CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2018-19 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 6. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)
The countdown is on to the start of the 2018-19 college basketball season, with less than six weeks of practices remaining until the country’s 350-plus Division I programs take the court for meaningful action for the first time since April.
This week, we’ll be going through the City 6 from a number of lenses, taking a look at some big-picture storylines before we go through each program in detail over the next couple of weeks.
Six Position Battles to Watch
Four of the Drexel starting spots seem pretty cut-and-dry, even this far out in the preseason. Junior guard Kurk Lee Jr. has started each of the last two seasons at point guard. Troy Harper is a returning double-digit scorer who started 10 games a year ago and seems a lock to move into the starting lineup full-time as a senior. I’d be shocked if Zach Walton doesn’t end up starting at small forward, as the 6-6 JUCO transfer provides some much-needed scoring and shooting ability on the wing, and last year’s JUCO surprise, Alihan Demir, will certainly start at the ‘4’ spot after averaging over 10 points and five rebounds in his first season of D-I ball.
It’s the other frontcourt spot that’s seemingly wide open heading into the fall, with three potential options to start alongside Demir, though really only two of whom qualify as centers -- sophomore Tadas Kararinas and redshirt freshman Timmy Perry Jr. Kararinas, a 6-10 forward out of Lithuania, played for his country in the U-20 FIBA European Championships this summer, with quite similar numbers to the 1.4 ppg and 0.8 ppg numbers he put up as a freshman at DU, where he showed he can stretch the floor but also has work to do in terms of his physicality and athleticism. Perry Jr., son of the former Temple star, has come a long way since he graduated Cherry Hill East in 2016, first doing a prep year at the Phelps School and then redshirting last year to focus on development, and the 6-9 forward is a physical presence on the post who also should be the best rim-protector on the team. While sophomore Jarvis Doles is another 6-8 forward, he likely slots behind Demir at the ‘4’ spot after averaging 3.3 ppg and 2.1 rpg as a freshman, but they could see some time together in a more offensive-minded lineup.
St. Joe's Prep product Ed Croswell (above) is one of three young forwards on La Salle's roster. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
La Salle: Power Forward
There’s plenty of depth in the Explorers’ backcourt, with the addition of grad transfer Cheddi Mosely as well as Marquette transfer Traci Carter coming off his NCAA-mandated transfer year, but up front, the Explorers have a quartet of largely-unproven forwards to man the paint. Assuming they’ll go four-out most of the time, like head coach Ashley Howard is used to from his Villanova days -- and as the general direction of the game has shifted towards -- that means the Explorers need at least one of the four to seize the opportunity, though they’d like to believe they’ll have a few capable backups as well.
Coming out of powerhouse Mater Dei (Cali.) a year ago, Miles Brookins averaged 3.8 ppg and 1.9 rpg in 29 games last year (one start), making 59.7 percent of his field goal attempts. A muscular 6-9 forward who got most of his production right around the rim, Brookins scored in double figures three times with a career-high of 13 points in a late-season loss to Rhode Island, and played 15-or-more minutes on 11 separate occasions. Then there are the two freshmen, Ed Croswell out of St. Joe’s Prep (Pa.) and Jared Kimbrough from Neptune (N.J.). Kimbrough, at 6-8, has an inch on Croswell, and has a longer wingspan, but Croswell is the more polished offensive player, with a number of moves that make him a scoring threat from anywhere within 15 feet, and he’s got the more collegiate-ready body as well. Finally, there’s 7-2 Irish center Cian Sullivan, who played a total of 22 minutes as a redshirt freshman last year, and is still very much a developmental project.
Penn: Point Guard
Back from the Quakers’ Ivy League championship team a year ago is sharpshooter Ryan Betley, the team’s leading scorer (14.3). Back is the starting frontcourt of A.J. Brodeur (13.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Max Rothschild (7.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg), plus senior guard Antonio Woods (7.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg). Those four started a combined 129 out of 132 games, all but Brodeur coming off the bench for Senior Day a year ago. The one name missing from that group? Darnell Foreman, the now-graduated point guard and one of three captains a year ago, the Pitman (N.J.) product recruited almost as an afterthought by former coach Jerome Allen who ended up becoming the hero of the Quakers’ Ivy championship win over Harvard in March. Foreman averaged 10.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 3.5 apg as a senior, and he started 76 of his 117 games in four years. And while Foreman’s on-court production is one thing to replace, his leadership qualities are something else entirely; that could be Penn’s biggest hole to fill all year long.
The Quakers had a plan in place for Foreman’s replacement, but Jelani Williams hasn’t been able to stay healthy. The 6-3 Sidwell Friends (Md.) product tore his left ACL in his senior year of high school and his right ACL this summer, meaning he’ll spend his first two years in college without playing a minute. With him down, that leaves Woods, fellow senior Jake Silpe and junior point guard Devon Goodman as the team’s experienced ball-handlers, with freshman Bryce Washington also more of a ‘1’ than anything else. Based on comments from Donahue in early October, he’s leaning at the moment towards Goodman, a 5-11 speedster out of Germantown Academy who’s played in 49 games with three starts in his first two years, averaging 4.1 ppg and 1.6 apg thus far; if Goodman can improve upon his career 3-point shooting percentage (24.7 percent), he’s got a chance to hold the spot down. But Silpe, who picked Penn from over a dozen D-I offers coming out of Cherry Hill East, started 19 games as a freshman and had a little bit of a revival as a junior after only playing in 15 games as a sophomore, getting into the rotation for the final 16 games a year ago and playing double-digit minutes in several.
Saint Joseph’s: Starting Guard
For a team that graduated both of its top two scorers, the Hawks don’t look like a group with a lot of holes. Guard Shavar Newkirk (17.4 ppg) and forward James Demery (16.9 ppg) will certainly be missed, but some returns from injury and new additions make for a roster with a lot of depth. Redshirt-junior guard Lamarr Kimble was poised to be one of the Hawks’ lead guards last season before a left foot injury sidelined him after just one game. He should take over the reins of the St. Joe’s offense once again. Redshirt-sophomore forward Charlie Brown Jr., an All-Atlantic 10 rookie team performer in 2016-17,returns to the lineup after a fractured left wrist cost him his 2017-18 campaign. Joining Brown in the frontcourt are sharpshooters Taylor Funk and Anthony Longpre’ and point-forward Pierfrancesco Oliva. That leaves the second guard spot as the position with the biggest question mark for St. Joe’s.
Chris Clover (8.2 ppg) started 28 games for St. Joe’s last season. At 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, Clover is very physical presence. Clover is a bit of a swiss army knife, doing a lot of little things for the Hawks, which makes him easy to fit with a lot of different lineups. He’s not a huge threat from outside (28.6 3-point percentage) but the Hawks’ shooting up front makes that less of an issue. South Florida transfer Troy Holston Jr. and incoming freshman Jared Bynum should be the ones competing with Clover for minutes. Bynum is a quick defender and a three-level scorer at the point guard spot. At 5-10, the Georgetown Prep product is a much smaller guard than Clover, which could make it hard for him to defend the ‘2’. Holston missed last season while recovering from a torn meniscus. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 9.7 ppg for South Florida in 2016-17 and led the team with 54 3-point shots, shooting 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. He also led the Bulls with 171 field goal attempts. Bynum’s development will play the largest role in how these minutes are divided. Nick Robinson’s transfer to Valparaiso this summer opens playing time that might not have otherwise been there.
Dre Perry (above) is one of two sophomore wing forwards battling it out for the Owls' starting '4' spot. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Temple: Wing forward
The Owls return three starters and eight of the 10 players who averaged more than 10 minutes per game last season. While guard Josh Brown will be missed, the departure of stretch forward Obi Enechionyia will be harder to replace. Temple has Shizz Alston locked in at point guard, Ernest Aflakpui slated as the team’s top forward, Quinton Rose returning on the wing and Alani Moore and Nate Pierre-Louis likely sharing minutes at the othe guard spot. That leaves Enechionyia’s spot up for grabs.
Enechionyia, now playing in Spain, was a three-year starter for the Owls and a significant part of their rotation all four years. He shot better than 36 percent from the floor and averaged double figures in each of his last three seasons. The Owls don’t have anyone off the roster to just plug into Enechionyia’s spot and immediately expect the same production. The position will likely go to one of two sophomores, De’Vondre Perry or J.P. Moorman. Perry is a physically gifted wing at 6-foot-6. He plays with a high motor and has the physical gifts to be a lockdown defender for the Owls. On the offensive end he gets most of his points near the bucket, as he shot just 28 percent from 3-point range a year ago. The 6-foot-7 Moorman would provide more of a scoring presence if inserted into the Owls’ lineup. He averaged just 3.8 points in 11.9 minutes per game, but he reached double figures in three of his last 10 games. Moorman shot 13-of-39 (.333) from 3-point range a season ago and should help Temple stretch the floor without Enechionyia. Coach Fran Dunphy used Perry and Moorman differently from game-to-game last season. He could do the same this year, choosing the starter based on the matchup. With a talented group of guards, it would also be interesting to see if Dunphy uses lineups with Rose at the '4' and lets the Owls get out and run.
Villanova: Point Guard
‘Nova has rightfully developed a reputation as Guard U under Jay Wright, from the backcourt of Ray, Foye, Lowry and Nardi to the likes of Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson and more of late. The last five years have featured the play of two of the best point guards in program history in Arcidiacono and Brunson, who’ve both set the tone on the court and in the locker room; it’s no coincidence that the Golden Age of Wildcats basketball started with Arch’s arrival on campus in 2012, and Brunson kept it rolling the two seasons after the former’s graduation. Now Brunson has joined Arcidiacono -- and Hilliard, and Lowry, and Hart, and Donte DiVincenzo -- in the NBA, and there are several candidates for who becomes the tablesetter for the Wildcats.
The most experienced guard on the roster is Phil Booth, a fifth-year senior who averaged 10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 2.9 apg last year in 33 games (31 starts); the Mount St. Joseph (Md.) product has never been the primary ball-handler in his college career, but it’s something he’s capable of doing, though there are two other “true” point guards, one of whom should start alongside him. A consensus five-star recruit and the No. 29 recruit in 2018 according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Jahvon Quinerly arrives on campus with high expectations, though under something of a cloud after the former Arizona pledge backed off following those Wildcats’ inclusion in the ongoing college basketball FBI investigation. Then there’s sophomore guard Collin Gillespie, the Archbishop Wood product who played in 32 games a year ago, averaging 4.3 ppg while hitting 39 percent of his 3-point attempts. Expect both to get plenty of minutes throughout the season, but it’ll be interesting to see if one of them proves to be un-sittable.