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3 dark horse Atlantic 10 players to watch out for in 2017-18

It may or may not be too early to start speculating when it comes to the 2017-18 season, but it’s never too early to get excited. In particular, I’ve pinpointed 3 dark horse A-10 players who could go off next season. And I mean go off. These 3 may not have seen as much recognition as they should have. Maybe you don’t know their names, but by the end of next season, you can bet your butt that you will.

1. Rashaan Holloway, Massachusetts

If you’re a fan of the Atlantic 10, you’ve probably heard of Rashaan Holloway before. The Massachusetts big man is only going to be a junior next year, but he might actually be one of the best forwards in the league. Holloway is an absolute tank in the paint, and he’s nearly impossible to stop when he gets the ball. Averaging 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season, Holloway was pretty impressive; he just didn’t receive a lot of praise because Massachusetts had a down year that ended up in a 12th place A-10 finish and the firing of Derek Kellogg.

That won’t be the case this year. You’re going to know Rashaan Holloway by the end of the season. Why? A lot of really good Atlantic 10 forwards are graduating this year, leaving most teams lacking depth in the frontcourt. To name a few, Hassan Martin, Mo Alie-Cox, and T.J. Cline will all be gone next year. Other than VCU’s Justin Tillman, I can’t think of a post player who’s going to have a higher ceiling than Holloway next season. When the Minutemen play your favorite school, he’s going to put in work on the block, and you’ll remember his name.

Holloway had the 3rd best offensive rebounding percentage and the 7th best defensive rebounding percentage in the Atlantic 10 last season. A beast on the boards, Holloway is only going to be more dangerous in 2017-18. Holloway is also one of the best defenders in the A-10. With Hassan Martin and Mo Alie-Cox leaving the league, is Rashaan Holloway the next best big-time swatter? He was 4th in the Atlantic 10 in block percentage last year and 72nd in the nation. Holloway’s offensive production was stellar as well, as he hit 62.6% of his field goals last season and drew more than 6 fouls per game (4th in the league in that statistic). If he could get his free throw shooting up (only 60% last season), his scoring is going to skyrocket. Holloway is going to be darn good.

2. Xeyrius Williams, Dayton

Maybe this isn’t even a “dark horse” pick. Xeyrius Williams has a chance to be an All-Conference Player next year; make no mistake about that. The Flyers knew they had a stud in Williams in the 2016-17 season, but he really came out of his shell in a road game against Rhode Island. The sophomore hit two of the biggest shots of his career, burying consecutive three pointers to take down the Rams. Williams found a way to stick his nose in big A-10 games, even with Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke, and Kendall Pollard doing a majority of the scoring. His biggest performances always seemed to come on the road. Williams had 13 points agains Rhode Island, 17 against Davidson and George Washington, and a career-high 18 against Duquesne, all away from home.

Williams led the Atlantic 10 in three point shooting percentage, knocking down 45.1% of his attempts from deep in conference play. In addition, Williams shot better than 58% from two point range. Bottom line, he was one of the most efficient shooters in the league, and he’s got game inside and out. I’m more than excited to see what he’s capable of next season with more playing time. Needless to say, Williams is going to be one of those versatile forwards that’s nearly impossible to guard. Not to mention, he’s a very efficient rebounder with one of the better block percentages in the league. I’d be shocked if Williams wasn’t an absolute star next season.

3. Charlie Brown, Saint Joseph’s

Sure, Saint Joseph’s wasn’t very good towards the end of last season, but the Hawks were basically a one-man show. That one man was freshman Charlie Brown. Not often is an underclassmen called upon to lead a team; with the injuries of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble, Charlie Brown literally had to do everything for Saint Joseph’s. He played 84.8% of available minutes, leading any other Hawk by a long shot. Saint Joseph’s wasn’t exactly successful in conference play, but Charlie Brown scored in double figures in all games but one.

Brown had 19 points on the road against VCU last season. The young Hawk showed night-in and night-out that he’s got what it takes to lead this team. What will happen when Brown, Newkirk, and Kimble all take the floor together next season? A lot. The three of these players are going to be lethal scoring threats, and Brown has three seasons left under Phil Martelli. Brown shot 38.4% from three and 81.9% from the free throw line last year. He was top 20 in the league in both block percentage and fouls committed per 40 minutes. He was great on offense and defense, and he was called to do way too much this season. I expect Charlie Brown to develop into a stud when he’s got less weight on his shoulders and he can really flourish with a healthy team.

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Grant Labedz is a college basketball superfan who loves the entire sport but definitely has favorites in the A-10 and the Big Ten. He has written for ...