Recruiting Recap: Incoming Freshmen Give Bryant, Tim O’Shea Much Needed Depth

Daniel Garvin's athleticism may be the most impressive aspect of Tim O'Shea's 2013 recruiting class. (Photo credit - Fairfieldcitizenonline.com)
Daniel Garvin’s athleticism may be the most impressive aspect of Tim O’Shea’s 2013 recruiting class. (Photo credit – Fairfieldcitizenonline.com)

With the possible lone exception of Mount St. Mary’s, no team in the NEC surprised pundits more than the Bryant Bulldogs last season. A veteran lineup supplemented with two promising transfers in Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped elevate Bryant to an unprecedented 19-win season.

The 17-win turnaround from the season prior made NCAA history, even though Bryant finished their 2012-13 campaign with only six victories in their final 14 games. A small rotation and average at best athleticism inevitably did Tim O’Shea’s group in, and that was no more evident than during their February road loss to the aforementioned Mountaineers. After the defeat, a candid O’Shea admitted his team’s athleticism, depth, and defensive prowess wasn’t where it needed to be.

Now, however, O’Shea could be faced with a new “problem”. The sixth Division I season in Bryant’s history may result in the most depth the program has ever seen. After struggling to find production off the bench, is it possible O’Shea has too many backup options?

“It’s amazing how things have changed in just a couple of seasons, because in the past I couldn’t scrap together what I thought was a credible top five, let alone a top eight,” said O’Shea. “Now I think I have good players, one through 13 on scholarship. I have a lot of options. I guess it’s a problem, but it’s a good one.”

Of course, there’s the top four of Starks, Alex Francis, Corey Maynard, and Joe O’Shea, but after that it’s an open competition for rotation spots five through ten.

The biggest question heading into the offseason is how O’Shea compensates for the loss of All-NEC third teamer Frankie Dobbs. The point guard was instrumental in Bryant’s success, so the challenge will be replacing his minutes, and superb production. Sophomore Shane McLaughin, who averaged 1.0 point and 1.3 assists per game as a freshman, will have an opportunity to make an impact. Red-shirt freshman Declan Soukup, an Australian native, should also compete for minutes at the point.

Can Justin Brickman match the success of his brother as a freshman? (Photo credit - Clarkcougarsports.com)
Can Justin Brickman match the success of his brother as a freshman? (Photo credit – Clarkcougarsports.com)

The third member of the point guard competition happens to be the most notable freshman of O’Shea’s incoming class – 5’9″ point guard Justin Brickman. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Justin’s older brother, Jason, has been terrorizing NEC opponents for the past three seasons as a member of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.

While it seems lazy to use Jason Brickman as a player comp to his brother, it’s likely the most suitable. Like his brother, Justin profiles as a heady floor general with excellent court vision, an impressive handle, and the ability to knock down the long-range jumper. Despite the success the Brickman family has had playing Division I basketball – older brother Jordan also played one season for Navy – O’Shea is tempering his expectations for the youngest Brickman in season number one.

“It’s so hard, when kids are going from high school to college, you never know how (their game) translates,” O’Shea cautioned.

Behind Alex Francis, there’s an impetus of high upside youth in O’Shea’s front court, highlighted by Australian native Bosko Kostur and Connecticut product Daniel Garvin. Both players, listed at 6’7″ and 6’8″ respectively, possess impressive athleticism and come advertised with unique talents.

“High skill level, and a good first step,” said O’Shea when asked to describe Kostur, his latest player from the Land Down Under. “He has a good feel for the game like all my Australians and is a tough kid. All signs point to a guy who could be a really good player in our conference.”

While Kostur has excellent perimeter skills that could make him a “stretch four” in the NEC someday, Garvin may very well be the freshman with the highest ceiling of this recruiting class. The 6’8″ power forward, who could transition into a small forward at the collegiate level, displayed tremendous above-the-rim athleticism at Bethel High. Even though the competition for the western Connecticut school wasn’t top-notch, it was impossible to ignore Garvin’s ability to rebound, defend, and create havoc around the rim.

“(Garvin) is a tremendous athlete,” said O’Shea. “He’s so gifted physically – he has great athleticism and instincts – but he played in a low-level, in terms of high school competition. Making that transition, that’s going to be the key.”

The last recruit is Ellis Williams, a 6’8″ banger down low. With a wide frame and broad shoulders, the physical Williams has an opportunity to occupy the minutes lost with the graduation of overachieving center Vlad Kondratyev. Red-shirt freshman Andrew Scocca should compete for minutes with Williams at the “5” when O’Shea isn’t implementing a small-ball type of roster. Now healthy, Scocca only played nine games in his first season as a Bulldog, due to an unusual bacterial infection.

In total, nearly half of Bryant’s scholarship players are freshmen, yet O’Shea is excited about the team’s short-term prospects. Despite the youth movement, Bryant has enough veteran leadership at the top to consider the Bulldogs a worthy challenger to the NEC title. With more athleticism now at O’Shea’s disposal, the long time head coach is certainly optimistic about the position of his program.

“I like our chances. We have the chemistry. We’re going to have a tough non-conference schedule, but if we get through that OK, then I think we’ll be fine and in the mix the whole way.”

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

One thought on “Recruiting Recap: Incoming Freshmen Give Bryant, Tim O’Shea Much Needed Depth

  1. The only 2 important players that graduated (Dobbs and Kondratyev) left questions at the PG and Center positions. These are quickly filled with depth, options, and youth. 3 players could fill each spot (mclaughlin, soukup, and brickman at PG and scocca, mcmath, and williams at center). Tons of potential for these freshman to get some serious minutes. The new PG’s combined with the guard play of starks and maynard is shaping up for a dangerous backcourt.
    Garvin and Kostur also have good size and athleticism, so they could get alot of time at the previously undersized forward position for bryant. Combined with francis, oakley, and o’shea, bryant could have a balanced scoring attack.
    Bryant has some great young players, depth, and they still have good senior leadership in francis and maynard. Bulldogs could be the complete package in the NEC this year. Watch out

    Like

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