On Monday I released my top impact transfers of the Northeast Conference; now it’s time for the freshmen.
I’m posting this list later into the preseason in an attempt at having more success. Of course this is far from an exact science — most coaches still don’t know how their newcomers will respond to the rigors of Division I basketball — yet I feel pretty good about my top NEC freshmen after speaking with several people throughout the league. In my opinion, the talent of this freshmen class exceeds the prior year’s, therefore I had difficultly containing my list to just five. I added three others who, by my estimation, may warrant all-rookie team consideration by season’s end. Let’s begin with my preseason all-rookie team.
Nura Zanna, LIU Brooklyn – I’ve already written multiple paragraphs on Zanna over the past year, even though he hasn’t played a single minute as a Blackbird. If you’ve been paying attention, you’re already cognizant of Zanna’s pedigree, scary good blend of size and athleticism, and the opportunity that awaits. With LIU invested in a full rebuild, the 6’7″ power forward will get as much time as he needs to develop into the next Julian Boyd. As is the case for most freshman bigs, Zanna will likely struggle with foul trouble, but if he can stay on the floor long enough, then he’s primed for a Rookie of the Year type of season. Think double-digit points, six to seven rebounds and five free throw attempts per game.
Cane Broome, Sacred Heart – Even on a team loaded with veteran guards, Broome is projected to start for Sacred Heart amid reports that he may already be one of the best players on the team. As a 6’0” lefty, Broome’s game draws comparisons to Julian Norfleet in his ability to glide past defenders and score a variety of ways. Like Norfleet, Broome is a combo guard that will likely be paired in the backcourt alongside the heady Phil Gaetano. Along with freshman center Filip Nowicki, who’s impressed this preseason as well, and super sophomore De’Von Barnett, the future looks a little brighter these days in Fairfield, even if the Pioneers have won only three of their last 26 NEC contests.
Martin Hermannsson, LIU Brooklyn – Coming from Iceland, Hermannsson is a bit of an unknown, yet the LIU coaching staff pegs the 6’3” guard as an immediate impact player, even if Gerrell Martin plays the same position. Given LIU’s lack of perimeter scoring – Martin is the only returning Blackbird who has made at least 32% of his three-point attempts – Hermannsson should find time in Jack Perri’s rotation. In his final season in the Icelandic Dominos League, the guard averaged 18.8 ppg after making 43.6% of his attempts from behind the arc.
Hunter Ware, Bryant – Ware may not crack the starting lineup with Shane McLaughlin and Dyami Starks slotted in, yet the former 3-star recruit may be one of the most talented players on his team. Ware’s competitive fire, endless motor and ability to stroke it from downtown will find the combo guard 20 minutes per game in my estimation. Tim O’Shea was fortunate to land Ware, and now that he’s in Smithfield, we expect him to blossom into a star before long.
Marques Townes, Fairleigh Dickinson – With the program mired in mediocrity over the past few seasons, Greg Herenda and his staff made it their prerogative to recruit winners to FDU’s campus. They certainly got a bonafide winner in Townes, a New Jersey native who compiled 102 career high school wins and (oh by the way) 1,853 points to boot. Townes should have plenty of opportunity to play given the departures of three key seniors; he could even crack the starting lineup from the get-go. His elite athleticism, fierce competitive nature and terrific work ethic seems like a perfect match for a head coach looking to turn around the Knights.
Angus “Gus” Riley, Bryant – If this is the first time you’re hearing of Riley, don’t fret, the Bryant coaching staff didn’t know of Riley until this past April. With one scholarship left to offer, Tim O’Shea decided to give the 6’8” New Zealand native a shot, and so far, he certainly hasn’t regretted the move. Riley profiles as a stretch power forward with excellent shooting range, a terrific basketball IQ and a solid passing eye. While he won’t overwhelm his opponents physically, Riley’s quick maturation has him pegged as a frontcourt starter alongside the ultra talented Daniel Garvin.
Lamont “Junior” Robinson, Mount St. Mary’s – It’s rather difficult to forecast which Mountaineer freshmen will emerge in Emmitsburg, but I’m taking a stab with the lightning quick Robinson. He may be only 5’7″ and 155 pounds, yet he still managed to score a staggering 2,500 points in high school. At NEC Media Day, Christian called Robinson the second or third best shooter on the Mount. For a team projected to hoist 24-28 three-pointers per game, I think Robinson will find valuable minutes in Christian’s deep rotation.
Joseph “JoJo” Cooper, Wagner – This is what Bashir Mason had to say about Cooper at NEC Media Day last week: “I think we’ve done a great job in replacing Kenny Ortiz with Joseph Cooper. I think he’s as good of an on-the-ball defender and playmaker on the defensive end as Kenny Ortiz was.” That’s certainly high praise from Mason. Cooper may be a little raw offensively, but his impact on the other side of the ball should have Wagner fans excited.
Others Considered: Marcquise Reed, Robert Morris; Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson; Elijah Minnie, Robert Morris, Glenn Sanabria, St. Francis Brooklyn
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride