Pancake Thomas to Transfer From Hartford

By Kevin Sweeney

Today may be National Waffle Day, but the talk of college basketball today will be focused on Pancake.

Another impact player became available for this season, as star shooting guard Pancake Thomas will graduate and transfer out of the Hartford basketball program, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. The 6-3 Thomas was second in the America East in scoring last season, averaging 18.9 points per game.

This has become the new reality for mid-major programs. With graduate transfers becoming so popular, mid-major stars are now looking to graduate as soon as possible in order to open up as many doors as possible for the future.  A player with the talent of Thomas may get more professional opportunities by shining on a bigger stage than he would have at Hartford, where his final season would have likely gained little fanfare or scouting. While Thomas’s decision puts Hartford coach John Gallagher into a difficult position, it is also the right move for Thomas’s future.

Thomas will likely receive interest from high-major programs.  When hot, Pancake can put as many points as anyone in the country.  He put up over 35 points 3 times last season.  He is also an excellent 3-point shooter (43% last season) and a good rebounder for his size (6.4 per game). While I am just speculating, I anticipate that he will receive interest from schools such as Purdue, Rutgers, and other “Power 5” programs, while also receiving strong interest from powerhouse mid-major and A-10 programs.  Thomas is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so I wonder if Thomas would gravitate towards SEC programs.

C.J. Gettys Commits to Rutgers

By Kevin Sweeney

Even with the fall semester at most colleges beginning in the next 2 weeks, teams are still adding players that can contribute this season. Today, Rutgers made a big addition to this season’s team, as they received a commitment from center C.J. Gettys, a transfer from UNC-Wilmington. Since he has already graduated from UNCW, he will be eligible to play right away. Gettys has one season of eligibility remaining.

Gettys, a 6-11 forward from Findlay, Ohio, provides much-needed depth and experience on the Rutgers front line. He averaged 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per team last season for the Seahawks, while also providing vital rim protection, averaging 1.4 blocks per game. He also brings NCAA Tournament experience to the table, having reached the Big Dance with UNCW last season.

Despite a solid season last year, Gettys’s plans for this season were very much in the air. According to an article on 247sports.com, Gettys was weighing professional opportunities until new Rutgers assistant coach Jay Young reached out to him. From there, Rutgers became the favorite to land the big man.

Gettys appears to round out a 5 man incoming class for Rutgers, which looks to improve on last year’s 7-25 campaign under new head coach Steve Pikiell. While Rutgers is not expected to win a lot of games this season, they should be an improved team, with star point guard Corey Sanders leading the way.

International Trips Help Teams Learn On and Off the Court

By Kevin Sweeney

While the college basketball season doesn’t officially get underway until daily practices begin in October, the journey to reaching the NCAA Tournament begins much earlier than that.  It begins in the summer, where players work out relentlessly and try to improve their games individually without much time to work together with the entire team.  However, international trips allow teams the opportunity to play exhibition games against international teams, develop chemistry, and provide valuable learning experiences off the court for the players.  Allowed once every four years, international trips can oftentimes be a huge stepping stone into a successful season.

Because of these advantages, international trips are increasing in popularity. This season, 59 teams will make a trip abroad this summer, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. These trips include places such as Costa Rica, Italy, New Zealand, and Japan. Teams taking trips this summer include defending national champions Villanova, Oregon, UCLA, Virginia, and Washington.

“You can start to mold your group, build your chemistry and get guys confident in July, instead of waiting until October,” Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey said in a USA Today article last March. It’s just so helpful. … Man, I’m a big believer in it.”

Not only do the teams build chemistry and play high level basketball, but the experiences off the court can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For many players, an international trip is their first experience outside of the United States.  Players get the chance to learn lessons beyond anything they could learn in the classroom.  This was the case for Washington, who opened the season in China last year.  While not an international trip, the players still got the experience of traveling to a new country and playing competitive basketball.  The trip included a weeklong class sponsored by the university that allowed the players to earn credit as they learned more about the history and culture of China.

Because of the clear value of these trips, there has been a strong push from some coaches to allow teams to make trips every other year, rather every four years.  In the meantime, however, players can still make international trips with select teams.  For example, Global Sports Academy, a tour company specializing in athletic teams traveling to foreign countries, sent a 10-man roster of college stars to Croatia to play against international competition.  The team, which was coached by Siena assistant coach Greg Manning, featured players such as Siena’s Marquis Wright, Providence’s Jalen Lindsey and Drew Edwards, and Maryland’s Ivan Bender.

Overall, international trips are very beneficial for college basketball teams.  Sometimes, they are the start of a season they will never forget.

Most Important Player for Each MAAC Team

By Kevin Sweeney

Once again, the MAAC will be one of the most exciting mid-major leagues in the country. Monmouth is expected to be one of the top mid-majors in the country, while Siena and defending champions Iona will also be very good once again.  However, the performance of one player can be the difference between a disappointing season and a NCAA Tournament bid.  Here’s a look at the most important player for each team:

Canisius- Kassius Robertson:  Canisius will need a big season from Robertson if they want to compete in the MAAC.  When hot, Robertson can be an explosive scorer with a knockdown stroke from downtown.  However, he was streaky last season, and with last year’s point guard Malcolm McMillan graduating, Robertson will have to provide a consistent scoring punch in the Griffins’s backcourt.

Fairfield- Tyler Nelson: Last season, Nelson quietly put up great numbers for a Fairfield team that exceeded expectations.  He flourished in the Stags’s new up-tempo offense, scoring more than 16 points per game en route to being named a 2nd-team All-MAAC performer.  Now, with star forward Marcus Gilbert graduating, it is Nelson’s time to shine.

Iona- Jordan Washington: While Washington put up big numbers in his first season with the Gaels, he must become more consistent if Iona is to repeat as MAAC Champions.  Washington struggled with inconsistency, foul trouble, and maturity at times last year, and must improve on these things as the leader of the new-look Gaels.  Despite averaging just 18.7 minutes per game due to foul trouble, Washington still put up 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds.  If Washington can stay on the court, he could be one of the best big men in the country.

Manhattan- Rich Williams:  When hot, Rich Williams is pretty much unstoppable.  The athletic wing will move from his sixth man role last season into the starting lineup this year.  Despite coming off the bench for most of last season, Williams still had 7 games in which he scored 20 or more points.  Now, Williams becomes the star and leader of the Jaspers, who lose the backcourt duo of Shane Richards and Rashawn Stores.

Marist- Khallid Hart:  The Marist program has struggled for a while, having only won 26 games in the last 3 season combined.  However, there is reason for optimism for the Red Foxes as they enter year 3 of the Mike Maker era, and it starts with Hart.  The senior leader of this team, Hart will need to put up big numbers, as well as show promising youngsters such as Isaiah Lamb and Brian Parker the ropes.  If things fall into place properly, the Red Foxes could be one of the most improved teams in the MAAC this season.

Monmouth- Justin Robinson: The defending MAAC player of the year, there may be no player in the MAAC that is as fun to watch as Robinson.  The diminuitive point guard is an excellent shooter, passer, and defender, as well as a vocal leader for the Hawks.  Robinson plays with a constant chip on his shoulder, one that should be even larger this season after last season’s NCAA Tournament snub.  However, Robinson’s success will be largely dependent on the performance of his teammates.  If players like Micah Seaborn and Je’Lon Hornbeak can’t step up, Robinson will see constant double and triple-teams all season.

Niagara- Marvin Prochet: Niagara head coach Chris Casey can’t seem to catch a break.  Two seasons in a row, the Purple Eagles have had promising young talent depart the program early as transfers.  Facing a rebuild once again, Coach Casey will look to his experienced players to carry the load.  While star wing Matt Scott will certainly produce, he will need help.  Prochet can provide that.  A do-everything forward, Prochet’s versatility and talent was showcased at times last year.  For Niagara to improve on a 10th place finish from last year, Prochet will have to have a big season.

Quinnipiac- Daniel Harris:  One of the few experienced guards on the roster, it will be up to Harris to be a strong scorer and distributor for the Bobcats.  While Quinnipiac is strong in the frontcourt, with Chaise Daniels, Donovan Smith, and Abdulai Bundu returning, they will need Harris, along with a few new faces, to carry the load in the backcourt.

Rider- Jimmy Taylor: After losing primary ball-handler and scorer Teddy Okereafor to graduation, it is up to Taylor to carry the load.  Taylor was disappointing at times last season, averaging under 10 points per game despite making the preseason All-MAAC third team.  Despite that, he is a 1000 point scorer who has the potential to make or break the Broncs’s season.

Siena- Marquis Wright:  Early last season, it appeared that Marquis Wright was on his way to having a special season.  The dynamic point guard averaged more than 17 point per game while shooting over 50% from downtown in the first 12 games of the season.  However, he suffered a foot fracture in late December, sidelining him for almost 2 months.  When he returned in late February, he wasn’t the same, struggling with his jump shot and ball handling.  If Wright can fully recover from his injury and return to his form from early last season, Siena might be the favorites in the MAAC.  With Wright and Nico Clareth in the backcourt, and Brett Bisping and Javion Ogunyemi manning the frontcourt, the Saints could be very dangerous in the MAAC this season.

St. Peter’s- Trevis Wyche: Wyche will look to build upon a strong finish to last season.  Down the stretch, Wyche was excellent, helping lead the way for a surprising St. Peter’s team.  Wyche and sophomore guard Antwon Portley form a formidable backcourt duo for the Peacocks.  If Wyche continues his strong play, St. Peter’s can be as good as any team in the MAAC.