Top 10 Recruits of the Northeast Conference – The rich get richer

With many of the top NEC programs returning most of their talent, playing time will be scarce for a majority of the recruits coming in.  Nevertheless, we here at Big Apple Buckets painstakingly created our consensus list of the top 10 NEC recruits.  Ranking them wasn’t easy – information on most newcomers is limited at best and there are easily 20 players that could have an immediate impact on their team.

We apologize in advance if your favorite recruit missed the list.  This is the time of year when every fan-base believes their newcomers will push their team to great heights.  Just remember, all of those Youtube clips of your favorite team’s recruits are highlight videos.  Everyone looks good on those.  They edit out the bad plays for a reason.

(Cut to the confused Monmouth fan asking, “Wait, you mean to tell me Tyrone O’Garro won’t finish every play this year with an alley-oop jam??”)

Later this week, we’ll submit our NEC recruiting class rankings for all 12 teams.  For now though, we give you our 2012-13 Top 10 preseason newcomers of the NEC!

10) Ronnie Drinnon, PF, St. Francis (PA) – With Scott Eatherton heading to Northeastern, Drinnon will see significant minutes in a brutally thin Red Flash frontcourt.  There will be struggles early on, but Drinnon’s high basketball IQ and nose for the basketball should serve him well in his freshman season.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that Drinnon practiced with the team a semester early.

9) James Ford, SG, Quinnipiac – Ford does one thing that none of Quinnipiac’s other newcomers can do as well – shoot lights out from beyond the arc.  With the Bobcats’ need for a shooter to stretch the defense, Ford should occupy a niche role as he improves in other facets during his rookie season.

8) Eric Fanning, SG, Wagner – We have difficulty placing Fanning any higher on this list, due to Bashir Mason’s crowded backcourt.  Nevertheless, Fanning should have the opportunity in limited minutes to display a wide array of scoring abilities, which allowed him to score over 1,000 points at two different stops in high school.  His athleticism and length at 6-foot-4 should also help on the defensive end.

7) Tariq Carey, SG, Quinnipiac – Tom Moore made it a priority in the offseason to bolster his backcourt, and Carey may have been his best acquistion.  The moderately recruited combo guard has a chance to make up part of James Johnson’s production on both ends of the floor, given his ability to attack the basket, get to the charity stripe, and defend with tenacity.

6) Matthew Hunter, F, Central Connecticut – After two very productive seasons at junior college, Hunter persevered to earn a Division I scholarship after a difficult upbringing.  The “stat filler” – as Howie Dickenman likes to call him – should help Kyle Vinales make up 56% of the scoring CCSU lost due to last year’s graduating class.  After all, Hunter was offered by three DI schools for a reason.

5) Shivaughn Wiggins, PG, Mount St. Mary’s – Wiggins is the type of player Jamion Christian covets – a celebral athlete that makes excellent decisions with the basketball in transition and the half-court set.  This season, he’ll most likely share time with Josh Castellanos, but make no mistake, Wiggins is the player with more potential.

4) Vaughn Morgan, PF, Robert Morris – An athletic freak who reeks havoc in the paint, Morgan will contribute to a deep Robert Morris team that returns their top seven players in terms of efficiency.  Morgan should see the majority of Lawrence Bridge’s minutes if he can grasp the mental aspect of the game and let his athleticism shine.

3) D.J. Griggs, SG, LIU-Brooklyn – The Blackbirds lost a potential NEC star in Waller-Prince, but Griggs is certainly a nice consolation prize.  LIU has a thin bench, so the opportunity is there for the Texas native to grab the final spot of LIU’s backcourt rotation with Jason Brickman, C.J. Garner, and Brandon Thompson.  As a high schooler Griggs was a high-scorer, averaging 22.6 points per game and scoring 2,590 points, so he should provide a spark off the bench for the Blackbirds.

2) Karvel Anderson, SG, Robert Morris – A prolific, yet efficient scorer at every level he’s played at, Anderson should serve as a nice offensive weapon off Andy Toole’s bench.  His insertion into the Colonial’s rotation will take pressure off of Coron Williams – who struggles at times creating his own shot – and will give Robert Morris the reliable deep threat they dearly missed last season.

1) Dwaun Anderson, SG, Wagner – This was the easiest pick by far.  It’s not very often when Tom Izzo has recruited and signed a future NEC player.  Anderson’s athleticism will make him an impact player immediately, especially when he’s allowed to create in transition or off the dribble in half-court sets.  We’d be shocked if he wasn’t a finalist for NEC Rookie of the Year at season’s end.

Other newcomers we considered:
E.J. Reed, G, LIU-Brooklyn
De’Aires Tate, PF, Sacred Heart
Jalen Wesson Palm, PG, Monmouth
Aleksandar Isailovic, G, St. Francis (NY)
Sekou Harris, PG, Fairleigh Dickinson

Two Texans start a new era at LIU

LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds: 25-8 (16-2 NEC), Regular Season and Conference Champions

Players Lost:
Michael Culpo, G – 31.5 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG
Arnold Mayorga, F – 9.8 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG
Pete Aguilar (transfer) – 1.8 MPG, 0.8 PPG, 0.6 RPG
Robinson Odoch Opong (transfer) – 3.9 MPG, 1.2 PPG, 0.6 RPG

Incoming Players:
D.J. Griggs, 6’0″, G, Lake Jackson, TX
E.J. Reed, 6’5″, SF, Mesquite, TX

It’s rare that a team that has won back-to-back titles returns almost all of its key pieces, but that’s the situation that LIU Brooklyn will encounter as it goes for the NEC’s first ever threepeat in 2012-13. Gone are a few faces, most notably Michael Culpo, Arnold Mayorga and head coach Jim Ferry, but the beat of the Blackbirds marches on.

New head coach Jack Perri has been around the program for the past seven seasons. So there’s continuity there. As Culpo did last season, new players will step up to fill the void. Two players that will get an impact to make an impact are newcomers D.J. Griggs and E.J. Reed. Both were on LIU’s campus during the summer preparing for the upcoming season along with seasoned veterans like Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere.

“It was good to help get their feet wet,” Perri said about the summer sessions. “We usually don’t have our freshmen come in beforehand.”

Unfortunately, one freshman that didn’t come in was Taurean Waller-Prince. The 6’7″ forward originally committed to LIU, but will be attending Baylor this fall. That has left Perri with one additional scholarship, which he intends to fill before the season starts. LIU hopes to fill-in some more depth on the wing with their final slot.

“We need to fill the final scholarship before the season because of lies ahead next year,” Perri said. “We already have six scholarships for next year with all the graduations. We have some good guys that we’re involved with right now.”

In the meantime Griggs and Reed are getting to learn on the job and prepare for their roles in the LIU rotation. Griggs, a 6’0″ playmaker is more of a combo guard at this point in his career. He was a scorer in high school and averaged over 22 points per game during his final high school season. He’s also got the potential to be an excellent defensive player. That’s where he could find his niche during his first season behind C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman.

Reed on the other hand has a bigger body at 6’5″. He also has an excellent motor and was considered by higher level programs with offers from TCU and Wichita State before settling on LIU. Reed has been very impressive during summer workouts.

“He’s got a great motor,” Perri said about Reed. “He’s been tremendous during workouts and he’s really picked up on things. He’s a little unique for a freshman. I have to find a way to get him some time early on.”

Of course, in an ideal world Perri would avoid using any of his freshmen too much this season. Brandon Thompson is expected to slide into Culpo’s role as the third guard in the starting lineup and the hope is that 6’6″ redshirt sophomore Troy Joseph can make an impact after having last season ended by microfracture surgery. Perri also mentioned that both Garner and Thompson have been preparing hard for their roles this off season.

In fact, maybe the change to a new coach has helped refocus the Blackbirds as they prepare to go for an unprecedented third season of winning both the regular season and tournament titles.

“It was like clockwork with our individual workouts,” Perri said. “With a new voice they’ve gotten a little more amped up and have worked a little harder. After the first title they didn’t have the same urgency that I have this year. Maybe it’s because this is it.”

This is it for six seniors, but LIU is hoping these two Texans help form the basis for a successful future.