Bryant recruits a little bit of everything for their 2012 class

Bryant Bulldogs: 2-28 (1-17 NEC), Wasn’t Eligible for NEC Tournament

Players Lost: None

Incoming Players:
Curtis Oakley, 6’4″ F – Brush Hill High (OH)
Shane McLaughlin, 6’1″ G – Choate Rosemary (CT)
Andrew Scocca, 6’8″ PF/C – Worchester Academy (MA)

In their final season before qualifying as a fully integrated Division I program, the Bryant University Bulldogs staggered to a 2-28 season, with 19 of those losses coming by double digits.  It was a rough four-year DI transition period, but with the Bulldogs finally through it, head coach Tim O’Shea can now target and sell recruits on an opportunity to play in a college postseason.  Given their lack of success recently – an average of 5 victories the past four seasons – O’Shea has a difficult task of elevating Bryant to a respectable level.

Step number one for O’Shea and his staff – acquire multiple pieces with decent upside and begin to improve Bryant’s notorious depth problem.  Last season, the Bulldogs were the only NEC team that had less than 5 players with an efficiency rating over 5.0.  Alex Francis, Frankie Dobbs, and Corey Maynard were all productive, at least offensively speaking, but a huge drop off depth wise was evident beyond Bryant’s Big 3.

This recruiting class aims to change that.

Bryant’s 2012 freshman group begins with wing forward Curtis Oakley.  If Oakley’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the nephew of former New York Knick (and Michael Jordan enforcer) Charles Oakley.  Bloodlines aside, Oakley established himself as a versatile forward with solid skills both on the perimeter and in the post.  Though undersized as a power forward, even by NEC standards, Oakley’s sweet lefty stroke and assortment of ball fakes and post moves should make him an awkward cover.  He’ll have difficultly creating his own shot off the dribble and defending a true power “4” at the mid-major level, yet Oakley’s excellent body control and comfort on the perimeter gives him a chance to be an impact rookie.

Although Oakley somewhat helps Bryant’s inexperienced frontcourt, the true big man recruit of this class is 6-foot-8 center Andrew Scocca.  Scocca, much like Tevin Falzon of Sacred Heart, played a season of post-graduate ball when he failed to land a DI offer after his senior season.   Scocca is a hard-nosed competitor who should add much needed toughness to Bryant’s frontline.  Scocca’s ceiling is limited due to his average athleticism, yet he could develop into a useful role player in the coming years for O’Shea.  At this point, anything to improve upon a rebound rate that was in the bottom quarter of the NEC is welcome.

Finally, the trio of true freshmen ends with point guard Shane McLaughlin.  The 6-foot-1 guard supposedly chose to attend Bryant over other interested Ivy and Patriot League schools.  Whether it’s the right move for McLaughlin remains to be seen, although this NEC hater doesn’t like the guard’s decision to join a “mediocre school” one bit.

As a senior at Old Tappan High, McLaughlin was instrumental in leading his team as one of the best point guards in North Jersey.  Twice, McLaughin was named to the All-Bergen County Team as a heady floor general who competed hard on both ends of the floor.  McLaughin appears to be the next starting point guard when Dobbs graduates in a year, but for now, expect McLaughlin to be one of the first guards off the bench.

Another guard that could contribute right away is Holy Cross transfer Joe O’Shea.  O’Shea is the nephew of head coach Tim O’Shea and was elected as Mr. Basketball of Vermont once upon a time.  Despite the accolades, O’Shea was buried on Holy Cross’ bench by head coach Milan Brown (the former Mount St. Mary’s coach), who was brought in to replace the coach that recruited O’Shea.  As a result, 6-foot-4 shooting guard transferred to Bryant and sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Now as a Bulldog, O’Shea gets to show off his excellent range, and along with McLaughlin and Oakley, should help Bryant improve a pathetic 30.3% three-point percentage from last season.  How O’Shea adjusts to the speed of the game is still the biggest question coming into his sophomore season.

The last newcomer is Columbia transfer Dyami Starks, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Minnesota.  Starks burst onto the scene at Columbia, scoring double digit points in 5 of his first 7 games as a freshman.  The fast start, however, was quickly extinguished and by season’s end Starks found himself playing little to no minutes per game.

Like O’Shea, Starks also enters Bryant with very good high school success.  Scouting reports highlight Starks’ quick release and ability to score in a variety of ways.  Once again, he’s another relative unknown, so it will be fascinating to watch if he and O’Shea adjust to the NEC game after failing in their first attempt at DI basketball.

Overall, coach O’Shea recruited a nice mix of players that should add capable bodies to his team.  It remains to be seen if any of these newcomers will ascend into the NEC elite, or lead Bryant to an eventual NEC playoff berth, but there’s hope in Smithfield that things are moving in the right direction.  After all, there’s really no direction for the Bryant Bulldogs to go but up.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference basketball for Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

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