CANMORE, Alta. –The 2017-18 season tips off on November 10th, which means the final month without college basketball is finally upon us.
Fans all across the country are gearing up for another exciting college basketball season, and with the recent scandal involving the FBI and several power conference programs across the NCAA, the level of anticipation is through the roof.
Conference preview pieces are starting to circulate from various media outlets, and conferences are hosting their annual media days and announcing their preseason polls and award winners. It’s always interesting to see how coaches and media rank teams in their respective conferences.
With the season right around the corner, we are starting to release our Preseason Player of the Year awards for each conference, along with three All-Conference teams. Picked at random, we will release two sets of awards each day.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, there appears to be a changing of the guard in the CAA. Last season, the UNC Wilmington Seahawks took home the conference tournament crown and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. While they will still be in contention this year, there looks to be a new champion.
The College of Charleston Cougars are the clear favourites heading into the season, and they boast a pair of legitimate CAA Player of the Year candidates. If all goes according to plan, and everyone remains healthy, the Cougars will be a tough out all season long.
Scroll down to see who we have tabbed as the Preseason CAA Player of the Year, and who falls where on our All-CAA Teams!
2017-18 Player of the Year: Joe Chealey, Charleston Cougars
Joe Chealey missed the entire 2015-16 season due to a foot injury. Instead of showing rust last season as a junior, he picked up right where he left off following his sophomore season, and arguably came back better than he was prior to the injury.
Chealey led the Cougars in scoring last season, averaging 17.8 points per contest, while also chipping in 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He is an efficient scorer from all areas of the floor, as he shot 43.2% from the floor, 39.2% from three point range, and 82.2% from the free throw line.
The native of Orlando, FL can do a bit of everything for the Cougars. He’s active on the defensive end of the floor, he has good court vision, and he takes good care of the ball on offense. Chealey had an assist-to-turnover ratio last season of 1.92, dishing out 113 assists to just 59 turnovers.
Charleston is expected to be the top team in the CAA this season, and Chealey is a big reason for all of the optimism surrounding the program in 2017-18.
2017-18 All-CAA Teams
Joe Chealey is back to lead the Cougars after an impressive season following a foot injury that caused him to miss the entire 2015-16 season. He’s the leader of the offense and does a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor, which is all you can ask from your players.
Anyone who doesn’t have Justin Wright-Foreman as a First-Team All-CAA player must have missed his breakout season last year for the Hofstra Pride. He played a prominent role last season as a sophomore, averaging just shy of 29 minutes per contest. He averaged a team-best 18.1 points per contest, and is the top returning scorer in the CAA this season. Wright-Foreman shot 49.3% from the floor, en route to his stellar season. He closed the season with 22 straight games in double-figures. If that’s not a statement, then who knows what is.
As a freshman in 2015-16, Tyler Seibring showed a ton of promise for the Elon Phoenix. Last season, he picked up where he left off and showcased his potential. The 6’8” forward put up 19 points, eight rebounds, and three steals in Elon’s opener against William Peace. Overall, Seibring averaged 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds, while shooting just shy of 40% from three point range (60-of-152). More and more forwards have the shooting ability to stretch the floor and hit shots from long distance, and Seibring is one of those players. His versatility adds another dimension to the forward tandem of himself and Brian Dawkins at Elon.
Not much can be said about Devontae Cacok and his incredible 2016-17 season that hasn’t already been said. He finished the season shooting 80.0% from the field (184-of-230), averaging 12.3 points per game in the process. Cacok also pulled down 9.8 rebounds per contest, and was a double-double threat each time out. On December 3rd, the UNC Wilmington Seahawks took on Pfeiffer in non-conference action, and Cacok went to work. He went 16-of-17 from the field, recording 34 points to go along with 19 rebounds in the Seahawks’ 13-point victory. Sheesh.
While Chealey leads things from the back end for Charleston, junior forward Jarrell Brantley patrols the paint, and that’s a scary sight for opposing teams, considering his ability to stretch the floor and shoot from distance. Brantley picked up right where he left off following a strong freshman campaign, averaging 14.2 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds per game this past year. At 6’7” and 245 pounds, he’s a tough body to move out of the paint. He’s a huge factor on the glass on both ends of the floor, which leads to second-chance opportunities on the offensive end. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better inside-out duo in the conference than Chealey and Brantley.
The CAA had a plethora of freshmen guards emerge as potential stars last season, hence the influx of sophomore guards on the All-CAA Second Team. Kurk Lee was one of the best facilitators in the conference last season, and while he dished out 5.0 assists per game for the Drexel Dragons, he also averaged 14.9 points, which was good for second-best on the team. This season, with Rodney Williams out of the picture, the sharp-shooting Lee become the go-to guy for the Dragons.
Among all freshmen in the CAA last season, Ryan Daly was the top scorer, averaging 16.0 points for the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. The 6’4” guard was also a factor on the glass, pulling down a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game. The Ardmore, PA native was quick to showcase his talents last season, pouring in 19 points and pulling down seven rebounds in just his third game.
The Towson Tigers look to be the team with the best chance of knocking off Charleston this season in the conference standings, and senior guard Mike Morsell is the leader of the pack. The Fort Washington, MD native led the Tigers in scoring last season with a career-best average of 13.4 points per contest. He saw his minutes dip slightly from the year before, but he made the most of his playing time. Towson has a talented roster this season, and Morsell will look to lead them to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991.
Not to be outdone by Justin Wright-Foreman, fellow Hofstra guard Eli Pemberton quietly had himself a strong freshman campaign in 2016-17. Over his first five games, Pemberton averaged a cool 17.8 points per contest, recording three 20+ point games over that span. He finished the year averaging 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per contest. At 6’4”, he brings size to the back court rotation for the Pride, and his shooting ability adds some versatility to the lineup.
The only forward to crack the All-CAA Second Team is the second of the two-headed monster that the Elon Phoenix have up front. Along with Tyler Seibring, senior Brian Dawkins is ready to build off of his breakout season a year ago. Dawkins is coming off a season where he doubled his scoring and rebounding averages, putting up 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest. Like Seibring, Dawkins has the shooting ability, and confidence, to step away from the basket and shoot the long ball (44.6% in ’16-17).
While his numbers won’t blow you away, Joey McLean had himself a career year in 2016-17 for the James Madison Dukes. He averaged 9.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per contest, while shooting 41.2% from the floor. He also took relatively good care of the ball, recording just 60 turnovers in over 30 minutes of court time a night.
Grant Riller is the third player from Charleston to crack an All-CAA Team. The 6’3” guard will look to build off a strong freshman campaign, where he averaged 13.1 points per game and shot better than 48% from the field. With the likes of Chealey and Brantley also demanding attention from opposing defenses, teams will have to pick their poison this season. If left open, Riller will make it hurt on the scoreboard in 2017-18.
Overshadowed slightly by the emergence of Lee at Drexel was the play of fellow guard Sammy Mojica, who put up career-highs in points (11.2 ppg), rebounds (5.3 rpg), and assists (2.5 apg) in 2016-17. Drexel doesn’t have the preseason hype that other teams have in the conference, which could work in their favour. Mojica and Lee are the types of players who could lead the Dragons to some upset wins over the course of the year.
With both T.J. Williams and Alex Murphy having graduated, senior guard Devon Begley will be given every opportunity out of the gate to become the leader for the Northeastern Huskies. He’s the team’s top returning scorer, with an average of 9.7 points per contest. He hasn’t had to be the lead guy over three years with the Huskies, so time will tell if he steps up to the plate. The opportunity is his for the taking.
Rokas Gustys entered the 2016-17 season with a ton of hype surrounding his personal game. He averaged 13.5 points and 13.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore, but took a step back last season, to the tune of 9.2 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. He is still a force on the boards, and one of the top rebounders in the country. If he can find his scoring touch again, placing him on the third team will be extremely ridiculous.
– T. Bennett