College Court Report 2017-18 Preseason Awards: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Zaynah Robinson is one of several players who could win MEAC Player of the Year come the end of the 2017-18 season.

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.

Year after year, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference often gets overlooked by media and fans alike. However, when you look at the 13 teams that make up the conference, there are talented players all across the league, with the vast majority of players going underappreciated outside of their school fan bases.

In 2017-18, the conference is loaded with a plethora of talented guards, as evident by our Preseason All-MEAC teams.

Below, you can find our pick for Preseason MEAC Player of the Year, and our All-MEAC teams!

2017-18 Player of the Year: Tiwian Kendley, Morgan State Bears

Last season, the Morgan State Bears finished tied for third place in the regular season MEAC standings. This season, many are predicting the Bears to win the conference title and represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.

A big reason for that is the return of leading scorer Tiwian Kendley, who lit up the MEAC in his first season with the Bears. Despite missing seven games from December 10th, 2016 to January 10th, 2017, Kendley still averaged 21.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest.

With his size, he can battle in the paint for rebounds on both ends of the court. Plus, he has a knack for putting the ball in the basket.

In the 23 games that Kendley appeared in last season, he scored in double-figures in every single one. In 13 of those contests, the 6’5” guard topped 20 points, and he scored a season-high 40 points in a double-overtime win over the Manhattan Jaspers on December 6th.

There are several candidates for the MEAC Player of the Year award, but if Kendley can remain in the lineup and the Bears live up to their preseason expectations, the award is his to lose.

2017-18 All-MEAC Teams

Tiwian Kendley was the top scorer in the conference last season, and all signs point to that being the case again this season. He’s a volume shooter, as he averaged over 16 attempts per game as a junior. But, he scores a ton of points, and if the Bears end up winning their fair share of games this season, then his shooting numbers won’t matter at the end of the day.

Jermaine Marrow is the only sophomore to crack the All-MEAC First Team after an impressive first year with the Hampton Pirates. The native of Newport News, VA averaged a team-leading 15.6 points per contest, while shooting 34.3% from the floor and 76.1% from the free throw line. If Marrow can cut down on the turnovers (103), his game will go to another level. Regardless, he’s one of the MEAC’s top young stars, and the nation will take notice this season.

Not enough can be said about the jump that Dexter McClanahan made as a sophomore last season for the Savannah State Tigers. The 6’5” guard improved his scoring average from 4.3 points as a freshman to 16.4 points per game last year. He grabbed 5.5 rebounds per game, and shot 35.3% from three point range. McClanahan has flown under the radar for two seasons with the Tigers, but that should change this year.

The Bethune-Cookman WIldcats will look vastly different than they did just one season ago. They lost three role players on the transfer, and a pair of seniors graduated. Fortunately for new head coach Ryan Ridder, senior wing Brandon Tabb is back and ready to lead the Wildcats. He averaged 17.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a junior, and should replicate those numbers this season. Tabb finished the year shooting 34.5% (106-of-307) from beyond the arc, and that accounted for 62.3% of his field goal attempts for the season (493).

Joining Kendley back at Morgan State for their senior season is star forward Phillip Carr. Last season, his second with the Bears, Carr put up 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest, while shooting 45.9% from the field and 82.9% from the free throw line. Every time Carr steps on the court, he’s a double-double threat. He recorded 11 double-double performances on the year, including a stretch in which he had eight over a nine-game span.

Year after year, the Norfolk State Spartans are in contention atop the MEAC standings. This season, with senior guard Zaynah Robinson leading the way at the point, the Spartans will be in the thick of things once again. Last season, Robinson averaged a career-best 13.5 points and 4.5 assists per game, while recording a 2.69 assist-to-turnover ratio (148:55).

The Florida A&M Rattlers haven’t had the best of luck in recent year when it comes to holding onto their talented players. This off-season, however, they welcome back senior guard Marcus Barham to lead the offense from the back end. The 6’4” guard averaged 12.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game a season ago, finishing second on the team in terms of scoring, trailing only forward Desmond Williams (see below). Barham is a threat from long distance, as he hit just shy of 38% of his attempts a season ago.

When it comes to talking about deep threats in the MEAC, the conversation should start with Ryan Andino. Known for his three point shooting, Andino attempted 361 field goals in 2016-17, and 303 of them came from beyond the three point line. He shot 38.0% from three point range, and finished second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.7 points per contest. Andino is on the verge of passing the 1,000-point mark for his career, as he sits at 843 points.

As mentioned above, Desmond Williams led the Rattlers in scoring last season, which was also his first year with the program. The 6’8” forward averaged 16.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest, while playing over 32 minutes of action a night. He was highly effective inside and around the basket, shooting 48.3% from the field. With Barham and Williams in tow, the Rattlers have themselves quite the inside-out tandem for this season.

Charles Williams was thrust into a starring role with the Howard Bison last season after the injury to James Daniel two games into the season. Williams led the Bison in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per contest. He was also named the MEAC Rookie of the Year for his efforts.

Dejuan Clayton was another freshman talent who took on a starring role with his respective team last season. Clayton averaged 12.4 points and a team-high 3.1 assists per game for the Coppin State Eagles. With several key personnel having moved on, Clayton becomes the go-to guy for new head coach Juan Dixon in 2017-18.

Speaking of personnel moving out, the North Carolina Central Eagles were hit hard in terms of graduation, which leads to several question marks across the roster. Enter junior college transfer guard Alston Jones, who averaged 14.1 points and 5.5 assists per game at Daytona State while playing under Ryan Ridder. If he can put up those kind of numbers at the Division I level, he’ll be a star in no time.

The North Carolina A&T Aggies lost leading scorer Sam Hunt on the transfer market this off-season, and are in need of a secondary scoring option to step up and compliment guard Eliel Gonzalez. Last season, forward Davaris McGowens showed flashes of what he can do on the offensive end, highlighted by a 22-point, 11-rebound performance in his third game of the season. The 6’7” forward averaged 9.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and both numbers should increase this season.

With both Devin Morgan, Jr. and DeAndre Haywood out of the picture for the Delaware State Hornets, the team needs others to step up and fill the void. One player who is in for a big year is senior forward Kavon Waller. The 6’5” forward came out of the gates on fire last season, putting up double-figures in eight of the team’s first 11 games, capped off by a 26-point performance against Keystone. Waller averaged 10.0 points and 3.9 rebounds for the season.

– T. Bennett