In my first edition of this segment, I outline the emerging prospects across the Low Major Conferences for the 2011-2012 season.
LaDaris Green, Kennesaw St.- After redshirting in 2009-2010, Green had an impact sophomore season and quickly emerged as one of the top forwards in the Atlantic Sun. Green is a solid athlete, and should be one of the more efficient low major post players next season. In 2010-2011, he ranked 10th in Offensive Rating in the Atlantic Sun (of those with at least 20% usage) according to kenpom.com. Further, Green shot the ball well, finishing 9th in the conference in effective field goal percentage. (53.2%) LaDaris Green was also one of the best at collecting rebounds, ranking 2nd in the Atlantic Sun in Offensive Rebounding % and 5th in Defensive Rebounding %. On the defensive end, Green needs to continue to add bulk in order to edge players out on the block. Currently, he has proven to be valuable- though- on this end due to his ability to contest shots, placing 6th in the conference in Blocks %. Look for him to continue his progression on the defensive end as he develops physically. And, he should earn All-Conference honors this season along with teammate Markeith Cummings en route to challenging Belmont in the Atlantic Sun.
Antoine Mason, Niagara- Despite the excellent start to Mason's NCAA career, he only was able to play in three contests due to a stress fracture in his foot. Because it continued to bother him throughout the season, the coaching staff recommended that he sit out for the rest of the year in order to avoid the possibility of re-aggravating his injury. Although he did not see many minutes on the floor a season ago, Mason was still one of the MAAC's most intriguing freshman in limited action. Mason is a vertically explosive combo guard with a knack for scoring the basketball. While he is not the best three point shooter at this stage, (albeit there is a very limited statistical sample- 26% through the first three games of the season) Mason is aggressive attacking the basket and drawing contact. On the defensive end, Masons's physicality should allow him to compete with some of the MAAC's toughest offensive weapons. If he can avoid injury, look for Mason to have an All-Conference season and to emerge as one of the best midmajor combo guards.
Brandyn Curry/Oliver McNally, Harvard- Harvard, the overwhelming favorite to win the Ivy League conference this year, features two potential breakout players. While he did have a fairly noteworthy season a year ago, Brandyn Curry is poised to become one of the more dynamic pass-first point guards in the nation. On the offensive end, Curry arguably has the best court vision in the Ivy League. His Assist Rate, according to kenpom.com, ranks 2nd in the conference and 26th in the country. One should fully expect those numbers to improve. Yet, he must cut down on his turnovers in order to become a truly elite lead guard. (37th in the Ivy League in Turnover Rate) In terms of his efficiency as an offensive weapon, Curry finished 10th in the Ivy League in 'Offensive Rating'. This is largely due to the fact that he shot the ball well, posting a 50.2% eFG% (16th in the Ivy League) and a 54.7% TS% (19th in the Ivy League). Despite these statistics, Curry was less accurate from beyond the arc, declining from his 43% average his freshman season to 36% a year ago. This is an area that Curry must improve on in order to prove his mettle as a professional player. Moreover, Curry's teammate Oliver McNally was the most efficient player in the Ivy League last year, ranking 1st in the conference and 18th in the nation in 'Offensive Rating'. In spite of his limited usage, (on only 15.5% of his team's possessions) McNally shot the ball extremely well. He connected on over 44% of his 3 point attempts (51st in the country) and hit 92.6% of his free throws, good for 2nd in the nation. In terms of his advanced statistics in this area, McNally posted the 3rd highest True Shooting Percentage in the country. Furthermore, McNally was not a one dimensional player a season ago. Despite his penchant for shooting the ball efficiently, he also played an unselfish brand of basketball, finishing 9th in the Ivy League in Assist Rate. All in all, if last season was any indication, Harvard should be getting the ball to McNally more often. Look for him to be a major contributor on a Crimson squad that will likely have its best season in recent memory.
Chris Czerapowicz, Davidson- After a fairly ordinary freshman season in which he averaged approximately 3.5 points per game in just over 9 minutes of action, Czerapowicz is poised for a breakout season. Although he underachieved last year, it was clear that the surgery he had on both hips bothered him early in the season, and, at the very least, prevented him from finding his rhythm and making a significant impact on the court. He exceeded all expectations- though- in the 2011 U20 European Championships, leading Sweden with three 20 point performances against Greece, France, and Montenegro. Czerapowicz finished the tournament as the 11th best scorer and 8th leading rebounder in the entire event. Such excellent experience should help him to build considerably on a rather lackluster freshman year. Overall, look for him to increase his averages substantially this season, and for Davidson to return to the NCAA tournament. In terms of Czerapowicz's long term future, it is clear that he is somewhat of a tweener and will have to prove that he can dial in on his outside jumper. Also, his ability to defend more athletic forwards is a major concern at this stage.
Derek Selvig/Kareem Jamar, Montana- Seldom in college basketball (particularly in the Low Major conferences) do you actually want your 7-footer hoisting up three point shots. But, Montana's Derek Selvig is the exception to this rule- in 2010-2011 he connected on 39% of his 100 three point attempts. Selvig is a fairly efficient shooter overall, posting a 52.4% True Shooting Percentage last season. Although he was fairly effective as a long distance option, he must improve as a post player. With Brian Qvale's departure, Selvig is going to be forced to fill Montana's void and play inside more frequently. Most importantly, he must do a better job of securing rebounds. If he can transition to his new role, this opportunity will allow him to prove his versatility on the offensive end. With that said, it should be noted that Selvig's passing ability was very underrated last season, as he posted the 12th highest Assist Rate in the Big Sky. Defensively, Selvig was fairly effective at contesting shots, finishing 17th in the Big Sky in % Steals and 13th in % Blocks. He must develop better post defense, though, in order to become a top Big Sky player. Overall, Selvig will undoubtedly be looked upon as one of Montana's go-to options; look for him to have an All-Conference season when it is all said and done. Not only should one expect Selvig to have a standout year, but it should be duly noted that his teammate Kareem Jamar will also likely emerge as one of the Big Sky's breakthrough players this season. Jamar was a standout freshman a year ago that ranked 21st in the Big Sky in kenpom.com's 'Offensive Rating'. Further, he posted a 52.2% effective field goal percentage, indicating that he was one of the more efficient scorers in the Big Sky last year. Another promising sign is that Jamar limited his turnovers and fouls, avoiding the typical freshman mistakes. (9th in the conference in Turnover Rate and 17th in Fouls Committed) Additionally, at 6'5 210 lbs, he was a fairly effective rebounder for his size. As he continues to develop physically, this should only become an even greater strength. If Jamar can receive more touches on the offensive end in the absence of Qvale, he could emerge as arguably the conference's top sophomore and one of the more improved players in the Big Sky.