NEC Off-Season Update: 4/27/22

It's gotten wild around these parts, and very little of it has to do with the Transfer Portal.


Donald Copeland is the new head coach at Wagner. After Bashir Mason left for Saint Peter's, Copeland quickly emerged as the front-runner and on Thursday, the move was officially announced. The 38-year old Copeland was previously on staff at Wagner under Bashir Mason from 2015-2021, the last four seasons as an assistant coach, and spent the last season as an assistant at Seton Hall, where he played. Copeland has his work cut out for him, as only 7 players return from last season's Seahawks roster, and it remains to be seen if commits Rahmir Moore (a 6'3" combo guard from St. Joseph's) and Julian Brown (a high school PG) will ultimately come to Wagner. It's also worth noting; assistant coach Bobby Jordan is leaving Wagner to join Mason at Saint Peter's. Given that there are around 1,400 players in the Portal, there should be ample time to build-up that roster.


Greg Herenda is out as the head coach of Fairleigh Dickinson. While many, including yours truly, expected this, the details are quite unexpected; Herenda is not leaving FDU under his accord, nor is he following Shaheen Holloway to Seton Hall. Instead, Herenda was fired, and from what I've heard there is an ongoing investigation involving some behind-the-scenes stuff that happened. FDU is beginning a national search immediately.


Also of note; the Sacred Heart duo of Tyler Thomas (Hofstra) and Aaron Clarke (Stony Brook), as well as the Mount's Mezie Offurum (James Madison) will be playing in the Colonial next season. It's a reasonable step up for both, and you can watch all the CAA action on FloHoops for a cool $30/month.


As we are now in the back-half of April, let's take a look at how many scholarships are available per team.

I've done my best to utilize Verbal Commits while also doing some sleuthing online. A few notes:

  • Zach Pfaffenbergers career is over, while Ryan Peters reported Cantavio Dutreil is presumably going pro. Pfaffenberger, a 6'8" big, dealt with injuries the last two seasons and has graduated. Dutreil, a 6'7" big, was one of the better rebounders in the NEC. In addition, Lithuanian Kasparas Jonauskas will not return.

  • Filling two of those scholarships will be Joey Reilly, who came over from Holy Cross and played 43.4% of available minutes last season, and Tanner Thomas, who was a walk-on freshman last season.

  • St. Francis (PA) currently has four unsigned committed high school recruits. I'm also curious to see if Tyler Stewart (did not play in 21-22) will move on. Remember; Brad McCabe, who was a walk-on this past season, was rewarded with a scholarship after the Red Flash's NEC quarterfinal loss.


  • Central Connecticut has four openings, and Patrick Sellers has been very active in the Transfer Portal. It appears he's looking for multiple wings given that Ian Krishnan, Tre Mitchell, and Trenton McLaughlin are all in the Portal. High school recruit TJ Holloway officially signed last week.

  • Long Island's roster may be set. Ty Flowers, at least up to this point, is the only scholarship player to have left (via graduation). C.J. Delancey, a 6'9" big from Arkansas, signed with LIU a year ago then reclassified and prepped at St. Thomas More this past season. Flowers, by the way, had a nice showing out at the Portsmouth Invitational last week. The return of Eral Penn and Isaac Kante remain question marks, but I've included them for now.


Comings

Andre Snoddy (Central Connecticut)

After previously entering the Transfer Portal, late last week it was reported that Snoddy was returning to CCSU. Then, he tweeted about an NIL opportunity:


I know this is going to make some people uneasy, but it's 2022; the opportunity to earn NIL dollars, even at the low major level, is real and is affecting these types of decisions.


Seeing a guy enter the Portal only to return is pretty rare, but it's not uncommon; Ty Flowers did the same with LIU this past off-season. I'd understand coaches not wanting to bring players back; what kind of message does it send? As a coach, I'd think you'd want to know if a guy is "all in" or not. However, every situation is unique, so it's unfair to paint every one with a broad brush. If Patrick Sellers, his staff, and the current Blue Devil players are comfortable with bringing Snoddy back, then fans should be fine with it as well.


Bringing back Snoddy, who I had has the league's best freshman last season (FDU's Anquan Hill won the real award) is huge for Sellers & company. While there's still work to do in replacing the five players who have left via the Transfer Portal, Snoddy has a chance to be a top 15 player in this league as early as next season.


Zion Bethea (St. Francis-Brooklyn)

A 6'3" 205 lb. wing, Bethea began his career at Hofstra where he played three games (10 minutes) in 2020-21. Bethea, who is from South Orange, NJ, had a few high-major offers from earlier in his prep career (Minnesota, Penn St.). He profiles as a physical guard who can score in a variety of ways and should rebound well for his size. He did not play this past season.


With Michael Cubbage graduating, Glenn Braica does have minutes available on the wing and Bethea fits the Terrier-way given his versatility. With Rob Higgins entrenched at the point guard position, Bethea should compete with Larry Moreno, Tedrick Wilcox, Bahaide Haidara, Trey Quartlebaum, and Nick Folk for minutes at any of three wing spots. Also, freshman Di'Andre Howell-South performed well early in the season's first two games (8 points in 23 minutes) before not playing again due to what I believe was an injury.


With big-man Vuk Stevanic in the Transfer Portal, I'd imagine the SFC staff could be looking for another big to back up Jack Hemphill, though they could roll with 6'7" Elijah Hardison in that spot.

Briggs McClain (Stonehill)

The first commitment of the D1 era for the Skyhawks, McClain is one of many Hartford players who have hit the Transfer Portal as the school becomes an independent this season ahead of its drop to D-III. A 6'4" 175 lb. wing with three years of eligibility remaining, McClain averaged 5.3 points and 2.1 rebounds (2 starts) in 21-22, though he really struggled from deep (15 of 52).

I don't know a ton about the Stonehill roster (yet, at least), but it appears they should be returning plenty of experience on the wing. Owen Chose, a 6'2" guard who averaged 14.7 ppg and shot 35% from three last season, is listed as a 5th-year senior but has only played 4 years thanks to a red-shirt season, so I think he has another year of eligibility remaining. Josh Mack, a 6'0" guard who started 23 games and was 5th on the team in scoring (7.4 ppg), should return, in addition to a pair of point guards in Isaiah Burnett (12.2 ppg, 3 apg) and Jackson Benigni (9.5 ppg, 2 apg).


McClain gives Chris Kraus some size and D1 experience in the backcourt, which should help Stonehill's transition. Myles Hanson, at 6'7" 215 lbs., was the only rotation player who was taller than 6'6", and I wonder if the Stonehill staff will look to bring in more size from the Portal. Andrew Sims, the team's leading scorer at 15.2 ppg, is a 6'6" 200 lb. forward who shot nearly 48% from the field though was just 10 of 36 from beyond the arc.


Based on some very amateur detective work from yours truly, Stonehill currently has 16 scholarships allotted including two unsigned high school commits and McClain. I'd imagine there will be some movement here over the next few months.


Goings

Malik Edmead (Merrimack)

Ugh.

A 5'10" electric combo-guard, Edmead made major strides shooting the basketball between his freshman and sophomore seasons; after making just 3 of 17 in his first season, the Long Island native knocked down 27 of 67 last season. Combine that with a nearly 28% assist rate and 4% steal rate, and Edmead was likely on pace to be a pre-season All-NEC 1st or 2nd teamer along with teammate Jordan Minor.


Edmead's calling card is his athleticism; despite being listed at 5'10" 165 lbs., he can do things like this:

A point guard who can both pass and shoot the three at a high level should be in heavy demand among mid-majors, and as of this writing had already heard from Chattanooga, Longwood, UNC Asheville, NJIT and IUPUI. Edmead is the kind of player who would fit in well in a more uptempo system, though his size could prevent him from being a plus on-ball defender in a better league. In Joe Gallo's defensive system, Edmead was able to use his quickness as an off-ball defender.


This is a major hit to Merrimack, which was likely a top-2 team heading into next season (and still might be). As of right now, the starting point guard position likely falls to one of two incoming freshmen; Chevalier Emery or Javon Bennett. While Gallo hasn't historically dipped into the Transfer Portal or Junior College (Tavon Jones came over from Odessa College last off-season but never played), I can't help but wonder if he will look for an experienced lead guard now that both Edmead and last season's starting PG, Mikey Watkins, are both off the board.


Cameron Jones (St. Francis-Brooklyn)

Jones is a 6'1" guard from New Hampshire who was a walk-on in his lone season in Brooklyn after prepping at IMG Academy.