NBA Draft Primer: What to Expect on Draft Night

By Kevin Sweeney

Expect a dramatic night in Brooklyn tonight as the 2016 NBA Draft gets underway.  While the top 2 picks in the draft seem set in stone, as Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram appear to be the consensus choices to come off the board first, the drama will truly begin with the 3rd overall pick. With that being said, here are some of the biggest storylines for tonight’s draft.

Trades, Trades, and More Trades

As we’ve seen in the last 2 days, with Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague among the big-name players to change hands, NBA front offices are prepared to make lots of moves on draft night. The Celtics hold lots of control over what will happen tonight, as they own 8 picks, including the 3rd overall selection.  With multiple teams looking to move up and grab former Providence point guard Kris Dunn or shooting guards Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray, the Celtics will have plenty of offers if they choose to make that pick available. Philadelphia reportedly has heavy interest in acquiring another top 5 pick to draft a guard that could help jump-start the long rebuilding process.

International Players Galore

One thing that seems certain about this draft is that there will be a lot of international players who never attended college drafted. DraftExpress’s latest mock draft projects 15 international players to be drafted, including 6 in the first round and 13 in the first 40 picks.  At the top of that group is potential top-10 pick Dragan Bender, the Croatian forward who currently plays with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.  Shooting guard Timothe Luwawu from France is also expected to be a lottery pick.  Other interesting international prospects include Thon Maker, the well traveled teenager (maybe) looking to be draft straight out of a Canadian high school, and Zhou Qi, the gigantic Chinese center.

Former Mid-Major stars Rule Second Round

While there is no surefire first round pick in this year’s mid-major draft class, there are plenty of players who could be drafted in the second round that have the potential to contribute to an NBA team.  Pascal Siakam, Joel Bolomboy, Kay Felder, and AJ English are among those projected to go in the second round.  Felder, the diminutive point guard out of Oakland, made headlines this week after a Bleacher Report video released this week in which he calls himself “the best player in the 2016 draft”.

Meanwhile, Bolomboy and English have been steady risers throughout the process. Bolomboy, who averaged a double-double this season at Weber State, is expected to play on the wing in the NBA.  English, a knockdown shooter at the point guard position, was named MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational and followed that up with a strong showing at the combine.

Overall, we are in for a wild ride tonight at the NBA Draft.

Graduating Stars Leave America East Wide Open

By Kevin Sweeney

For the past 5 seasons, the America East has been owned by 3 teams.  Stony Brook and Vermont have been in the top 3 of the standings each of the past 5 seasons, while Albany has won 3 out of the past 5 conference tournaments.  The other two were split between Stony Brook and Vermont.  In fact, only 2 current league members have ever won the America East Tournament other than those 3 powerhouses. However, with Stony Brook and Albany losing significant production from last season, the league looks wide open for this upcoming season.

One team expected to make an impact in this year’s America East is New Hampshire.  The Wildcats return over 87% of their scoring from a team that enjoyed its first 20 win season in program history last season.  Rising junior Tanner Leisner will be the key to the success of the Wildcats.  The versatile forward averaged 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds last season during a 1st-team All-America East campaign.  Combine Leisner with senior guard Jaleen Smith and junior center Ibe Camara, who made huge strides in his game last year, and the Wildcats have a returning core group with the potential of taking the next step and winning the America East.

Traditional power Vermont may be the favorite to win the league.  With most of the core of the defending tournament runner-ups returning, the Catamounts seem likely to be in the top 3 once again.  After a slow start last season, Vermont really turned it on at the end of the season, with the Catamounts recording wins at Stony Brook and New Hampshire and reaching the CBI semi-finals. With the high-scoring guard duo of Trae Bell-Haynes and Ernie Duncan, expect the Catamounts to be at the top of the America East.

Although they both lose so much from last season, it would be silly to forget about Stony Brook and Albany. Each team loses its top 3 scorers from last season, but will still likely make an impact in the championship race.  The success of the Great Danes will be reliant upon the growth of sophomore Joe Cremo and the impact of 6 incoming JUCO transfers.  For Stony Brook, versatile guard Ahmad Walker will lead the way, with fellow veterans Bryan Sekunda and Lucas Woodhouse expected to play a bigger role.

Whether it is one of these teams or a potential dark horse who wins the America East, it will certainly be an exciting season.

7 Transfers Who Will Make An Impact in the MAAC

By Kevin Sweeney

Entering this year’s MAAC season, the main storyline is whether or not anyone can catch Monmouth, who became one of the darlings of college basketball last year thanks to their upsets of perennial powers and their dancing bench.  While incoming freshmen can have outstanding years, transfers have become a huge recruiting tool for teams, as they add players with experience at the college level who are more ready to contribute right away. Here’s a look at some transfers eligible to play this season that could make a big impact on the MAAC Championship race.

1. Jon Severe and Sam Cassell Jr, Iona- Perhaps no transfers will have a bigger effect on their team’s success this season than this guard duo.  Severe, from Fordham, and Cassell, from UCONN, utilized the graduate transfer rule to go somewhere where they could get more playing time.  Looking to replace superstar point guard AJ English, Iona will look to Cassell and Severe to take over much of the scoring and ball-handling in its up-tempo offense.  Based on the success of previous transfers such as Deyshonee Much, David Laury, and Lamont “Mo-Mo” Jones, I expect Severe and Cassell to excell this season with the Gaels, allowing Iona to remain a contender in the MAAC.

2. Zavier Turner, Manhattan– Turner is one of the X-factors in the MAAC Title hunt this season.  Turner, a diminutive point guard who started his career at Ball State, can certainly score the basketball.  He averaged over 12 points per game en route to being named MAC Freshman of the Year before seeing his production dip to just 8.7 points per game as a sophomore.  He also had issues with the coaching staff, as he was suspended twice and benched on numerous occasions.  However, if Turner can correct his behavior, he has a chance to be a big contributor at either guard position for a team trying to soften the blow of losing Shane Richards and Rashawn Stores.

3. Norville Carey, Rider- A graduate transfer from Southern Miss, Carey is a major addition to a Rider frontcourt that lacked depth last season.  He averaged 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 2014-15 for Southern Miss before redshirting last season during a tumultuous season full of NCAA sanctions for the Golden Eagles.  He is a strong, athletic big who can score on the interior and has added a good outside touch.  Overall, he will be a big addition to the Broncs, who are looking to improve on an 8th place finish in the MAAC last season. Here are some of his highlights from his junior season, courtesy of Unofficial SouthernMiss MensBasketball on Youtube:

4. Nnamdi Enechionya,Saint Peter’s- Enechionya is a raw talent that could have a huge year for the Peacocks.  After starting his career at Samford for 2 seasons, he transferred to Saint Peter’s and sat out last season under the NCAA Transfer rules.  He is tall and has long arms, giving him the versatility to play on the wing or as a power forward.  He has a nice shooting stroke and the ability to explode on any given night, scoring 22 against UMKC in 2014 and putting up 41 points in a high school game.  The scariest part is that he’s still improving.  He didn’t focus on basketball until high school, so he still has plenty of untapped potential.  If he can turn some of that potential into production, he will be a very valuable player for Saint Peter’s.

5. Kevin Larkin, Niagara- Larkin is an intriguing player for the Purple Eagles.  He began his career at Division II Cheyney University, where he averaged 17.8 points per game, the top mark for a freshman in all of D-II.  An excellent 3-point shooter, Larkin knocked down over 40% from downtown at Cheyney, making 2.8 3’s per contest.  While it is uncommon for players to make the move from Divisions II and III up to Division I, there have been multiple success stories.  Duncan Robinson transferred from D-III Williams College to Michigan, where he averaged double figures in scoring in his first season.  Emile Blackman went from LIU-Post to Niagara before recently transferring to Dusquesne for his final season.  I expect Larkin to have success in his first season against D-I competition.

6. Kadeem Smithen, Siena- Smithen, a transfer from Richmond, profiles as a combo guard who adds athleticism to a Saints team looking to win the MAAC Championship.  The Saints return 88% of its scoring, including 5 players who averaged double figures, from last season.  Saints fans are hoping Smithen can be the missing piece: an athletic guard who can help Nico Clareth and Marquis defend the best guards in the league.  Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos had high praise for Smithen following the season.  “Kadeem Smithen is really good.  We had a BCS-type kid sit out,” said Patsos, per Mark Singelais of the Times Union.  If Smithen has a strong season, he may be able to push the Saints past Monmouth and help them return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

7. Quinnipiac’s JUCO’s- Quinnipiac Coach Tom Moore has embraced the junior college transfer, with more than half of his scholarship players having once played at the JUCO level.  This year, Moore brings in 4 JUCO transfers to try and improve Bobcats team that finished 9th in the MAAC last season.  The guard trio of Phillip Winston, Reggie Oliver, and Cameron Young will be vital, because the Bobcats lose Gio McLean and Ayron Hutton from an already-depleted backcourt.