Preseason All Big 4 Basketball Teams announced
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 26, 2012 @ 8:39am
In the first official Big 4 Media Day since the early 2000s, local sports media and sports information directors pieced together Preseason All Big 4 teams to add a little extra hype to the 2012-13 season.
While these two men’s teams are very arbitrary—two selections have yet to suit up for their respective schools—the accuracy really isn’t the point. What’s more important—and frankly, more exciting—is the fact that there’s attention and expectation surrounding these four schools, who collectively produced a conference player of the year, rookie of the year, one NBA player and several overseas professionals all in one season.
Here’s the official men’s Preseason All Big 4 teams with short notes after them:
—Preseason Player of the Year: Javon McCrea, junior forward, University at Buffalo. While Niagara’s Juan’ya Green deserved consideration for Preseason Big 4 Player of the Year, the burly McCrea captured the honors. Reggie Witherspoon’s prized big has garnered plenty of national attention, and with the graduation of MAC Player of the Year Mitchell Watt, McCrea will shoulder lofty—perhaps unrealistic—expectations this season. Exceptionally strong, a terrific rebounder and a menace around the hoop at both ends of the court, McCrea’s mentality is the only thing holding him back. Now that he’s an upperclassman, will we see a more mature player with a hunger for dominance?
—Demitrius Conger, senior forward, St. Bonaventure: Bonnies’ head coach Mark Schmidt downplayed the pressure on Conger, who’s the defending A-10 Champion’s top returning player after the departure of Andrew Nicholson. The 6’6 senior plays bigger and stronger than his listed height and weight, and he’s efficient (over 50% shooting last year) and can catch fire. Watching Conger’s 27-point display in NIagara last season gave Big 4 fans a taste of his star-power. Worth nothing, though, that Conger was left off all three of the Atlantic 10 Preseason teams. Fuel for the fire.
—Juan’ya Green, sophomore guard, Niagara: The reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year has NBA potential. Averaging just shy of 18 points per game last year for the Purple Eagles, Green’s best attribute wasn’t scoring the basketball. He simply makes the players around him better, a skill that’s largely innate, I believe. A deft passer, willing rebounder and underrated defender, there’s no better “total package” in the Big 4. If he can improve his outside shooting, Green will have defenders constantly on their heels.
—Antoine Mason, red-shirt sophomore guard, Niagara: I wasn’t on board with this first team selection, but it’s hard to stick your nose up at 15 points per game and five rebounds per game. Former NBA star Anthony Mason’s son is a volume shooter—he didn’t eclipse 40% from the field last year—and he’s a little turnover prone. Still, he’s a gifted pure scorer—Mason posted 20 or more points in eight games last season, and the red-shirt sophomore will continue to develop.
—Harold Washington, senior guard, Canisius: Despite a tumultuous final season under former Griffs head coach Tom Parrotta, Washington battled through the death of his grandmother and a terrible January to finish with a respectable 17 points per game on 44% shooting. Given how befuddled the team’s offense was, expect the backcourt additions of Isaac Sosa and Billy Baron to take some of the pressure—and defensive attention—off Washington. Because of the backcourt depth, don’t expect Washington to average 20 points per contest—but he’ll be very tough to defend off the dribble. Can he play without the ball in his hands all the time? We’ll see.
Preseason All Big 4 Second Team:
—Billy Baron, junior guard, Canisius: After a pretty lengthy conversation with head coach Jim Baron yesterday, I got the vibe that the new coach expects his son to run the point in his first year after transferring from Virginia and then Rhode Island. The junior Baron is exceptionally strong—a score-first type, too—but he’s definitely a high-major talent on a mid-major team. The question is this: how will he coexist with the glut of Canisius guards? Is the father-son connection an advantage or a distraction?
—Alshwan Hymes, senior guard, Canisius: Speaking of Canisius guards, Hymes is the third listed on the Preseason Big 4 teams—and that’s without mentioning transfer Isaac Sosa. Veteran Big 4 fans are aware of Hymes’ strengths: unlimited range, no timidity in pulling the trigger and incredibly “streak” prone (not sure this is a “strength.”) He’ll again by guarded tightly on the perimeter, but the ability of Baron and Sosa—another terrific three-point shooter—will create ample open looks for ‘Shwan.
—Charlon Kloof, junior guard, St. Bonaventure: Could he be the Big 4’s best defender? I wouldn’t bet against him. Rangy and athletic, Kloof is a nightmare for opposing guards—and he continually improved throughout his sophomore season. It’s not easy to develop into a true point guard at the Division I level, and Kloof is still a ways off—6.4 points per game and 2.7 assists is pretty ho-hum for a second teamer. There’s so much potential here, but Kloof will be asked to pick up a healthy portion of the slack left by Nicholson.
—Jarod Oldham, junior guard, University at Buffalo: Oldham’s development has been fascinating to track. Head coach Reggie Witherspoon harped on the fact that Oldham played “too fast” to begin the year, but the starting point guard found a little more comfort mentally as the season progressed. If he’s added a mid-range jumper to his game, Oldham could be lethal. Without it, defenders will continue to sag off of him, closing down driving lanes and daring him to hoist from outside. OIdham’s value as a perimeter defender will keep him in the lineup, however.
—Will Regan, sophomore forward, University at Buffalo: Like Baron, Nichols grad Regan hasn’t even touched the court for his Big 4 team, yet he’s still earned preseason honors. Another highly-touted transfer from Virginia, Regan offers size and finesse—another high-major talent in the mid-majors. Witherspoon cautioned yesterday at Media Day, however, that Regan is still a work in progress, and expectations—at least early on—should be muted.
For what it’s worth, here were my votes for the first two teams (thanks to Canisius SID Matt Reitnour for letting me in on this):
First team: McCrea, Conger, Washington, Green, Regan
Second team: Ameen Tanksley, Baron, Kloof, Oldham, Hymes
(Header photo courtesy of David Marino from last year’s Iona vs. Canisius game—full gallery here).