NEC Breakout Candidates for the 2013-14 Season

Every year, several NEC players come out of nowhere to produce for their teams, so we’re attempting to highlight those candidates. This list is all about seeing which players can increase their production at an above league average level, even if some of them underwhelmed the previous season.

Before I dive into our 2013-14 breakout candidates list, however, it’s only fair to critique our 2012-13 selections last October. Here’s a quick breakdown (and grade) for each:

Malcolm McMillan, Central Connecticut – The guard saw a sizable jump in his production, thanks to the friendly offensive attack Howie Dickenman employed. McMillan may not be a prototypical floor general, but his sophomore numbers (8.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg) were impressive nonetheless. Grade: B+

Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart – Evan Kelley’s season ending knee surgery may have hurt Sacred Heart’s chances to compete in the NEC last season, yet it worked wonders for the 5’10” Geatano. Taking full advantage of his newfound minutes, Gaetano finished second in the nation only to LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman in assists per game. Grade: A

Zaid Hearst, Quinnipiac – Two-guard James Johnson was a Bobcat alum, so we felt an uptick in Hearst’s production was coming. After all, someone in the Quinnipiac backcourt needed to step up! Honestly though, it was an inconsistent sophomore campaign for Hearst (10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), much like it was for every other Quinnipiac off-the-ball guard not named Evan Conti. Grade: B-

Marcus Burton, Wagner – The sophomore guard enjoyed an improvement in all major KenPom statistics across the board, while seeing his minutes increase by 11 per game. Perhaps most impressive – besides his eight pounds of added muscle – was he sported the lowest turnover percentage on the team, despite being nationally ranked in assist rate. That is not easy to do. Grade: B+

Storm Stanley, St. Francis – Oh dear. Our 6’11” deep sleeper was talked up in the preseason by head coach Rob Krimmel, but an injury setback last October derailed his progress. Or perhaps Krimmel was just blowing smoke? Nevertheless, Stanley never become part of the Red Flash’s rotation. What a blow to our overall report card! Grade: F

And now onto our NEC breakout candidates for this upcoming season!

E.J. Reed had an excellent rookie season, but he has the breakout potential to crack an all-NEC team as a sophomore. (Photo Credit: Bob Dea)

E.J. Reed, LIU Brooklyn – We believed in LIU freshman D.J. Griggs, when in reality we should have targeted his longer teammate. As a mere rookie, Reed was critical in shoring up Jack Perri’s frontcourt when Julian Boyd tore his ACL nine games into the season. Alongside Jamal Olasewere, the bouncy Reed narrowly missed out on NEC Rookie of the Year, losing to the Mount’s Shivaughn Wiggins. Now with Olasewere and C.J. Garner gone and Boyd unfortunately on the mend, Reed becomes the number one scoring option for the Blackbirds. With Brickman running a potent attack, it isn’t crazy to envision Reed averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in his second season.

Dwaun Anderson, Wagner – We swung and missed anointing Anderson as our preseason NEC Rookie of the Year last season, but in fairness, everyone whiffed on that one. The absurdly talented Anderson simply needed time to adapt to the rigors of Division I basketball. The guard frankly looked lost on the floor much of the time, and as a result, was woefully inconsistent for first year head coach Bashir Mason. Now with another offseason under his belt, we’re willing to bet Anderson’s basketball IQ catches up with his elite playmaking capability.

Ben Millaud-Meunier, St. Francis (PA) – It took a while for Millaud-Meunier to crack Rob Krimmel’s rotation, but when he did, the freshman was fantastic. Despite only playing 29% of his team’s available minutes, Millaud-Meunier was elected to the NEC all-rookie team, thanks to an excellent effective field goal percentage of 64.7% fueled by a 47.6% mark from behind the arc. The turnover rate was a little high for a rookie, but that should improve over time. Krimmel has praised his sophomore guard’s work ethic, so even if the backcourt seems to be a little crowded in Loretto at the moment, we think Millaud-Meunier will use his sophomore season to turn into one of the better shooters in the league.

Gerrell Martin, LIU Brooklyn – The loss of Garner shouldn’t be overlooked, but it opens up a golden opportunity for Gerrell Martin. More of a pure shooter, Martin should get a large number of minutes alongside Jason Brickman this season and he seems more than capable of handling the load. Martin had a 115.2 offensive rating as a sophomore, mostly thanks to shooting 41% from three. If he can continue to diversify his offensive game, and get to the free line (84% career FT shooter) more in his new role, Martin could be one of the NEC’s leading scorers this season.

Chris Evans, Sacred Heart – Nearly a year and a half removed from knee surgery, Chris Evans is currently in … wait for it … the best shape of his life. (We had to use this phrase at least once in the breakouts post!) A former NEC all-rookie team selection, Evans saw his numbers steadily improve as a sophomore, despite dealing with a cranky knee for most of the season. Now healthy, the 6’2″ red-shirt guard is part of a deep rotation that’ll be far more balanced than it was last year. Even if Sacred Heart’s scoring is spread out, we’re not too worried. After all, Evans is a do-everything player who doesn’t need to score to significantly impact the game. He’s a very good rebounder and defender for his size as well.

Did we miss anyone who had breakout potential? Let’s us know in the comments section!

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

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