CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
Who’s ready for some college hoops?
Okay, the start of the 2023-24 season — CoBL’s 11th of coverage, and our first as partners with the Philadelphia Inquirer — is still six weeks away. But the first day where Division I programs can officially start their preseason regimen is always when we put our preseason awards, starting with the Big 5 men and women.
The offseason was one of significant turnover for the six teams in the Big 5; half of last year’s all-city first team is gone, and eight of our postseason honorees in total have either graduated or transferred. But as the transfer portal taketh, the transfer portal giveth, and there’s some impressive new talent in town, including a few names below.
Without further ado, our picks for our Big 5 men’s preseason awards:
2023-24 Big 5 MBB Preseason Player of the Year
Erik Reynolds II (Jr. | Saint Joseph’s)
St. Joe's junior Erik Reynolds is the CoBL Big 5 Preseason Player of the Year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
Reynolds’ career thus far is shaping up to be one of the great ones on Hawk Hill: through two years, the Bullis School (Md.) product has already surpassed the 1,000-point mark (16.0 ppg), started 62 out of the 63 contests he’s played in, earned A-10 All-Freshman and All-Conference Second Team honors, tied for the team record in 3-pointers made in one season (99). The 6-2 guard put up big numbers as a sophomore: 19.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists on .430/.379/.885 shooting splits, making the leap from “impressive freshman” to “collegiate star” in one offseason.
What’s missing from Reynolds’ resume thus far is team success: the Hawks went 16-17 (8-10 A-10) a year ago, a step up from the previous, but not nearly to the level that the program’s seen in the past. If Reynolds can be the catalyst for St. Joe’s return to prominence — or at least the top four of the Atlantic 10 and in the mix for a berth in March Madness — he’s the most likely to be Player of the Year by year’s end. But this isn’t likely to be a runaway.
Preseason All-Big 5 First Team
T.J. Bamba (Sr. | Villanova)
The Wildcats added a ton of talent and experience this offseason as Kyle Neptune has eyes on bringing ‘Nova right back to the top of the Big East. Bamba, a 6-5 wing from the Bronx (though he went to high school in Colorado), comes to the Main Line after three years at Washington State; he averaged 15.8 ppg and 3.7 rpg last year on .426/.372/.730 splits, and has two years of eligibility remaining if he wants to use them.
St. Joe's guard Cameron Brown has 100 career starts under his belt with a season still to go. (Photo: Gavin Bethell/CoBL File)
Cameron Brown (Gr. | Saint Joseph’s)
Brown has been a stalwart of the SJU rotation for four years, playing in 112 games (100 starts) in a Hawks’ uniform, compiling 1,161 points (10.4/game) along the way. The versatile 6-5 wing from Maryland had his best individual season thus far as a senior, averaging 13.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 1.7 apg on .408/.360/.671 splits while making 81 triples, going for a season-high 25 points on three separate occasions with four double-doubles.
Eric Dixon (R-Sr. | Villanova)
Dixon has put together a nice career progression in his four years at ‘Nova, the former Abington forward going from a redshirt year (2019-20) to all-Big East as a redshirt junior, averaging 15.4 ppg and 6.6 rpg while shooting 49.2% overall and 37.8% from the 3-point arc (42-of-11). The ‘Cats are deeper this year, but Dixon should still be one of their featured pieces and an inside/outside force with plenty of collegiate experience (93 games, 72 starts).
Justin Moore (Gr. | Villanova)
Moore made his way back from a late ‘22 Achilles tear to play in 13 games down the stretch for ‘Nova in ‘23, averaging 13.5 ppg and 3.5 rpg on .420/.341/.762 splits. The 6-4 guard from DeMatha, who averaged 14.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg in 2021-22 before his injury, averaged 16.5 ppg and shot 45.9% from 3-point range over the final six games of last season, perhaps a sign of what’s to come now that he’s fully recovered.
Amari Williams (Sr. | Drexel)
In two seasons, Williams went from a little-used freshman forward to one of the best bigs in the CAA. The muscular 6-10 post from England averaged 13.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 2.2 bpg as a junior, hitting 52.3% of his shots, and did that all in just under 28 minutes per game. He’ll be the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, of the Dragons’ plans once again — and can come back in 2024-25 if he wants to.
Preseason All-Big 5 Second Team
Mark Armstrong (Soph. | Villanova)
A little bit of a projection here, as the 6-2 point guard’s freshman year stats (5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg) only hint at his potential; as Nova’s full-time starter, he should be in for a major jump in Year Two.
La Salle guard Khalil Brantley averaged 14.3 ppg last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
Khalil Brantley (Jr. | La Salle)
The talented 6-1 lead guard from the Bronx took a nice jump from freshman to sophomore year, averaging 14.3 ppg/4.8 rpg/4.1 apg while improving all his shooting numbers; with 689 career points, he should pass 1,000 this year.
Tyler Burton (Gr. | Villanova)
It’s fully possible Burton earns a spot on the Big 5 First Team at the end of the year, as the Richmond transfer put up big numbers (19.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg) last season; he needs to shoot the 36.5% from deep he did from 2020-22 and not the 29.3% he did last year.
Lynn Greer III (Jr. | Saint Joseph’s)
Greer’s first year in the city proved to be a success, the son of the Temple legend averaging 12.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 4.1 apg on .414/.33/.714 splits, though he needs to significantly cut down on his turnovers (3.5/game).
Hysier Miller (Jr. | Temple)
Miller moved into the Owls’ starting lineup a year ago, the Neumann-Goretti product averaging 8.6 ppg, 3.8 apg and 3.1 rpg. Now he’s one of the most experienced players left for new head coach Adam Fisher, expected to carry a big load.
Clark Slajchert (Sr. | Penn)
In his first two years of college hoops — Slajchert’s freshman year was called off due to COVID — the 6-0 guard from California has averaged 12.2 ppg, including 13.6 ppg and 3.0 rpg last year on .440/.345/.875 splits.
Jhamir Brickus (Sr. | La Salle), Hakim Hart (Gr. | Villanova), Luke House (Sr. | Drexel), Justin Moore (Soph. | Drexel), Lamar Oden Jr. (Sr. | Drexel), Nick Spinoso (Jr. | Penn)
Villanova sophomore guard Mark Armstrong is poised for a strong season after averaging 5.3 ppg as a freshman. (Photo: Gavin Bethell/CoBL File)
Preseason Big 5 MBB Breakthrough Player
Mark Armstrong (Soph. | Villanova)
Last year, there were certainly flashes of the guard Armstrong could be: seven of his eight double-figure games were against high-major opponents, the 6-2 lead guard from St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) showing off a tantalizing mix of shot and play-making, scoring at all three levels, averaging 5.3 ppg and 2.0 rpg in just under 20 minutes, starting seven of the 34 games he played in. Now likely to be the Wildcats’ full-time starter on the ball alongside Justin Moore, Armstrong’s in line to show why he’s being counted on as the next big-time ‘Nova guard.
Rasheer Fleming (Soph. | St. Joe’s)
Rokas Jocius (Soph. | La Salle)
Hysier Miller (Soph. | Temple)
Justin Moore (Soph. | Drexel)
Cam Thrower (Soph. | Penn)
Preseason Big 5 MBB Rookie of the Year
Tyler Perkins (Penn)
It seems like the Quakers have found their next guard to build the program around, as buzz is high on Perkins as the 6-4 guard comes to West Philly. A graduate of the Landon School (Md.), Perkins was the IAC Player of the Year and then was named MVP of the Capital Classic All-Star Game, scoring 23 points in 14 minutes; that’s no surprise for a player who had multiple 40-point outings as a senior. Perkins is in line to come in and start for a Penn team that’s unexpectedly without Jordan Dingle (St. John’s) and Max Martz (medical retirement), and they could use a scoring punch on the wing.
Sam Brown (Penn)
Xzayvier Brown (St. Joe’s)
Christ Essandoko (St. Joe’s)
Tunde Vahlberg Fasasi (La Salle)
Zion Stanford (Temple)