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

Central Connecticut’s 2012 recruiting class full of athletes

 Central Connecticut Blue Devils: 13-16 (10-8 NEC), Lost 1st round in NEC Tournament to Wagner, 87-77

Players Lost:
F Ken Horton – 19.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 2.1 spg, 1.4 bpg, 2 time All-NEC 1st Teamer
SG Robby Ptacek – 17.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 92% FT%
F David Simmons – 3.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 67% FG%

Incoming Players:
Khalen Cumberlander, 6’3” G – Coolidge High (DC)
Brandon Peel, 6’6” PF – Riverdale Baptist School (MD)
Matthew Hunter, 6’5” G/F – Odessa College (TX)
Jalen Chapman, 6’6” PF – Eagle Academy (NY)

The Central Connecticut Blue Devils were arguably the biggest disappointment of the Northeast Conference (NEC) last season, finishing with a losing record and suffering a 1st round NEC tournament defeat at the hands of Wagner.  It wasn’t supposed to end like this for a team expected to contend, especially with accomplished seniors Ken Horton and Robby Ptacek leading the way.

With the disappointment however, comes optimism and hope for the Blue Devil faithful.  Head coach Howie Dickenman, the second longest tenured coach in the NEC, has a fine track record for recruiting talent.  Since the 1998-99 season, Dickenman has coached 5 NEC Players of the Year, 3 NEC Defensive Players of the Year, 2 NEC Rookies of the Year, and 21 All-NEC selections.  So now, with four shiny athletic recruits – and one eligible redshirt freshman – on CCSU’s roster, you can bet the rest of the conference will take notice.

One freshman that could provide an instant impact is 6-foot-3 combo guard Khalen Cumberlander.  Cumberlander can score in a variety of ways, but his penetration into the lane and transition game may be his biggest strengths.  The DC star led his team in scoring his senior season, while helping Coolidge High win a DCIAA championship.  High school defenders had great difficulty staying in front of Cumberlander, thanks to his excellent shiftiness, agility and ball control.  As documented several times in the Washington Post, he never shied away from a big moment, which bodes well for a CCSU team that had trouble closing out games last season.  With sophomores Malcolm McMillan and a dedicated Kyle Vinales locked in as CCSU’s starting backcourt, look for Cumberlander to receive key minutes off the bench in his freshman campaign.

Another impact newcomer is junior college transfer Matthew Hunter.  It’s been a long tough road for Hunter, but after spending two years at Odessa College improving his grades, he received three Division I offers this past winter.  Luckily for Dickenman, Hunter chose CCSU where he can play with his old buddy and Detroit AAU teammate Vinales.  More importantly, Hunter has a terrific opportunity ahead of him, given the youth and lack of experience on CCSU’s front line.  Hunter is a stat filler and should impact the game on both ends of the floor right away.

Last season, the undersized Blue Devils were in the bottom half of the NEC in rebounding rate, and that was with Horton on the team.  To help make up for their rebounding deficiency, Coach Dickenman signed a pair of 6-foot-6 high energy rebounders in Brandon Peel, and more recently, Jalen Chapman.

Peel, much like the majority of incoming NEC freshmen, needs time to develop his scoring acumen, yet it’s his rebounding and defensive presence that may give the opposing team headaches.  Characterized as the ultimate team player in high school, Peel did whatever it took for his team to win – crash the glass, block shots, dive on the floor for loose balls, and take some offensive charges.  Dickenman has admitted Peel probably needs time to mature; therefore the high-motored clean-shaven Peel probably won’t log more than 10 minutes per game.

There isn’t much information on Chapman, but CBS Sports College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein had this to say on Twitter, “Central Connecticut is getting solid rebounder in Eagle Academy’s Jalen Chapman.  2012 PF never stops working and always is around the ball.”  That’s certainly nice praise from a respected analyst.  Then again, I’ve never read a negative player review on Rothstein’s Twitter feed, so please take this endorsement with a grain of salt. 

Nevertheless, Peel and Chapman should provide the Blue Devils with much needed athleticism in the frontcourt, and even though they may not help immediately, these two signings could pay dividends down the road.  Because of their rawness offensively, there’s a decent chance that one of these two is redshirted for their first season.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention 6-foot-8 power forward Erik Raleigh, who sat out the 2011-12 season as a redshirt.  Dickenman loves the progress made by Raleigh, a Philadelphia native, but it’s anyone’s guess how effective he’ll be as the tallest man in CCSU’s lineup.

For the 2012-13 season, CCSU signed a foursome of talented athletes, with each possessing good to very good upside.  For NEC teams (and other low mid-major conference teams), developing raw athletes is a necessity, because if these players had polished offensive skills out of high school, they more often than not wouldn’t sign with a NEC program.  Now, Coach Dickenman has an opportunity to mold these inexperienced players into a cohesive high octane unit that may some day realize their potential.  The youth and rebuilding movement is in full effect at CCSU, as they attempt to once again represent the Northeast Conference in the NCAA tournament.  It may take a while, but opponents shouldn’t count out Dickenman’s bunch just yet.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference and Sacred Heart University basketball on Pioneer Pride and Big Apple Buckets.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter here.