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Top 10 NEC Newcomers

Karrington Wallace should team-up with Eral Penn to form a dynamic frontcourt.

I try to avoid lists because they feel lazy. But it's the off-season, so let's live a little.

What follows is my top 10 NEC newcomers, based on who I think will have the biggest impact during the 2021-22 season. No, it's not a list showing who is the most talented, or who presents the biggest upside. Who has a clear road to playing time and the talent/skill to be good in their role in the coming season?

This list will be fluid as teams continue to add to their rosters, and will generally be dominated by transfers. Typically I avoid freshmen; I'm a numbers guy, after all, and there's no data on incoming freshmen. Plus; they're tough to gauge, and I think even the coaches are unsure what they'll be getting come October, generally speaking.

If you want to find more information on the Northeast Conference, refer to my Off-Season Tracker.

Let's go.

As of 6/10/21

1. Jalen Benjamin, Jr., Mount St. Mary's (via Alabama-Birmingham)

If you've followed me at all over the last couple of seasons, you know I've been a gigantic Damian Chong Qui fan. But, like, Benjamin might be better than DCQ. OK, OK, I'm not going there yet, but the 5'10" combo guard made the CUSA's All-freshman team in 2019-20, then put up an efficient 101.7 O-Rating on 23.8% usage for a UAB team that finished 13-5 in league play (#102 at Kenpom). Benjamin lost minutes as a sophomore after new head coach Andy Kennedy brought in a couple of transfers, so it's not surprising he was looking for a new home, but you don't often see players of his caliber fall to the Northeast Conference. Benjamin is more "combo-guard" than a true point like DCQ is (his assist rate was just 14.2%, compared to Chong Qui's 33.3%), but I'd expect him to fill the role as a high usage guard who has the ball in his hands often, and should see his efficiency tick up a bit given that he's dropping down a couple of levels. Can he be as clutch as Chong Qui was? That remains to be seen.

Expected Impact: High usage starter

2. Michael Cubbage, 5th-Sr., St. Francis-Brooklyn (via Marist)

Cubbage is a "jack of all trades" who does a little bit of everything; in his first season at Marist as a Junior College transfer, following a red-shirt year, the 6'4" wing led the Red Foxes in scoring (9.6 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg), and assists (3.4 apg). The problem? He was inefficient; he made just 15 of his 72 three-point attempts, which correlated with a 35.2% eFG% and 82.3 O-Rating (24% usage). It appeared he had begun making strides as a senior, as he put up a 51.5% eFG% through 3.5 games before missing the rest of the season with a foot injury. Assuming he's healthy, his ability to rebound and defend from the wing could allow Glenn Braica to continue to utilize a small lineup, especially if Cubbage can shoot it (he did knock down 37% of his 3s in 2017-18 at Paris Junior College). He could also push Rob Higgins, who has struggled shooting the ball in two seasons in Brooklyn, for minutes.

Expected Impact: Starter or significant bench piece

3. Patrick Emilien, Sr., St. Francis-Brooklyn (via Western Michigan)

Listed at 6'6" 205 lbs., Emilien is a classic "stretch 4" at this level; he put up a 16.5% defensive rebounding rate in the MAC last season, and also knocked down 14 of 43 from beyond the arc (and 12 of 19 at the rim). After playing a significant role as a freshman at Western Michigan, 21.3 mpg including 12 starts, he saw his role diminished as a sophomore (9.2 mpg). New head coach Clayton Bates brought in a Grad Transfer at the '4' this past season, with Emilien largely coming of the bench (4 starts). With Unique McLean graduating and moving on, it'll be interesting to see if Glenn Braica wants to continue to play small, or go with a more "traditional" lineup. My guess? Given the Terriers' struggles defensively last season, Travis Atson will see more minutes on the wing with Emilien teaming up with a big to give them more size and rim protection (Emilien has a career 2.8% block rate).

Expected Impact: Starter or significant bench piece

4. Tyler Brelsford, So., Bryant (via George Washington)

Brelsford averaged close to 20 mpg for Jamion Christian at GW, showing an ability to knock it down from the perimeter (35.5%) and rebound well for a 6'4" guard in the A10 (12.9% DR%). However, he was asked to play out of position off the ball, rather than play his natural point guard position, which is why he transferred to Bryant. With Michael Green III off to Robert Morris, and previous verbal commit Juju Murray re-opening his recruitment, it appears Brelsford will get the first crack at running the point. An 11% assist rate and 22% turnover rate have me a bit concerned, but there's a good chance a change of scenery, and style, will help. I still think Erickson Bans will push for minutes at the '1', as could Luis Hurtado, who saw time there last season as a "point forward". And of course, there's always a chance Grasso brings another high-impact transfer.

Expected Impact: Starter or significant bench piece

7. Hegel Augustin, Sr., Central Connecticut (via Glenville St.)

A 6'3" "big guard", Augustin played for uptempo Glenville St. (D2) the last two seasons, putting up some impressive per-game numbers; 21.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on his way to earning 2nd team All-Mountain East in 20-21. Augustin is known as a high-level defender (1.3 steals per game), as well as a high-volume shooter after putting up a 42.9/34.3/68.3 shooting line (53.4% eFG%). As of now, CCSU does not have a player on its roster who had a usage rate higher than 20% last season, so expect Augustin to get a lot of touches. Combine that with his ability to defend, and he will likely see a lot of minutes next season and could end up being the Blue Devils leading scorer.

Expected Impact: Starter

6. Jahbril Price-Noel, Sr., Wagner (via Pacific)

Despite coming off a down junior season that saw him put up a 40.7% eFG% at Pacific, Price-Noel has shown an ability to knock down shots at the D1 level; in 2019-20, as a sophomore, JPR shot 44.7/45.5/79.2 in a little over 15 mpg, putting up a 114.4 O-Rating on 18.3% usage. Perhaps not part of Damon Stoudamire's plans for the upcoming season after getting a commitment from Utah St. transfer Alphonso Anderson, Price-Noel should fit well in the NEC. At 6'7" 215 lbs, Price-Noel fits Bashir Mason's scheme given that he provides both size and versatility, despite not quite fitting into a "position"; his rebounding rates (12.3% DR%) aren't what you'd expect at his size, and the majority of his offense comes from catch-and-shoot three-pointers (110 career 3-point attempts, 84 shots at the rim). Despite Wagner returning their entire starting lineup from a year ago, Price-Noel fills a need; despite leading the NEC in offensive efficiency, the Seahawks attempted just 30.6% of their shots from deep in 20-21 (9th in the NEC), and made just 32.6% of those attempts (6th).

Expected Impact: Significant bench piece

7. Raekwon Rogers, 5th-Sr., Wagner (via Henderson St.)

Rogers played four seasons at Division-2 Henderson St. where he scored over 1,000 points and grabbed over 500 rebounds in his career, and earned 1st team All-Great American Conference this past season after averaging 14.5 points and 8 boards per game. At 6'8" and 230 lbs., Rogers provides significant size, and while he doesn't stretch the defense, he shot 61% from the field and 76% from the charity stripe (93 attempts) in 20-21. Highly coveted with interest from Georgia Tech, Illinois St., Little Rock, Abilene Christian, and others, Rogers should push for starter-level minutes for Wagner next season. This past year, Bashir Mason used a tandem of Nigel Jackson and Ja'Mier Fletcher, and while both were solid in their roles, neither combined the ability to score in the paint and rebound the basketball like Rogers can. Depending on who returns, I could see Mason preferring to stick with Jackson, who shot 35% from three last season. But Rogers should push Ja'Mier Fletcher to be the first big off the bench, if not more.

Expected Impact: Significant bench piece

8. Jack Hemphill, Sr, St. Francis-Brooklyn (via Boston University)

At 6'9" 230 lbs., Hemphill has significant size for the NEC, and comes to Brooklyn after three seasons at Boston U. After having a minimal role in his first two years in Boston, Hemphill became a solid rotation player in 2020-21, averaging 15.5 mpg in 18 games, including 1 start, for a Boston University team that finished 6-10 in the Patriot League. Hemphill is a "stretch 5", who shot 32% from three in his career (47 for 147), while putting up strong rebounding numbers (8.6% OR%, 19.2% DR% last season). Glenn Braica brings back two solid '5's' in Vuk Stevanic and David Muenkat, but Hemphill provides the offensive versatility Braica likes out of his bigs. including a 15.1% assist rate, and could potentially team up with a non-shooting frontcourt player (like Bahaide Haidara, who is discussed below) to really cause match-up problems. The negative? Hemphill hasn't done a ton of work in the paint, converting just 54% of his shots at the rim this past season and getting to the free throw line just 16 times (making 12). He also averaged 5 fouls per 40 minutes, which is high but an improvement from 7.4 as a sophomore. A Raleigh, NC native, Hemphill should push Stevanic for starter-level minutes at the '5'. At worst, he's likely the first big off the bench, and a significant rotation player for SFC.

Expected Impact: Significant bench piece

9. Karrington Wallace, Sr., Long Island (via Central Connecticut)

No stranger to the Northeast Conference, Wallace played three seasons for Donyell Marshall and CCSU, starting 27 games while averaging 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in his career, including 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds as a junior in 20-21. Listed at 6'8" 210 lbs., Wallace lacks the bulk to defend most 5's one-on-one and doesn't provide the offensive versatility of a modern '4' as he's attempetd just 8 three-pointers in his college career (making 2). Wallace should excel as a versatile defender who can help protect the rim, especially off the ball (5.9% career block rate) while being a rim runner who can finish in the paint (61.4% at the rim last season, 54.3% eFG% and 79.3% at the free throw line). With Ty Flowers' return, it's unlikely Wallace will see starter-level minutes, though he should be able to fill in for both Flowers and Eral Penn, and could potentially see time on the floor with both of them if Kellogg chooses to go with a big lineup.

Expected Impact: Significant bench piece

10. Bahaide Haidara, Jr., St. Francis-Brooklyn (via George Mason)

As you can see by this list, no team has improved during this off-season as much as St. Francis-Brooklyn. Haidara, who is listed at 6'6" 203 lbs., is another player who provides length and versatility. After missing all but two games as a freshman due to a wrist injury, Haidara put up a staggering 17.3% offensive rebounding rate (only Cantavio Dutreil had a OR% higher than 15.2% in the NEC last season), along with a strong 19.3% DR%. With Dave Paulsen getting fired, it made sense for Haidara to hit the Transfer Portal, and a drop down in level should help him see more playing time (he played just 20.4% of the minutes last season, playing 20 or more minutes twice). He can defend the perimeter (his 3.8% steal rate would have led the NEC), protect the rim (2.4% block rate), and make plays for other (13.7% assist rate). Offensively his game is limited to 2nd chance points and finishing around the rim (65.5% at the rim), but he should see time as a "small-ball 5".

Expected Impact: Rotation Player

Others Worth Mentioning:

Greg Calixte, 5th-Sr., Bryant (via George Mason)

Another former GMU Patriot, Calixte, listed at 6'8" 235 lbs, started 38 games across 4 seasons in the A-10. While he doesn't offer much offensively (a career 15.2% usage rate), he finishes well around the rim (60.1% career eFG%), is a strong defensive rebounder (18.7%), and can protect the rim (2.9% block rate). Hall Elisias is back, so there aren't starter minutes available at the '5', but Calixte should be a very capable backup with Grasso not having to alter his style to fit his game. The one concern I have is that career 38.2% from the charity stripe. That not only limits the upside Calixte has, but could cause Grasso to go smaller than he'd like at times.

Grant Coleman, So., Bryant (via UW-Milwaukee)- A proto-typical "stretch 4", Coleman combines good size (6'7", 230 lbs.) with an ability to really shoot the ball, as he made 18 of 50 (36%) from three as a freshman at UW-Milwaukee. He has shown an ability to provide rim protection (2.2% block rate), as well as hit the boards (14.6% DR%). The issue for Coleman; is there playing time available? He should be able to play alongside bigs Hall Elisias and Greg Calixte, and he could fill a role as a "small ball 5" similar to that of Nathaniel Stokes last season. But with the talent Grasso has returning, the transfers he's bringing in, and the expected return of Melo Eggleston, who missed all but 10 minutes last season after suffering an achilles injury, the competition for playing time should be fierce. I could see Coleman carving out a role off the bench, and I could also see him struggling to find minutes.

Adham Eleeda, 5th-Sr., Bryant (via Eastern Kentucky)- Eleeda combines size (6'5") with deep shooting range, which is what Jared Grasso is into. He's not going to do much with the ball (he had a 12.8% usage rate last season at EKU), but should be able to carve a roll as a shooter off the bench, as he knocked down 36% of his 87 three-point attempts a season ago. Grasso doesn't typically use a deep rotation, and there will be competition for wing minutes between Eleeda, sophomore Erickson Bans, and freshman Mike Iuzzulino, Jr., as well as JUCO transfer Victor Rosario, Jr., who remains unsigned. Eleeda could get lost in the shuffle similar to Luke Sutherland, who transferred in from Siena and saw limited minutes and is now headed to Le Moyne.

Jayden Brown, Fr., Central Connecticut- At 6'8", Brown provides some much needed length for the young Blue Devils. With an ability to protect the rim and stretch the defense, the former Tilton School product may have gone under-recruited thanks to the Transfer Portal. Absent Patrick Sellers bringing in a couple of impact transfers in the frontcourt, look for Brown to get a crack at starter-level minutes at the '5'.

Andre Snoddy, Fr., Central Connecticut- The first recruit of the Patrick Sellers era, Snoddy profiles as a small-ball-4 who needs to continue developing his jump shot. At this stage it's difficult to know what CCSU's roster will look like, but the 6'6" Snoddy, who prepped at St. Thomas More, could be in the rotation depending on who else Sellers brings in.

Sebastian Lamaute, Fr., Fairleigh Dickinson- A native of Canada, Lamaute was previously committed to McGill University for the 20-21 season, though he did not play as their season was canceled. Lamaute combines play-making and shooting, and Greg Herenda is on record as saying that he is expected to take over the point guard position. I still think he gets pushed for minutes, and It's tough to trust a freshman point guard.

Antoine Jacks, Fr., Fairleigh Dickinson- Jahlil Jenkins is off to Stony Brook, and Callum Baker is now in the Portal. Jacks is a physical and heady lead guard, and should challenge for significant minutes.

Ray Ford, Fr., Fairleigh Dickinson- More of a combo-guard, he could also be in play for point guard minutes for the Knights.

Tyree Pickron, Sr., Long Island (via Quinnipiac)- A combo-guard, Pickron played three seasons at Quinnipiac, though he struggled to make shots; 25.5/25.4/50 for his career (34.6% eFG%). Given that Kellogg has now lost both Jermaine Jackson, Jr. and Virshon Cotton, there's a path to significant playing time for Pickron. However, he'll have to shoot it better than he has to far if he's going to be a valuable piece of that backcourt.

Andre Washington, Fr., Long Island- Given the number of former Sharks in the Transfer Portal, Washington could find himself playing significant minutes at the '1' as a freshman, especially if Derek Kellogg doesn't see an improvement from Tre Wood.

Tavon Jones, RS-Jr., Merrimack (via Northern Illinois)- A 6'3" wing, Jones averaged 13.7 points and 4.8 rebounds at Odessa Junior College in 2019-20 before enrolling at Northern Illinois. While he did not play at NIU (he was recovering from a knee injury, though I'm not sure if that's what kept him out all season), he profiles as a versatile wing who can knock down the three, get to the free throw line, and defend. With Devin Jensen back, Jones should complete for rotation minutes with Malik Edmead, Jordan McKoy, and Khalief Crawford, among others.

Elijah Elliott, So., Mount St. Mary's (via Oklahoma Christian)- A combo-guard, Elliott led D2 OCU in scoring (15.5 ppg), assists (4.4 pg), and steals (2.0 spg) while earning All-Lone Star Conference third team honors, as well as landing on the All-Freshman team. Elliott handled a heavy load offensively, but was not overly efficient shooting the basketball, putting up a 39.5/30.5/59.2 shooting line (44.6% eFG%). Elliott could team with Jalen Benjamin to form a dynamic backcourt, but he'll have to compete with Josh Reaves and Dakota Leffew for time, as well as some talented freshmen.

Dominic Mello, Fr., Sacred Heart- There's not a path to major minutes with Latina, as of now, returning his entire rotation from a year ago. With that said, there are backup PG minutes up for grabs, and Mello could be the guy. Aaron Clarke can also be used off the ball.

Tedrick Wilcox, Jr., St. Francis-Brooklyn (via Dominican)- D2 transfers are becoming more common these days, and Wilcox is an intriguing prospect. A 6'6" "big wing", he was the CACC Rookie of the Year in 2019-20, and earned a spot on the CACC All-Conference team this past season after averaging 15.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. He excelled as a three-point shooter, making 17 of 36 (47.2%). It's tough to compare D2 stats to D1 numbers, but shooters with size are valuable no matter where they're coming from. Minutes won't be easy to find given the number of transfers Glenn Braica has brought in, and at 185 lbs. Wilcox may have to get stronger to be able to rebound well in the NEC, but it doesn't take much imagination to see him becoming a rotation player for the Terriers.

Ashton Miller, So., Wagner (via Duquesne)- Miller sat out last season after transferring to Wagner last summer, though it's unclear if it was due to an injury, a covid "opt out", or another reason entirely. A 6'5" wing, Miller played sparingly as a freshman at Duquesne (9 minutes per game across 23 games), and really struggled when he did play, including just 3 of 28 from three. Right now it's unclear what the status is for guys like Alex Morales (entering the NBA draft but maintaining his eligibility), Elijah Ford, Will Martinez, and Nigel Jackson. There's probably a role for a former A-10 player who has been in the program for a year, but he'll have to shoot better than he did at Duquesne. If everyone is back, significant minutes could be hard to come by.

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