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

Quinnipiac targets their backcourt of the future in the 2012 class

Quinnipiac Bobcats, 18-14 (10-8 NEC), Lost Semifinals of NEC Tournament to LIU

Players Lost:
G James Johnson –16.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.3 spg, All-NEC 2nd Team Selection
G Kevin Tarca – 6 games played
F Alex Jackson (transfer) – 1.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg
G Terrace Bobb-Jones (transfer) – 9 games played, 0.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg
G Nate Gause (transfer) – 3.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg

Incoming Recruits:
Tariq Carey, 6’2” G – St. Anthony High (NJ)
Kendrick Ray
, 6’0” PG – Middletown High (NY)
James Ford
, 6’4” G – Quality Education Academy (NC)
Shaquille Shannon, 6’3” G – Conners State Junior College (OK)

The 2011-12 season for the Quinnipiac Bobcats played out much like every other season under head coach Tom Moore. Quinnipiac once again led the NEC in rebounding, played stout defense, and found themselves with a realistic chance to capture their first ever NEC tournament title.  But as was the case for the past few years, Quinnipiac lacked the offensive firepower late in critical games to push them over the top.  To exacerbate the problem, the Bobcats will have to move on this offseason without their leading scorer and captain, James Johnson.  With this in mind, Moore recruited an impressive haul of guards, which should help temper the loss of Johnson and improve their offensive efficiency in the long run.

Perhaps the best-known recruit out of the group is 6-foot-2 guard Tariq Carey.  Carey chose Quinnipiac thanks to the persistence of Moore, despite receiving interest from Auburn, Clemson, and Boston University, just to name a few.  Carey makes his living penetrating into the lane and finishing around the rim.  The 180-pound Carey isn’t afraid of contact, although he’ll definitely need to add bulk and be a bit more cautious when facing stronger collegiate competition.  In addition, his ball control and passing skills are above average, which sets Carey up as a combo guard in year one for the Bobcats.  The outside shot is something the Carey needs to work on, but for now he could serve as a valuable contributor off the bench.  With more opportunity, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he lands in the starting lineup and on the All-NEC Rookie Team at season’s end.

Another recruit who should see meaningful minutes in the Bobcat backcourt is point guard Kendrick Ray, who committed to Quinnipiac last September.  Kendrick, the younger brother of the former Villanova standout Allen Ray, is known to facilitate and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, thanks to his excellent court vision and tight handle.  Ray can also push the ball well in transition – an attribute that should come in handy for a team that rebounds the ball exceptionally well on the defensive end.  Ray projects as the Bobcat’s future floor general, but for now, he’ll gain valuable experience as senior Dave Johnson’s back-up.

After signing Carey and Ray, Quinnipiac had filled all their available scholarships until two more opened up with the transfers of Alex Jackson and Terrace Bobb-Jones.  As a result, Moore used the opportunity to further solidify his backcourt of the future, by recently signing under-the-radar prospects James Ford and Shaquille Shannon.

Ford possesses good athleticism and can score a variety of ways, but it may be his outstanding range that’s his best skill.  Ford’s ability to drain it from downtown should help a Quinnipiac club that finished in the bottom half of the NEC in three-point percentage last season.  With James Johnson’s departure, only Zaid Hearst, Dave Johnson, and Garvey Young remain as Quinnipiac’s competent long-range shooters, therefore Ford has an opportunity to play the niche role of a reliable shooter off the bench in his freshman season.

Little is currently known about Shannon, as the only junior college recruit in the group.  What is known is Shannon (besides having an awesome name) has the potential to be lock-down defender, which is quite the asset considering the many talented wing players that reside in the NEC.  It’s unknown how much he’ll contribute right away, and with the Bobcat’s deep rotation, it may make sense if Moore redshirts Shannon for a season before donning the blue and gold.

Overall, Tom Moore has to be pleased with his latest recruiting class.  Obviously, Quinnipiac wants to compete for a Northeast Conference title now, and will, but the 2013-14 season may serve as the Bobcat’s best chance to capture that elusive championship.  By then, veterans Ike Azotam, Ousmane Drame, and Zaid Hearst supplemented with the upside of this 2012 recruiting class may have Quinnipiac fans celebrating in Hamden, some day soon.

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