The majority of Atlantic 10 teams have hit the court for exhibition games prior to next week’s regular season tip. Below is a list of new names I think have flashed potential in those samples and are players worth watching this season in A-10 play.
Davidson – Luka Brajkovic
The usual suspects had the game you’d expect them to have against an outmatched Washington & Lee squad, making newcomer Luka Brajkovic’s 16 points and game-high eight rebounds the stat line to pay attention to from the Wildcats exhibition win. With the graduation of A-10 POY, Peyton Aldridge, as well as the departure of underrated defensive big, Will Magarity, the Cats biggest question heading into the season is how their new front court will effect the team’s overall performance. The 6’10 Austrian freshman got the start and played an extremely efficient 22 minutes, hitting seven of his 10 attempts and dishing out four assists for the Cats. Washington & Lee played virtually no big men the entire game however, so I look forward to seeing how the slight of frame Brajkovic handles more physical bigs as the Cats get into the regular season.
Dayton – Jhery Matos
JUCO transfer, Jhery Matos, stuffed stat sheets during his time with the Monroe Mustangs and in his first appearance at UD Arena, did just the same for Anthony Grant and Co. Matos posted a quick 15 points in just 18 minutes of action, hitting six of his seven attempts including 3-4 from deep. The Flyers played a short bench for an exhibition game against the DIII Capital Crusaders, going basically eight deep with Matos being among that group, suggesting he’ll likely have a role in Grant’s second season Flyers. Matos dished three assists and added a steal to the box score and as a versatile 6’5 guard fits into Anthony Grants 94′ both ways plan of attack.
George Mason – Jarred Reuter
Justin Kier was the star of the show for George Mason in a way-too-close escape of DIII preseason No.15, Johns Hopkins, but Reuter was the one to watch for a number of reasons. Short staffed in the paint this past season, Mason still found a way to secure the No.5 seed in last season’s A-10 tournament, putting all eyes on UVA transfer Reuter to help make the Patriots a real threat to win the league in 2019. The 6’7 260 linebacker of a center notched the game’s only double-double, scoring eight of his 10 points at the free throw stripe and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds in the 10-point win. Reuter posted the second highest efficiency rating behind Kier on the night. The Patriots appear to have some rust to knock off, but after finishing fifth this past season without that additional big, are certainly capable of doing so.
George Washington – DJ Williams
The Colonials needed every bit of Illinois transfer DJ William’s team-high 15 points in the Colonials 69-64 win over Division III Catholic. One of just two GW players to crack double-digits on the night, the newly available Williams hit seven of his team-high 15 attempts in the win on a night the Colonials connected on just 38.2% of their attempts. The 6’7 Williams averaged just 8.8 minutes per contest as an Illini sophomore, but was the only Colonial to cross the 30-minute line in the win. Expect him to be a key piece on a Colonials team that could really struggle this season.
Rhode Island – Tyrese Martin
After opening up a comfortable 44-27 over DII Pace University, the Rams battled to victory under first year head coach, David Cox, in a game that was perhaps a little too close for comfort for Ram fans after winning last season’s A-10 regular season title. The usual suspects of Jeff Dowtin, Fatts Russell and Cyril Langevine dominated as Rhody’s only double-digit scorers, pointing my focus toward URI freshman, Tyrese Martin. Martin came off the bench for the Rams but played the fifth most minutes for the Rams behind four returning players. Martin played a post-grad year at Massanutten Military, so is an older, more disciplined freshman and at 6’6 I think could prove to be a sneaky versatile piece for Rhody. This was the second game Martin played a key role for Rhode Island, logging 32 minutes for the squad in a 85-79 scrimmage win over St. John’s. Martin may not prove to be a statistical hero on this year’s Rams team, but through two games is clearly being leaned upon early for a freshman. He’ll be one to watch as a glue guy in Cox’s first season leading the team.
Richmond – Jake Wojcik
The Spiders made easy work of DIII Hampden-Sydney, dominating their ODAC opponent, 83-37. Not surprisingly UofR was led by the trio of Grant Golden, Nick Sherod and Jacob Gilyard, the team’s returning leading scorers, which makes Jake 6’4 freshman starter, Jake Wojcik, the player to pay attention to from that win. Having originally committed to Siena, Wojcik was released from his LOI and find his way to Richmond. Wojcik got the start in his first attempt under Chris Mooney, scoring 11 points in a team-high 25 minutes in the win. The San Jose native did a little bit of everything, similar to the role of the recently transferred Demonte Buckingham, grabbing six rebounds, blocking two shots, picking up two steals and dishing six assists. Wojcik took all of his nine attempts from beyond the three-point line, so A-10 fans and opponents know where to find him this season.
Saint Louis – Tremaine Isabell Jr.
Get to know that name, A-10 fans. Drexel transfer via Mizzou, now a Billiken, Isabell averaged 21 per game for the Dragons last season before opting for a final season as a grad transfer at SLU. In two exhibitions against Quincy and USML, Isabell averaged 17.5 points and gives the Billikens an efficient scoring option they lacked that this past season under Travis Ford. Isabell does a little bit of everything and was super efficient in the CAA, posting an impressive 25.3 PER. The 6′ guard averaged 7.5 rebounds at Drexel and should be one of this year’s obvious A-10 breakout stars. If SLU is to live up to their preseason No.1 ranking, Isabell will be a key reason why.
St. Bonaventure – Alpha Okoli
Freshman Alpha Okoli lived up to his name in the Bonnies first win post-Adams/Mobley, exploding for a game-high 20 points off the Bonnies bench on a night Okoli went 7-11 from the field including 4-5 from long range. Okoli was a part of an eight-man rotation that did not including returning star, Courtney Stockard, giving Okoli and fellow freshmen Kyle Loftan and Dominick Welch perhaps more of an opportunity to shine, all of whom notched double-digits in the easy victory, albeit against the DIII Saxons. None the less, it was a good confidence booster for a young team coming off the graduation of the league’s best backcourt. Through one exhibition at least, the future looks bright with the explosive Okoli being a promising part of that.
UMass – Curtis Cobb
While I like a number of young pieces on coach Matt McCall’s squad, Cobb’s performance in an easy win over Westfield State is something to monitor. The Fairfield transfer was 3-6 from downtown and took a team-high nine attempts. Cobb was considerably more efficient as a Fairfield freshman than sophomore and in his first game as a Minutman showed he’s going to get his shots up. Cobb took 25% of available shots while on the floor his last season as a Stag, so I’m interested to see where that number goes on a UMass offense that includes the dangerous duo of Luwane Pipkins (who to 33.5% of available shots last season and Carl Pierre (21.7% of shots). Add a healthy Rashaan Holloway (26.3% of shots) and I’m curious to see how total team chemistry is effected. It didn’t seem to be much of an issue against DIII Westfield.
VCU – Corey Douglas
The biggest question heading into the season for the Rams was how do you replace A-10 autobucket, Justin Tillman. The easy answer is you don’t, but VCU may have found some sort of combo solution that JUCO transfer Corey Douglas will be a part of. Douglas started his career under second-year VCU head coach Mike Rhoades when he was a third-year head coach at Rice. Upon Rhoades’ return to VCU, Douglas left Rice, opting to spend an active transfer year as a JUCO at Tallahassee Community College but committing then to VCU, allowing him to become immediately eligible this season. Douglas has built a rep as a shot-blocker and flashed a little bit of that in VCU’s easy 87-41 win over DII UVA-Wise, blocking four shots in just 15 minutes of action. Douglas added 10 points and nine rebounds in those limited minutes, swapping time with sophomore Marcus Santos-Silva who notched a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double in 18 minutes. That duo will essentially be the group responsible for filling the center hole vacated by Tillman, but will put their own spin on the position. Douglas appears to be a defensive upgrade over the graduated Tillman, but has a ways to go in matching the golden fro’s offensive efficiency.