Here are 10 guys (one from each team) to be curious about for the coming season.
They are not necessarily the best player, they are not necessarily the most compelling player, they are not necessarily even guys that are projected to have large roles; they’re simply guys to keep an eye on.
UAA: Guard, Travis Thompson. He averaged 21 points last year as a junior and considering the Seawolves leading minutes recipient and leading rebounder respectively are both now gone, Travis will be expected to take on an even heavier load. We’ll see what he does; bonus is that he’s a local kid, which is always good to see.
UAF: Guard, Joe Slocum. He averaged 10 points while playing 33 minutes a game, on a five man scoring front, and UAF returns almost no one with the exception of Joe. Five different guys last year made up a vast bulk of their scoring, rebounding, and minutes, so they’re gonna be hoping Joe steps up and steps up big. Dude’s a gamer, so perhaps this is where he breaks free.
SFU: Guard, Sango Niang. It’s not really a question, but this team is highly questionable. He averaged 16 points, but SFU lost a lot of seniors and other people. It’ll be curious to see if he can work with his teammates and help drag them out of the basement.
WWU: Is this really a question, or is there only one answer? No and yes. Small forward, Anye Turner. Whether you love him or can’t stand him, he’s gonna be the guy to watch on the WWU team. He averaged 26 minutes and 8.5 points, but… c’mon, he’s a senior and it’s ANYE! That’s pronounced “On-yay” for those that have not been blessed to witness his antics in person.
SPU: NO. Don’t even think it. And if you bring up his uncle ONE MORE TIME just no. Because you’re not gonna read that name -Center, Cory Hutsen is the player I’m curious about on the SPU team. He’s a 5th year senior that’s been passable and really pathetic at times, but he stepped up big in the Stanislaus game, so… can he be a consistent force rather than just a foul machine? We’ll see. Dark horse pick on this team for player to watch goes to Brendan Carroll.
MSUB: Center, Austin Hudson. Yes he’s listed as a forward… he’s the biggest guy on the team and a force in the paint all the same. The only returning starter, he averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds… could he get up to a double-double this year? Nothing would be happier than that. Because at 6’7 and likely around 260lbs… he’s gonna be banging, so it’ll likely be a matter of him making almost every put back.
CWU: Grab bag. I’m going to go with forward, Julian Vaughn because he averaged the most rebounds of any returner (not that it says anything). They lost pretty much all of their people, so… hopefully both Julian and guard Jalen Peake step up because they’re pretty much the entirety of GNAC experience that the team has. If Jalen does really step up, it could say great things; he’s only a sophomore, and program sustained growth is everything.
SMU: Guard, Riley Carel. Just, Riley Carel. This is part bias and part the fact that he is the best returning piece on that team and that SMU did quite differently when he was able to play vs. when he wasn’t.
WOU: Forward, Andy Avgi. He’s actually not the player I’m most curious about, but he is their leading returning rebounder so… rebounding over came the urge for bias. Sorry Lewis Thomas.
NNU: Guard/Forward, Greyson Moore. Michael Loomis is another tempting pick, but Greyson has substantially better rebounding numbers. They return quite a bit, have gotten some very interesting transfers, but… we’ll see if any of them have an impact. Greyson should be a good guy to watch.
That largely just looks like a list of the best returning rebounders and while it wasn’t intentional, it’s impossible to say that there’s no merit behind it. Rebounding is absolutely huge because when it comes down to it: rebounding is a huge part of how you win the turnover battle, and is consistent aggression and commitment as opposed to spurts of it in the case of steals.
SPU, WWU, and WOU are the teams I’m most curious about overall, but a huge chunk of that is the fact that two of them return rosters that are easily recognizable and the other is WWU. The amount of turnover the GNAC experienced this past year (partly due to graduation, partly due to other things) is sizable and so purely going off of that, there’s good potential for another down season. However, never underestimate the power of transfers that can come in and play right away. It happens frequently and it can change an outlook almost overnight.
There was some thought that Team Season Previews would come out prior to non-conference play starting, but because it looks like as a conference we’re relying so heavily on transfer impact players… they’re likely not going to show up until late-November, simply to try to avoid some of the overlook factor.