Through the season’s first 10 games, opponents are beginning to realize they keep their eye on more than one New Hampshire sophomore.
They knew that Tanner Leissner who was picked to be on the All-America East team in the preseason would be a concern, but forward Iba Camara has broken out as a dominant rebounder.
Last season the 6’9” Camara struggled in the one area that would hurt his ability to help the team: picking up fouls. The forward from Senegal picked up an astounding 10.1 fouls per 40 minutes according to KenPom and fouled out of games where he played fewer than 15 minutes. This season he has only fouled out once, against SMU, and with that has come a more aggressive mindset.
Even with the increased playing time, head coach Bill Herrion said he did not expect the leap he has seen from Camara, who is averaging 10.2 ppg and 10.1 rpg.
“We just could never keep him on the floor last year because of fouls,” Herrion said. “He had to learn how to stay out of foul trouble and a lot of his fouls were really just unnecessary fouls.”
“Our goal, going into the season, was how can we get him on the court for 20, 25, 30 or 30-plus minutes depending on the game. He can run the floor, he’s got great hands, really good feet and he’s long. He’s a really good defensive rebounder, he’s definitely has exceeded our expectations.”
With the ability to stay in the game, Camara has shown his scoring ability often. Last season his season-high in points was 10, the number he’s now averaging per game, and he has done it by relentlessly rebounding and drawing contact.
“We thought he was possibly capable of this, but I think it’s happening a little bit sooner,” Herrion said. “He’s been so inconsistent as a rebounder, now what’s starting to happen is he’s starting to get a little confidence and he’s starting to score around the basket. I think once he even gets physically stronger, over the next couple of years, I think the sky’s the limit for him. I think he can be terrific.”
Add him to the Wildcats other sophomore starter Leissner and it is easy to see why the team is set up for a run come January in America East play. Though they will need the 6’7” sophomore Leissner to understand the target he has on him considering his early success. He leads the team in scoring (14.7 ppg) even while missing three games due to a concussion, but he struggled Sunday through double and even triple-teams at times, making just four of 12 shots from the field.
“Let’s face it, for us to be good he’s got to be good,” Herrion said. “I think he’s going through a little bit of a growing spurt right now, where he’s just got to understand that people are going to really really go after him because he’s a marked man.”
“He’s going to have to do some other things maybe pass the ball, not that he doesn’t do it, but get other people involved. He’ll figure it out, he’s a smart kid, he’s a competitive kid.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.