College basketball inches closer and closer each day, meaning we’re another another step closer to watching A-10 basketball rather than just talking about it. Today, as part of our preseason breakdown for the Atlantic 10, we look at 3 players who are poised to have a much-improved season. In no way were these players the stars of their team last year, but heading into 2018-19, they should make some major improvements and be catalysts for their squads. Let’s take a look.
KiShawn Pritchett, Davidson
Pritchett had some solid performances last season that may have been swept under the rug due to major scoring nights from Peyton Aldridge, Kellan Grady, and Jon Axel Gudmundsson. While the latter two will be around in 2018-19 to continue lighting up the scoreboard in Belk Arena, Aldridge will leave 20+ points in scoring to be made up from newcomers and returnees — I fully expect Pritchett to be one of those guys.
KiShawn Pritchett is one of the best kept secrets in college basketball from behind the three point line, as he erupted at a 48.0% clip in conference play last season. Pritchett only took 89 attempts from deep last season, mainly because he only played 61.7% of available minutes. Peyton Aldridge took up 93.3% of available sort time (top 10 nationally), meaning there will be plenty of minutes to go around for Davidson’s rising junior. This means more looks from three and subsequently, more scoring. If we see Pritchett shoot with the same consistency he did in conference play last season, more attempts from deep will lead the junior to be a deadly shooter/scorer and another weapon for a dangerous Wildcat bunch.
Pritchett also has strengths as a passer, as he dealt out 9+ dimes in 3 different contests last season. As a versatile forward with shooting ability and court vision, KiShawn should have a much-improved junior season that helps lead Davidson to an impressive finish in A-10 conference play.
Fatts Russell, Rhode Island
Fatts Russell got quite a bit of praise his freshman campaign — and deservedly so. He had a hot start to his first year in Kingston, as he was a huge factor in wins over Providence and Brown. His shooting certainly suffered a bit in conference play, and he definitely took a back seat to senior leaders Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews, but he still showed up when the Rams needed him for some big plays, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Now without the assistance of a backcourt loaded with experience, Fatts is going to be expected to do a whole lot more for URI, and if you ask me, he’s’ in for quite the season.
As a freshman, Russell was one of the most explosive guards in the Atlantic 10, and he was a pest on the defensive end of the floor (6th best steal % in the A-10) in some of Rhody’s most crucial games. While there were nights he struggled with his three point shot, there were also nights where he came in clutch with his stroke, showing that you don’t have to be a senior to save the day (look at the NCAA Tournament game against Oklahoma). Fatts seems to have the poise to take over as a starter, as he filled big shoes when his teammates struggled last season. Look for Russell to emerge as one of the best guards in the league as he takes on sophomore year, and it will be a learning process for a young Rhode Island team, but I think the ship will be in good shape with Russell at the helm.
Goanar Mar, George Mason
If there is one thing Goanar Mar didn’t have much of last season, it was time on the bench. The true freshman played 78.3% of available minutes in a season where the Patriots’ rotation ran, at best, 8 men deep. It’s obvious that Mar got thrown into a dog fight in his first season at George Mason, and it was certainly a learning process. The Patriots had few weapons at their disposal in the paint, and Mar shouldered quite a bit of weight in the first few weeks of collegiate competition.
Mar is one of the more promising players heading into 2018-19 because of the way he started and finished the season with George Mason. He played 41 minutes and scored 22 points in an early season overtime win over Cal St. Northridge. While he had some quieter performances during the middle of the season, he came up big in a 3-game winning streak over Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and VCU, scoring 16, 18, and 26 respectively. The freshman looked like anything but a first year player in the final weeks of last season, and I think he’s one of the more exciting players to look out for in 2018-19.
Mar will also have the help of incoming transfer Jarred Reuter to shoulder the load in the frontcourt. This can allow Mar (who shot better than 40% from three in conference play last season) to be utilized as a threat both inside and outside the three point line, making him very difficult to guard. Mar certainly has the talent for a breakout sophomore campaign, and I would expect nothing less in a few months.