55.4% of his total field goal attempts for the year (325). Barham shot 37.8% from distance, which isn’t a bad mark by any means.
Alongside fellow returning guards in Desmond Williams and Justin Ravenel, Florida A&M may have one of the best guard trios in the MEAC in 2017-18.
– T. Bennett