The MAAC has a unique strength this season. The league is blessed with a number of talented sophomore point guards. Canisius’ Billy Baron and Manhattan’s Mike Alvarado showed just how important a quality lead guard can be in the chase for a league title. Now there will be a number of players vying to claim their spot atop the mantle.
Here’s a way too early look at five of the best sophomore point guards in the MAAC.
Also considered for this list: Justin Robinson, Monmouth; K.J. Rose, Fairfield; Kasim Chandler, Quinnipiac; Tyler Wilson, Manhattan
5. Josh James, Monmouth – He burst onto the scene last season with 19 points in the opener against Hofstra and while James never duplicated that scoring feat, he did prove to be a creative distributor during his freshman season. James handed out 101 assists during the 2013-14 season. At 6’2″ with quite a bit of athleticism James puts a lot of pressure on defenses. He drew almost five fouls per 40 minutes last season, according to kenpom.com. In order to take the next step forward though James needs to be more consistent from the free throw line (where he shot just 52% last season). He’ll also need to work on his outside shot if he’s going to play alongside fellow sophomore guard Robinson in the Monmouth backcourt.
4. Trevis Wyche, St. Peter’s – Wyche and James actually did a lot of similar things on the basketball court last season. In fact, KenPom has James’s debut season as one of the closest comparisons to Wyche’s 2013-14. Wyche though is a slightly better pure point guard right now. His assist rate was 92nd in the nation at 29.0% last season. Wyche was the engine that drove SPU’s attack last season, even as Marvin Dominique and Desi Washington provided much of the scoring punch. Wyche needs to get better at finishing near the rim (he shot 38% on twos last season) if he’s going to take another step forward and give John Dunne three viable threats on offense.
3. Jimmie Taylor, Rider – Taylor is the first player on the list for which the moniker “point guard” really means “lead guard.” Zedric Sadler had a lot of the “point guard” responsibilities for the Broncs last season. That freed Taylor up to score and score he did. Taylor shot nearly the same (around 47%) on both twos and threes and hit 69% of his free throw attempts. He was third on the Broncs at 12.3 points per game last season. One of the most remarkable things about his season is that Taylor didn’t slow down. From February 8 through the end of the season he didn’t have a single game with an offensive rating under 100. Even if Taylor isn’t a true point guard, he gives Kevin Baggett the freedom to play two excellent ball-handlers together in the backcourt.
2. Marquis Wright, Siena – A point guard in the truest sense of the word Wright had a 30.3 assist rate (72nd nationally) last season. Jimmy Patsos knew that Wright was going to be a star in the MAAC – that’s why he originally recruited him to Loyola (MD) – and nothing that happened last season would convince anyone otherwise. Wright already has good instincts, but to take a step towards being a next-level distributor he’ll need to cut down on his turnovers and shoot better from three. He shot 7-38 (18%) from beyond the arc last season. If Wright’s three and four turnover games in the MAAC drop to one or two, he and the Saints are going to be incredibly dangerous on offense this season.
1. Khallid Hart, Marist – It was no surprise at the end of last season when Hart was named the MAAC Rookie of the Year and thus it really shouldn’t be surprising that the Red Foxes sophomore point guard leads the way on this list as well. Hart, like Taylor, is more of a scoring lead guard, but he gets the job done efficiently and effectively. Hart shot 38% from beyond the arc last season, 50% on twos, and 79% from the free throw line. The one knock on him being at the top of this list is that his turnover rate (18.7%) was higher than his assist rate (17.3). Decision making with the ball is probably the area where Hart still has the most room to improve, but even with a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season (78 to 75), Hart is a player any MAAC coach could envision in his starting lineup.