NEC Off-Season Update: 5/16/22
We're halfway through May and by my count there are six NEC programs with an open scholarship. In past years that may have caused some anxiety, but with 1,600 players currently in the Transfer Portal, I'd imagine these schools are glad to still have some openings.
One thing I've realized over the last month or so; with Bryant and Mount St. Mary's gone, plus a number of NEC players leaving either via transfer or graduation, the Northeast Conference looks to be a) rather weak in 22-23, and b) up for grabs. In fact, I'm not sure there's a single team that will be better in 22-23 than it was in 21-22, at least on paper. Does that mean it will be that way in November? Of course not. But it's entirely possible that any, or all, of the league's new coaches who were hired over the last 12 months or so (Patrick Sellers, Donald Copeland, Tobin Anderson) can get their teams into contention rather quickly.
What I wanted to do was take a look at what each school might be looking for as they scour the portal, as well as the prep ranks, for players who fit their programs. But first a bit of house-keeping:
According to Ryan Peters, Eral Penn is set to graduate and pursue a professional career. For a guy who spent 5 years at LIU, there wasn't much left for Penn to accomplish in college (he made an NCAA Tournament appearance as a freshman).
Briggs McClain, who had previously committed to Stonehill, de-committed and is heading back to UHart.
OK, now let's talk open scholarships in order of how many schollys are available (to my knowledge).
Fairleigh Dickinson (5)- The Knights have lost their three best players to the Transfer Portal, with reigning NEC ROY Anquan Hill and fellow All-Rookie teamer Sebastien Lamaute the only players who played more than 40% of available minutes last season who appear to be returning. At his introductory Press Conference, Tobin Anderson said that he wants to "build a program", not go into the Transfer Portal and find grad transfers that will only help next year. However, one can do both, as there are plenty of available players who have 2-3 years of eligibility remaining. Anderson likely needs help everywhere except at the '5', where Hill and P.O. Racine should form a strong 1-2 punch. My best guess; Anderson finds a few under-valued prep players, as well as some transfers with 2-3 years of eligibility remaining.
Wagner (4)- Donald Copeland is just getting acclimated, but it's huge that significant rotation pieces DeLonnie Hunt, Zaire Williams, and Jahbril Price-Noel all appear to be returning. Bashir Mason had two signings in former St. Joe's wing Rahmir Moore and prep point guard Julian Brown, and there's been no indication either are de-committing. Does Copeland believe he has a starting PG in either Brown or sophomore Javy Esquerra? If so, then I'd expect him to go after at least one big to replace Raekwon Rogers, and to try and find some shooting on the wing.
Central Connecticut (2)- Patrick Sellers has been busy over the past ten days, landing two players (combo-guard Jay Rodgers and Wing F Brody Limric) who are probable starters come November. With two openings and plenty of size (5 players 6'7" or taller) and point guards (Scantlebury, Ostrowsky, Sweatman), there's a clear need on the wing. Specifically; 3&D guys with some length.
St. Francis-Brooklyn (1)- Michael Cubbage graduated, but 7 of the top 8 in the rotation appear to be returning, and Glenn Braica has brought in two transfers (wing Zion Bethea and big Josiah Harris) for depth. With 1 scholarship currently open, the only real "hole' that I see is a backup PG. Rob Higgins did well as the primary '1' last season, but there's no one else on this roster who had an assist rate better than 13% last season. If I were Glenn Braica, I'd be trying to find someone who can play ~20 mpg at the point guard position, half of which could be playing alongside Higgins.
Merrimack (1)- Joe Gallo has a talented 4-man prep recruiting class coming in, as well as two transfers from James Madison (point guard Jaylen Stinson and wing Devon Savage). Warriors big man Jordan Minor might be the NEC's Pre-Season Player of the Year, but there's a clear need for a backup '5' as Justin Connolly (18% of minutes last season) is graduating and moving on. My guess is that Gallo brings in a big either from the prep ranks, or a transfer with 3+ years of eligibility remaining, to battle with 6'8" junior Ryan Isaacson (3% of minutes) for the pleasure of going up against Minor every day at practice.
Sacred Heart (1)- Assuming Anthony Latina truly believes the combination of Brendan McGuire and Dominic Mello are ready to handle PG/play-making duties, SHU's one need is a rim protector. Does Ja'rel Spellman have any more eligibility remaining? I get that the staff is high on redshirt freshman Raymond Espinal-Guzman, but finding an experienced rim-protecting big in the Transfer Portal would be a game-changer for the 22-23 Pios.
Long Island (0)- As I talked about above, Eral Penn is gone and we've yet to hear anything close to official regarding Isaac Kante coming back. The Sharks have a major need in the frontcourt, specifically at the '4'; excluding Kante, there's not a player taller than 6'6" who played more than 8% of minutes that might return. Prep big C.J. Delancey should help, but given the high quality backcourt Kellogg has, I'd have to think that he's looking towards the Portal to shore up the frontcourt.
St Francis (PA) (-1)- I have the Red Flash at 14 scholarships, so there's obviously something I'm missing here. Rob Krimmel has not historically brought in many transfers, so my guess is what you see is what you will get. My primary question is; is Zahree Harrison ready to take over as the '1'? SFU is bringing in two freshmen (Wisler Sanon and Landon Moore) to compete for minutes there. If it were me? I wouldn't say 'no' to a high level PG with 2-3 years of eligibility remaining, as that roster is ready to take off over the next couple of seasons.
Stonehill (-4)- The Skyhawks finished just 15-12 last season, so I don't believe they are in a position to "pull a Merrimack" and win the league next season, though there is plenty of experience on that roster. I have Stonehill at 17 scholarships, including two high school prospects, so I'm sure I'm missing multiple somethings. Briggs McClain de-committed from Stonehill and is heading back to UHart, while Thatcher Stone (William & Mary) committed to SC last Friday, and I'd think just adding more D1 talent to the roster would be the plan here. If it were me, I'd be focusing on high school prospects that are falling through the cracks. If the D1 transitional period is somehow shortened from 4 years to, say, 2, then I could see them going hard after more transfers. I'd think an experienced point guard would be helpful, as well as some significant size up front.
Devon Savage (Merrimack)
Joe Gallo was feeling good last Sunday, and it was because of the commitment of Devon Savage.
The second transfer to come to North Andover from James Madison, Savage is 3&D wing who saw limited playing time in his lone season at JMU (11.9% of minutes).
Listed at 6'4" 190 lbs., Savage is a DC native who has a reputation as a high level shooter (3 for 10 last season), and has the kind of length and athleticism that should be able to translate within Gallo's zone defense. Unfortunately, like Jaylen Stinson, he was stuck behind a talented group of wings at JMU, including former Mount guard Vado Morse.
Savage, who had offers from Stony Brook, Towson, La Salle, George Washington, Robert Morris, and Bryant out of high school, should compete with senior Jordan McKoy for minutes at the '3', and at a minimum will be a valuable asset off the bench. Merrimack has a number of options in the backcourt, including a pair of freshman combo guards in Chevalier Emery and Javon Bennett, and two wings with size in Jordan Derkack and Elliott Black.
I've heard that backup big man Justin Connolly will graduate and move on, which means it would not be surprising if Gallo and his staff go after another big to backup Jordan Minor, unless they believe 6'8" junior Ryan Isaacson is up to the task (just 37 minutes last year).
Brody Limric (Central Connecticut)
A local product from nearby Glastonbury, CT who played at East Catholic HS, Limric is a 6'9" forward who spent a red-shirt season at Quinnipiac before hitting the Transfer Portal in March in search of a better fit. Limric has 4 years of eligibility remaining by virtue of his red-shirt year.
A year ago, Limric was set to do a prep year at St. Andrew's in Rhode Island before visiting, then committing to, Quinnipiac in early June. Adam Finkelstein, Director of Scouting for 247Sports, provided a description at the time:
Ranked 54th in the New England Class of 2021 by New England Recruiting Report, the majority of players ahead of him were post-grads, and it's likely he would have shot up rankings list for 2022 had he followed through on a PG year. As a senior at ECHS, Limric was named All-State after averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game.
NERR described Limric as "very quick off his feet athletically, but he also possesses a developing shooting touch which should make him a versatile frontcourt piece down the road as he continues to build up his body". He also held an offer from Fairleigh Dickinson, and during high school heard from schools in the Patriot League and the MAC, among others.
Patrick Sellers now has quite a bit of size in the frontcourt, with Limric joining Jayden Brown (6'8" 215), Arian Dehnavi (6'10" 215), Abdul Mohmoh (6'7" 235), and Ola Olamuyiwa (6'10" 230), and it's likely that Limric sees the floor predominantly as a '4', being paired with one of the other big men. We don't often see frontlines with multiple guys 6'8" or bigger here in the NEC, but both Long Island and Mount St. Mary's have made it work in the past. The idea of a Snoddy/Limric/Brown frontline doing something similar to what the Mount's Offurum/Opoku/Jefferson did these last couple of seasons (led the league by a mile by allowing just 94.4 points/100 possessions) should have CCSU fans salivating.
With two scholarships still available, CCSU's primary need is on the wing, specifically 3&D guys with length.
Thatcher Stone (Stonehill)
A 6-6 versatile wing, Stone was a borderline rotation player for William & Mary in 2020-21, playing 27% of minutes while averaging 2 points and 1.5 rebound per game. A high level athlete, Stone drew rave reviews regarding his ability to defend, though he's struggled to shoot it in his college career (1 for 12 from deep, 33.9% eFG%).
A Massachusetts native, Stone prepped at Dexter Southfield and was set to reclassify to the class of 2019 prior to committing to W&M. New England Recruiting Report, which ranked him #55 in the class of 2019 after his initial reclassification, described Stone as a late-bloomer and a "solid athlete with a good skill-set and a tough approach to the game". Coming out of prep school, Stone also had offers from Bucknell, Brown, and Boston University.
Stone represents the first D1 transfer that Chris Kraus has brought in (Briggs McClain recently de-committed from SC and is heading back to Hartford), and he should provide size and athleticism on the wing. With three years of eligibility remaining, Stone should be a big part of Stonehill's D1 future.