Chaz Williams, Briante Weber, Dwyane Evans, Tyreek Duren and Cedrick Lindsay. All names Atlantic 10 fans know. However, it takes a complete team to cut down in the nets in Brooklyn and often times, the other guys are the difference in tight games. Below, we hope to introduce A10 hoop heads to some players they may have heard of, but don’t truly know on a first name basis just yet. These players range in class years and also from those who are making significant impacts right now, to players who are just beginning to earn solid minutes.
Maxie Esho, UMass – Not a pint sized scoring machine like Chaz Williams or a super-long bouncy athlete like Raphiael Putney, but Esho has had a huge impact on UMass’ hot streak and top 25 ranking. A junior, Esho has steadily increased his contributions each year. A 43% shooter a year ago, Esho is shooting it at over 59% from the field this year and is yet to attempt a three pointer. Needless to say, Esho has thrived in the UMass offense and has made a living finishing in transition and taking high percentage shots. Every great team needs a deep bench and Esho could come off that bench and deliver a knock-out punch to an opposing team come tournament time.
Melvin Johnson, Virginia Commonwealth - With VCU, it’s usually all about Havoc, Briante Weber, Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham, Rob Brandenberg, and their head coach Shaka Smart. So it’s probably not a stretch to say that casual A10 fans don’t know a lot about Johnson (10.5 ppg, 40% from three) a 6-foot-3 sophomore from the Bronx. A top 100 recruit, Smart brought in Johnson to replace the shooting production lost with the graduation of Troy Daniels. So far, Johnson has not disappointed. He’s producing points in his 21 minutes of work a night, and has been consistent shooting the ball all year– save a three game stretch in December. His real coming out party was a 27 point 8-11 three point shooting effort he put on against Virginia Tech.
Austin McBroom, Saint Louis – A sophomore transfer from Central Michigan, McBroom (5-9) is one of the few under six foot guards in the league. McBroom (9.1 points, 42% from three) has seen steady minutes from day one at SLU, handlinga share of the point guard duties and providing Jim Crews with a capable three point shooter; something some college basketball minds feel the Billikens may lack. Heading into their contest against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night, McBroom had made 10 of his last 17 three point attempts, and has connected on at least two long balls in each of the last six games for the Billikens. Look for him to make a major impact in March for the ‘Bills.
Hassan Martin, Rhode Island - A top 150 recruit, Martin is starting to pick up minutes as the season rolls along for Danny Hurley’s club. Martin has only scored in double figures twice this year, but has made his impact on the defensive end of the floor where he has recorded 35 blocks in 334 minutes, good for an average of one block every 9.5 minutes. To put that into perspective, A10 shot-blocking leader Cady Lalanne of UMass blocks a shot every 12.2 minutes. Martin has work to do on the offensive end, but the talent is obvious and with increasing floor time and tutelage under Hurley, Martin could blossom into one of the best forwards in the league. Hassan recently posted his best game at George Washington registering 16 points and 10 rebounds, his first double-double.
DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s – Everyone knows about Jon Severe over at Fordham, but Bembry may be the most complete freshman in the league. The jewel of Phil Martelli’s recruiting class, Bembry is a 6-6 forward whose already shown a polished game on both sides of the ball (11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 34% from three). Along with Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts, Jr., Bembry helps form one of the best crews of forwards in the conference. Also a plus, Bembry has shown no signs of slowing up in league play, scoring 16 points against UMass and 17 against George Mason.
Dion Wright, St. Bonaventure – He may be the second best “Wright” on the Bonnies, but Dion has quietly become of the most improved players in the league. A 6-7 wing in a similar mold as former Bonnie Demetirius Conger, Wright has shown a knack for finding the ball on the offensive end. His 8.9 points a game in just 22 minutes per contest proves his ability to make an instant impact. Adept at scoring inside via creative post moves with both hands, Wright has also been a terrific rebounder (4.8) off the bench for Mark Schmidt’s club. While he isn’t in the starting rotation yet, he will be for the next two years for the Brown and White. Wright chipped in 16 points and five boards off the bench last night against 24th ranked Saint Louis.
Kevin Larsen, George Washington – One of four impact sophomores currently lacing them up down in D.C, Larsen has become a force on the interior for the Colonials. A more physical player than senior Isiah Armwood, Larsen is putting up nearly the same numbers as a year ago aside from an increase in minutes (28.9) and points (10.5). The Denmark native has quietly become one of the most productive big man in the conference and has largely flown under the radar due to the success of Armwood and transfer Maurice Creek. Larsen could average double digits for four consecutive years which is no small feat. If the big man can improve his free throw shooting (66%) he will garner more attention.
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