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2017-18 Atlantic 10 Conference Primer

11/01/2017, 11:30am EDT
By Josh Verlin

Davidson head coach Bob McKillop (above) and the Wildcats are entering their fourth year in the Atlantic 10 Conference. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) &
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
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(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)

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Stuck somewhere in the realm between mid-major and high-major is the Atlantic 10 Conference, but no matter how you want to define the league, it’s always a fun one to watch.

The A-10 survived the most recent round of conference realignment five years back, losing Temple, Xavier and Butler but adding Virginia Commonwealth, Davidson and George Mason to maintain its status as a yearly multi-bid league which has sent at least three teams to the NCAA Tournament each of the last 10 years, with as many as six teams dancing in 2013-14.

All three teams that made it last year -- Rhode Island, VCU and Dayton -- will be in the mix to make it back this year, though two seem more likely than the third. Several others who haven’t danced for a year (or more) also look very strong based on returning pieces and new additions, and this could be a year where the A-10 sends closer to six schools than it does two or three.

Here’s a look at how we see the Atlantic 10 Conference shaping up in 2017-18:

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CoBL’s Preseason All-A10
Jaylen Adams (Sr./St. Bonaventure)
*Peyton Aldridge (Sr./Davidson)
B.J. Johnson (Sr./La Salle)
E.C. Matthews (Sr./Rhode Island)
Matt Mobley (Sr./St. Bonaventure)
Justin Tillman (Sr./Virginia Commonwealth)

* = Preseason Player of the Year

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1. Rhode Island Rams
Coach: Dan Hurley, 6th season (87-74, .540)
Last Year: 25-10 (13-5 A-10), won A-10 championship (VCU, 70-63), lost in NCAA second round (Oregon, 75-72)
Key Departures: Hassan Martin (13.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Kuran Iverson (9.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg
Key Returnees: E.C. Matthews (14.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Jared Terrell (12.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg),
Key Newcomers: Daron ‘Fatts’ Russell (Fr./ Imhotep Charter, Pa.), Ryan Preston (Jr./ Trinity Valley C.C.), Michael Tertsea (R-Fr./ John Carroll School, Md.)
Outlook: Dan Hurley took the Rams to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999 a season ago. After winning eight games in his first season and 14 games in his second year, Hurley’s teams haven’t had a losing record in the last three, winning 20-plus games twice. Rhode Island loses their top frontcourt players in Iverson and Martin, who was the A-10’s Defensive Player of the Year. Sophomore Cyril Langevine (13.2 mpg) and junior Nicola Akele (12.7 mpg), both 6-8, are the only returning members of the frontcourt with experience. Preston and Tertsea could help the Rams at that spot. Matthews and Terrell are joined in the backcourt by fellow seniors Stanford Robinson (6.4 ppg) and Jarvis Garrett (6.0 ppg) and sophomore Jeff Dowtin (5.5 ppg). The deep group should be able to carry the program’s first back-to back tournament appearance since 1998 and 1999 and keep the Rams at the top of the conference.

2. St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Coach: Mark Schmidt, 11th season (166-144, .535)
Last Year: 20-12 (11-7 A-10), lost in A-10 quarterfinals (Rhode Island, 74-63)
Key Departures: Denzel Gregg (12.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg), David Andoh (7.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Key Returnees: Jaylen Adams (20.6 ppg, 6.5 apg), Matt Mobley (18.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Idris Taggee (6.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Ndene Gueye (Jr./ Kilgore J.C., Tex.), Izaiah Brockington (Fr./ Archbishop Ryan, Pa.), Tsheifu Ngalakulondi (Fr./ Proctor Academy, N.H.)
Outlook: The Bonnies tied for first in the A-10 in 2015-16 season, but took a step back last season, dropping to fifth in the league. Like Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure has a senior-laden backcourt returning, but lacks experience in the front court. The senior duo of Adams, a two-time first team all-conference selection, and Mobley finished second and fourth, respectively, in the A-10 in scoring last season. Taggee, another senior, started 31 games last season at the guard spot. Junior Josh Ayeni (6.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg) is a 6-7 forward who averaged 17.1 minutes per game and started 23 contests. Junior LaDarien Griffin (2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) is the only other returning forward to average more than 10 minutes per contest last season. Guye averaged 14.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg and 1.3 bpg at Kilgore. The 6-10 Guye and 6-8 Ayeni are the only two players 6-8 or taller on the roster.


If Charlie Brown (above) comes back strong from a broken wrist suffered in Oct., the Hawks could make a big leap up the A-10 standings this year. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

3. Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Coach: Phil Martelli, 23rd season (414-293., 586)
Last Year: 11-19 (4-14 A-10), lost in A-10 first round (UMass, 70-63)
Key Departures:
Key Returnees: Shavar Newkirk (20.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Lamarr Kimble (15.5 ppg, 4.5 apg), James Demery (14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Charlie Brown (12.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Taylor Funk (Fr./ Manheim Central, Pa.), Anthony Longpre (Fr./ Glenelg Country, Md.)
Outlook:. The Hawks rarely had an optimal lineup in 2016-17 season. Redshirt-sophomore forward Pierfrancesco Oliva missed the entire 2016-17 campaign after knee surgery and the injuries continued to pile up after that. Demery missed 10 games early in the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. Newkirk went down with a torn ACL in the team’s 12th game. A month later Kimble was done for the season with a fractured foot. The good news for the Hawks is almost everyone should be back and healthy this season. Forwards Brendan Casper (5.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and Javon Baumann (2.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg) were the only seniors on last year’s team, so the Hawks bring back their top six leaders in scoring and minutes per game. The return of Olivia and the addition of Funk and Longpre will help the Hawks spread the floor with big shooters. In its last four seasons, St. Joe’s has two NCAA Tournament appearances and two seasons of 13-or-fewer wins. After a 2016-17 season marred by injuries, the Hawks appear back on the upswing.

4. Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Coach: Mike Rhoades, 1st season (0-0, .---)
Last Year: 26-9 (14-4 A-10), lost in A-10 championship (Rhode Island, 70-63), lost in NCAA first round (Saint Mary’s, 85-77)
Key Departures: JeQuan Lewis (15.2 ppg, 4.5 apg), Mo Allie-Cox (9.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Samir Doughty (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Doug Brooks (5.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg),
Key Returnees: Justin Tillman (12.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Jonathan Williams (8.3 ppg, 3.1 apg)
Key Newcomers: Khris Lane (R-Sr./ Longwood), Isaac Vann (R-So./ Maine), Sean Mobley (Fr./ Montverde Academy, Fla.),

Outlook: The Rams have won 24 or more games for 11 straight seasons and have seven consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Will Wade continued the success of Shaka Smart with two 25-plus win seasons and two tournament berths. Wade left for LSU this offseason and was replaced by former Smart assistant Mike Rhoades, who won 23 games at Rice in 2016-17 after two 12-win campaigns to start his tenure. Rhoades will have a challenge ahead of him this season to keep VCU near the top of the A-10. The Rams graduated four seniors who played more than 20 minutes per game and six total. In addition, Doughty transferred to Auburn. Rhoades will bring in four freshmen, two junior college transfers and two other transfers to help replace them. Lane, a 6-7 forward who started his career at Drexel, averaged 17.1 ppg and 7.3 rpg in the Big South last season. Vann, a 6-6 forward, led Maine in scoring with 16.4 ppg as a freshman in 2015-16 before sitting out due to transfer rules last season. Mobley, a 6-9 forward, was rated a four-star recruit by ESPN.

5. Davidson Wildcats
Coach: Bob McKillop, 29th season (533-328, .619)
Last Year: 17-15 (8-10 A-10), lost in A-10 semifinals (Rhode Island, 84-60)
Key Departures: Jack Gibbs (22.1 ppg, 4.1 apg)
Key Returnees: Peyton Aldridge (20.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), Will Magarity (8.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Jon Axel Gudmundsson (8.2 ppg, 3.5 apg)
Key Newcomers: Kellan Grady (Northfield Mount Hermon, Mass.)
Outlook: Bob McKillop’s program has not been able to duplicate the success of its first season in the A-10 in 2014-15, when the Wildcats went 24-8 season, won the conference regular season title and went to the NCAA Tournament. Davidson finished sixth in the league in 2015-16 and ninth last season, posting its first season with fewer than 20 wins since 2010-11. In Gibbs, the Wildcats lose a first team all-conference player and the league’s leading scorer. However, almost everyone else is back as seven of the eight players to average more than 10 minutes per game return. Aldridge, a 6-8 senior forward who can shoot the three, finished third in the league in scoring last season. Paired with Magarity, a 6-11 senior forward, the Wildcats have a strong front line. Gudmundsson, a 6-4 sophomore guard from Iceland, and Kishawn Prichett, a 6-6 sophomore guard, are the returning starters in the backcourt. Senior guard Rusty Reigel (4.7 ppg, 1.8 apg) started the team’s first 17 games before Prichett moved into a starting role. Grady, a 6-5 guard from Boston, was rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN.

6. Saint Louis Billikens
Coach: Travis Ford, 2nd season (12-21, .364)
Last Year: 12-21 (6-12 A-10), lost in A-10 second round (George Washington, 53-46)
Key Departures: Mike Crawford (10.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Reggie Agbeko (8.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Davell Roby (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Jermaine Bishop (11.6 ppg, 4.7 apg), Elliott Welmer (7.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Javon Bess (RS-Jr./Michigan State), D.J. Foreman (RS-Jr./Rutgers), Adonys Henriquez (RS-Jr./Central Florida), Hasahn French (Fr./Commonwealth Academy, Mass.)
Outlook: When Ford came in last season, at the end of an eight-year run at Oklahoma State that saw him make the tournament five times but ended with a 12-win season in 2015-16, he brought in several transfers who sat last year out as the Billikens finished 11th in the 14-team league. But now the 6-6 Bess, 6-8 Foreman and 6-8 Henriquez are all ready to jump in and contribute, while former Boston College point guard Ty Graves will be eligible at the conclusion of the first semester in mid-December. Those four, along with French -- a muscular 6-7 combo forward and Top 100 recruit according to ESPN -- will provide a big boost to the depth and ability level of a SLU program which has won just 34 games over the last three years following three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under first Rick Majerus and then Jim Crews. Throw in the 6-9 Welmer, and Ford has one of the bigger and deeper frontcourts in the Atlantic 10, an asset he’s sure to take advantage of.

7. Dayton Flyers
Coach: Anthony Grant, 1st season (0-0, .---)
Last Year: 24-8 (15-3 A-10), lost in A-10 quarterfinals (Davidson, 73-67), lost in NCAA first round (Wichita State, 64-58)
Key Departures: Charles Cooke (15.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Kendall Pollard (14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Scoochie Smith (13.8 ppg, 4.5 apg), Kyle Davis (8.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Xeyrius Williams (8.2 ppg. 4.8 rpg), Ryan Mikesell (5.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Darrell Davis (5.5 ppg, 1.2 apg)
Key Newcomers: Kostas Antetokounmpo (R-Fr./ Dominican, Wis.)

Outlook:  After tying for the conference regular season crown in 2015-16, the Flyers were the league’s outright regular season champs last season. Archie Miller turned the program into one of the best in the conference during his six-year tenure. In Miller’s last four seasons, the team made four straight NCAA titles and finished second or better in the A-10 three times. Miller left for Indiana this offseason, and Dayton hired former VCU and Alabama coach Anthony Grant, a Flyer alum, to replace him. Grant is tasked with replacing four of the team’s top five scorers from a season ago. Davis, a 6-5 guard, will be the only senior in the rotation. He and junior forwards Williams and Mikesell all started at times last year. Redshirt-junior forward Josh Cunningham (6.3 ppg) and junior guard John Crosby (2.8 ppg) are the others returning with significant experience. Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, redshirted last season after he was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA. Coming out of high school, the 6-10 forward was rated a Top 100 prospect by Rivals.com and Scout.com.


Amar Stukes (above) and La Salle have finished in the middle of the A-10 pack the last few years. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

8. La Salle Explorers
Coach: John Giannini, 14th season (199-207, .490)
Last Year: 15-15 (9-9 A-10), lost in A-10 second round (Davidson, 82-73)
Key Departures: Jordan Price (15.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Cleon Roberts (7.0 ppg), Demetrius Henry (5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
Key Returnees: B.J. Johnson (17.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Pookie Powell (13.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), Amar Stukes (8.1 ppg, 4.3 apg)
Key Newcomers: Miles Brookins (Fr./Mater Dei, Cali.), Cian Sullivan (RS-Fr./St. Andrew’s Prep, R.I.)
Outlook: Ever since the Sweet 16 run back in 2013, the Explorers haven’t been able to make any real noise in the league, finishing in the middle of the pack each time save for a nine-win season in 2015-16. It was more of the same last year: a few good wins (Davidson, @ Rhode Island), some bad losses (@ UMass, @ Saint Louis), and not enough opportunities seized to do anything of significance. They do graduate a solid amount of production in Price, Roberts and Henry (who left a year early to turn pro), but there are the pieces there to make up for that in the 6-7 Johnson, 6-2 Powell, 6-3 Stukes and 6-10 Tony Washington, who averaged 7.7 ppg and 7.4 rpg as a redshirt sophomore in 2015-16 but just 5.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg as mostly a reserve behind Henry last year (30 games, 12 starts). A lot will hinge on the play of two sophomore wings, 6-5 Isiah Deas and 6-4 Saul Phiri, who both saw spare time as freshman.

9. Richmond Spiders
Coach: Chris Mooney, 13th season (225-175, .563)
Last Year: 22-13 (13-5 A-10), lost in A-10 semifinals (VCU, 87-77 OT), lost in NIT quarterfinals (TCU, 86-68)
Key Departures: T.J. Cline (18.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 5.6 apg), ShawnDre’ Jones (16.8 ppg, 3.9 apg)
Key Returnees: Khwan Forte (11.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), De’Monte Buckingham (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Nick Sherod (7.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Solly Stansbury (R-Jr. /Paris Levallois), Grant Golden (R-Fr./ St. James School, Va.), Jordan Madrid-Andrews (Grad / Chicago State)
Outlook: The Spiders have been closer to the middle of the pack in the conference than the top in the six seasons since their Sweet 16 appearance in 2011. Last season’s third place finish in the league was the Spiders’ best since that 2010-11 campaign, but Cline, the Atlantic-10 Conference Player of the Year, is gone along with Jones, the team’s second leading scorer. They take with them more than 47 percent of the team’s scoring. Junior guards Forte and Julius Johnson and sophomore guards Buckingham and Sherod all averaged more than 20 minutes per game. No one else on the current roster saw time double-digit minutes. With the departure of Kline and Marshall Wood, a 6-8 forward, the Spiders have very little experience at forward. Golden, a 6-10 forward, played in nine games last season before redshirting due to a procedure for a heart condition. Redshirt-junior forward Paul Friendshuh played in just nine games as well last season. Madrid-Andrews averaged 3.8 ppg and 3.6 rpg at Chicago State in 2015-16 before injuries suffered in a car accident forced him to miss last season. Stansbury played in France for three seasons but has no NCAA experience.

10. George Mason Patriots
Coach: Dave Paulsen, 3rd season (31-35, .470)
Last Year: 20-14 (9-9 A-10), lost in A-10 quarterfinals (VCU, 71-60), lost in CBI first round (Loyola Md., 73-58)
Key Departures: Marquise Moore (16.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg), Jalen Jenkins (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg),
Key Returnees: Otis Livingston II (14.3 ppg, 3.0 apg), Jaire Grayer (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Key Newcomers: A.J. Wilson (RS-Fr./Elev8 Prep, Fla.)
Outlook: This is a very young Patriots squad. The only senior on the roster is walk-on Nick DiClementi, and the only two juniors on the team are the 6-5 Grayer and 5-11 Livingston, a North Jersey grad who’s gone from barely-recruited prospect to one of the best guards in the Atlantic 10, entering his junior year just 132 points from 1,000. After that are four sophomores (two redshirt) and six freshmen (two redshirt) which make up the majority of the roster, but there’s some real talent in the mix. They’re going to have to find a way to replace one of the league’s best all-around players in Moore, a 6-2 guard who nonetheless averaged a double-double, finishing his Mason career with 1,270 points and 694 rebounds. Keep an eye out for two true 6-4 sophomores who both played plenty as freshmen, Ian Boyd (5.9 ppg) and Justin Kier (5.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

11. Massachusetts Minutemen
Coach: Matt McCall, 1st season (0-0, .---)
Last Year: 15-18 (4-14 A-10), lost in A-10 second round (St. Bonaventure, 73-60)
Key Departures: Donte Clark (12.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Dejon Jarreau (9.8 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Key Returnees: Rashaan Holloway (10.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Luwane Pipkins (10.2 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Jaylen Brantley (Gr./Maryland), Unique McLean (RS-Fr./MacDuffie School)
Outlook: Despite the presence of some exciting youth on the roster last year, the UMass administration decided it had reached the end of the rope with previous head coach Derek Kellogg, letting him go after nine seasons that included three 20-win seasons (2011-14) and one NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014. In comes McCall, a 35-year-old who won 48 games in two seasons at Chattanooga in his only other D-I head coaching gig; prior to that, he was an assistant at Florida for two years. Gone with Kellogg is the majority of a highly-regarded freshman class from a year ago including Jarreau and Brison Gresham, but McCall kept around the bouncy 6-3 McLean, who redshirted his first year on campus. In the middle they’ve got 6-11, 310-pound big man Holloway, a Schalick (N.J.) grad and redshirt junior who put up those numbers in just 19 minutes per game; if he can limit his fouls and stay on the court, he’s one of the best bigs in the league.

12. George Washington Colonials
Coach: Maurice Joseph, 2nd season (20-15, .571)
Last Year: 20-15 (10-8 A-10), lost in A-10 quarterfinals (Richmond, 70-67), lost in CBI quarterfinals (Illinois-Chicago, 80-71)
Key Departures: Tyler Cavanaugh (18.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Jaren Sina (9.0 ppg, 3.3 apg), Jordan Roland (6.7 ppg)
Key Returnees: Yuta Watanabe (12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Jair Bolden (4.8 ppg, 1.9 apg)
Key Newcomers: Bo Ziegler (Gr./South Florida)
Outlook: Joseph did a terrific job last year in tough circumstances, taking over after former head coach Mike Lonergan was fired in September after allegations of verbal abuse; the now 32-year-old Joseph, formerly an assistant coach, was elevated to head coach and guided the Colonials to a 20-win season, earning him the job full-time. But now he’s got his work cut out for him, as GW returns just one of its top six scorers in Watanabe, a versatile 6-9 senior from Japan. The graduation of Cavanaugh, a 6-9 forward and Wake Forest transfer, was expected; Sina leaving a year early to turn pro, as well as the transfers of 6-10 sophomore Collin Smith (UCF) and Jordan Roland (Northeastern), were not. The addition of the 6-6 Ziegler from South Florida helps a bit, though he averaged only 4.7 ppg and 3.5 rpg at USF last year. They’ll need sophomores like the 6-3 Bolden and 6-8 Arnaldo Toro to make leaps forward in production, but have a lot of depth to develop.

13. Fordham Rams
Coach: Jeff Neubauer, 3rd season (30-33, .476)
Last Year: 13-19 (7-11 A-10), lost in A-10 second round (George Mason, 82-71)
Key Departures: Antwoine Anderson (11.1 ppg, 3.2 apg), Javontae Hawkins (14.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Christian Sengfelder (12.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Key Returnees: Joseph Chartouny (12.1 ppg, 5.0 apg)
Key Newcomers: N/A
Outlook: Neubauer wasn’t expecting to lose much last year, as Hawkins was the only senior in the rotation, but then was hurt this offseason by the grad transfers of Anderson (to UConn) and Sengfelder (to Boise State) leaving him without three of the only four players on the team who averaged more than 5.9 ppg last season. Saint Peter’s transfer Antwon Portley and DePaul transfer Erten Gazi both came in this offseason, but they’ll only be able to help as practice players this year. The Rams will need several previous role players to take big steps up this season; keep an eye out for 6-10 junior Prokop Slanina (6.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and 6-8 sophomore Chuba Ohams (1.9 ppg) in the frontcourt, while 6-6 senior Will Tavares could see a lot more shots coming his way after averaging 5.6 ppg in 31 games (nine starts) a year ago. The offense was a struggle last year, and we’re not sure where it comes from this season.

14. Duquesne Dukes
Coach: Keith Dambrot, 1st season (0-0, .---)
Last Year: 10-22 (3-15 A-10), lost in A-10 first round (Saint Louis, 72-71)
Key Departures: Emile Blackman (12.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Isiaha Mike (11.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Mike Lewis II (14.1 ppg), Tarin Smith (8.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg)
Key Newcomers: Tydus Verhoeven (Fr./Manteca, Cali.), Eric Williams Jr. (Fr./New Haven, Mich.)
Outlook: Since Duquesne’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, in 1977, the Dukes have gone through eight head coaches, none of whom lasted longer than seven years, and none of whom were able to sustain any momentum at the Pittsburgh institution. Next up in an attempt to break the cold spell is Dambrot, who coached LeBron James for two years at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s (Ohio) and eventually became the head coach at Akron, where he went 305-139 (.687), winning 20-plus games in each of the last dozen years while making three NCAA Tournament appearances along the way. He’s brought in five transfers, including Missouri’s Frankie Hughes and Akron’s Tavian Dunn-Martin, who will all be able to play next year. But at the moment there’s not a ton to get excited about with a team that lost 14 of its final 15 games last year and has to replace its second and third-leading scorers.


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