Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top 25 Player Countdown. Each day, we publish a new article counting down the 25 best players in the Atlantic 10 this past season. Today, we conclude our countdown with #1 T.J. Cline.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that T.J. Cline ended up #1 on our Top 25 Player Countdown. Sure, his numbers were incredible, but rarely do you find a player who individually leads his team to the top of the league. After a 6-6 start to non-conference play, this Richmond squad was expected to be at the bottom of the conference. Cline ensured that that would not happen. He was as good of a player as Chris Mooney could ask for, and he had a number of incredible moments on the court this past season. Talk about a player that’s going to be hard to replace, T.J. Cline has been the epitome of Richmond Basketball throughout his career with the Spiders.
Where do I begin? Well, T.J. Cline’s last career game as a Spider was pretty darn good; he went for 33 points and hit 15 field goals in a loss to TCU in the NIT. No player showed up in the Atlantic 10 quite like he did. Cline had 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists against Saint Louis earlier in the season. That would be his second triple-double on the year. Cline had 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists at home against Duquesne, which was arguably his best performance of the season and possibly in his entire career.
Cline came up big in a number of enormous wins for the Spiders this past season. He dropped 19 points, pulled in 11 boards, and dished out 7 assists in a win over George Washington in Foggy Bottom. He had a very similar performance statistically when Richmond was able to take down Davidson in Belk Arena. Perhaps Richmond’s biggest win of the season was at home over the Rhode Island Rams. Cline showed up with 21 points, 13 boards, and 4 assists. If the Spiders were playing well, you could bet it was Cline carrying the load.
T.J. Cline’s offensive numbers were incredible. 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game is pretty darn good. Also, you can’t tell me someone who has 2 triple-doubles in a season doesn’t deserve a heck of a lot of recognition for his work. Cline was an animal. Cline shot 63.9% from 2 point range which is really impressive for someone who took a lot of jump shots in addition to lay-ups and dunks. Also, T.J. Cline had the best assist rate and defensive rebounding rate in the Atlantic 10. He was like a point guard and center all wrapped into one.
His 37.8% three point shooting percentage in conference play wasn’t too shabby, and there were few statistical categories that Cline wasn’t leading. Though his defense could have been a bit sharper this past season, his offense was second to none, and there’s no surprise he won the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors.
Distributing, rebounding, and playing tough all-around basketball, T.J. Cline was the epitome of a team player. Not only that, but he took this team from the bottom to the top. He turned things on in conference play and helped the Spiders greatly exceed expectations. No one saw Richmond finishing 3rd in the league after the Spiders’ showing in non-conference play. If you fast forward to the end of the season, they’re a shot or two away form beating VCU and playing in the A-10 Championship for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Congrats to T.J. Cline for one heck of a senior season, and congrats on making it to the top of our Top 25 Player Countdown.
Previously: #2 Jack Gibbs