NEC Roster Movement Update: 3/21/22
Last week wasn't as busy as I had expected in terms of players entering the Transfer Portal, at least until Friday, when both Aaron Clarke (Sacred Heart) and Ian Krishnan (CCSU) entered. Both deserved their own write-ups, but I've included them here since I'm writing them at the same time.
In case you missed it:
Earlier last week Mezie Offurum entered the Portal. I felt compelled to do an immediate reaction post to that news.
Note: Whenever a player enters the Transfer Portal, I'm assuming they are gone. Sure, there are times where a player enters the Portal and eventually returns (Ty Flowers just last season), but the majority of the time that does not happen.
Xavier Lipscomb (Mount St. Mary's)
Dan Engelstad wasted little time filling Mezie Offurum's scholarship, getting a commitment from Xavier Lipscomb. A 6'2", 190 lb. guard, Lipscomb spent two years at Radford, and it really was a tale of two seasons. Check it:
As a freshman, the Washington DC native averaged 6.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. However, last off-season Radford head coach Mike Jones brought in a number of transfers, including Tai'Reon Joseph from Austin Peay, and Lipscomb's playing time and effectiveness dipped because of it.
Despite being listed at 6'2", Lipscomb is strong and physical which allows him to be a versatile defender in the backcourt, and in his short collegiate career has shown an ability to knock down perimeter shots (18-44, 41% from three as a freshman) and be a play-maker (26.9% assist rate last season), and he's also very good around the rim (60% in his career). The bug-a-boos have been turnovers (career 31.8% turnover rate) and a really ugly mid-range game (7 for 41).
So where does Lipscomb fit? Engelstad has a stable of long, versatile guards who can all play alongside Jalen Benjamin; Deandre Thomas, Dakota Leffew, Josh Reaves, and Jaylin Gibson. Lipscomb does provide a bit of a different look in terms of his physicality, and he's also a capable ball-handler who might allow Benjamin to play off the ball even more than he did last season. Lipscomb should compete with Reaves and Gibson for minutes off the bench as the Mount will likely play three guards more frequently next season.
TJ Holloway (Central Connecticut)
After Zach Newkirk hit the Portal, Patrick Sellers got a commitment from 6'4" wing TJ Holloway. A local kid from the New Haven area who prepped at Canterbury School, Holloway should provide athleticism and length on the wing, and should become a versatile defender for CCSU. Holloway, who had an offer from Manhattan from a few years ago, will likely compete for a back-up role at the '3', perhaps behind either Tre Mitchell or Hegel Augustin. Augustin, who missed last season due to a knee injury, is a 6'3" 190 lb. wing who averaged 21.2 points and 9.7 rebounds and shot 34% from three for D2 Glenville St. in 2020-21.
Aaron Clarke (Sacred Heart)
A 4-year player at SHU, Clarke was a 3rd team All-NEC player this past season after averaging 16 points (7th in the NEC) and 4.1 assists (2nd) per game. The Parsippany, NJ native took over as the starting PG as a sophomore after Cameron Parker went down with a season-ending injury, then eventually transferred.
A left-handed combo guard, 2021-22 was Clarke's best season as a Pio; his assist rate was 24.8% (5th in the league), and despite shooting just 30.8% from three (30.5% career), his eFG% was 48.8% thanks to being very good around the rim (58.9%). He also made 87.2% from the free throw line (84% for his career), and took care of the basketball.
At 6'1" 185 lbs., Clarke won't wow you with athleticism, though he's got an innate ability to attack given his ball-handling acumen and the way he changes speeds. He keeps defenders off-balance, which helps him get to the free throw line with high frequency (117 FT attempts in 25 games this season), and was one of the best passers in the NEC. He can also get his own shot, though is much better as a scorer with the ball in his hands.
Where he's struggled has been his consistency shooting the ball (0.89 SQ PPP on catch-and-shoot 3s, 0.69 SQPPP off the dribble 3s, and 0.53 SQPPP on long mid-range shots), and defensively, as his lack of quickness prevents him from being a good on-the-ball defender.
Clarke has been one of my favorite NEC players over these last few years (I have a soft spot for guys who play below the rim), and while I think he's a very good player at this level, I'm not sure he's much of an up-transfer candidate given his athletic profile. Take a look at Jahlil Jenkins last year; the FDU point guard was a 2nd-team all NEC player in 20-21 and ended up at Stony Brook. A modest jump could be in the cards, and there should be numerous programs looking to bring Clarke in for a grad season.
Sacred Heart now has a massive hole at point guard; as of now, the only actual '1' on the roster is redshirt freshman Dom Mello, who has drawn rave reviews though relying on a freshman to take over that role could be a scary proposition. Unless Anthony Latina is going to go without a true PG, perhaps allowing Tyler Thomas and/or Joey Reilly to man the position, I'd have to think that the SHU staff will look towards the Portal to find some experience at the position.
Ian Krishnan (Central Connecticut)
Another 4-year player, Krishnan has been one of the league's best shooters since his arrival in New Britain; last season, the 4th year senior made 36.4% from deep, and in his career he's made 195 3-pointers (35.8%). This past season, Krishnan was second on the Blue Devils in scoring at 9.5 ppg, and was 3rd in minutes at 27.2 mpg.
A 6'2" 180 lb. true shooting guard, the rest of Krishnan's game never really developed as expected after he earned a spot on the NEC All-Rookie team in 2018; he finishes his CCSU career having made just 39.3% of his two-pointers, and last season his 4.1% assist rate was a career low. He's not a particularly adept ball-handler, and while he's got the athleticism to finish in transition, he's not someone who attacks with rim frequently or efficiently. Defensively he's quick enough to be a good perimeter defender, though there were times when Patrick Sellers subbed him out for defensive purposes late in games.
A Maryland native who prepped at Proctor Academy, Krishnan was one of six holdovers from the Donyell Marshall era on last season's Blue Devil's roster, and Sellers is on record as saying that Krishnan is one of the hardest workers Sellers has ever coached. I'd guess that there will be low-major D1 opportunities for Krishnan, who has 1 year of eligibility remaining, given the level of shooter he is, especially for teams looking for some firepower off the bench.
As far as I'm aware, Patrick Sellers now has two scholarships to work with as he's lost one player to graduation (Stephane Ayangma) and two to the Portal (Krishnan and Zach Newkirk), though I'm hopeful walk-on freshman Joe Ostrowsky gets one of those scholarships (with the other going to recent commit TJ Holloway). Ostrowsky is the obvious player to step into the void at the '2' for CCSU; he shot 37% from deep last season and his ability to handle the basketball should allow Nigel Scantlebury to play off the ball at times. Of course, Sellers could also look to go bigger and play Trenton McLaughlin and Andre Snoddy together at the 3/4 with more frequency, while Sellers loves Tre Mitchell's ability to defend, and Davonte Sweatman had his moments as a freshman. Sellers has lots of options in the backcourt, including incoming freshman TJ Holloway. The CCSU staff could also look toward the Transfer Portal to bring in some experience on the wing.
Joshua Chesney (Merrimack)
Chesney, who is from Corpus Christi, Texas, spent his one, and only, season at Merrimack as a redshirt. A 6'5", 190 lb. wing, Chesney is a likely a candidate to drop down a level, as he's already received multiple D2 offers.