Mining Diamonds: A-10 player growth brings future stars

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There is so much talent graduating this season. Four of the league’s First Team All-Conference selections are gone including A-10 Player of the Year, Tyler Kalinoski. Those four players all played for a team at least tied within the top four of the conference. Yet somehow in the college game as players leave others step up to fill their shoes. No bigger jump seems to be made than from one’s freshman to sophomore year but certainly each player grows, or regresses, at their own pace.

Here’s a list of some of this year’s top players and a look at how they progressed throughout their years and what young A-10 ballers have a shot to make a big summer jump to breakout as sophomores in next season’s Atlantic 10.

2014-15 All-Conference First Team as freshmen

TYLER KALINOSKI (A-10 Player of the Year) – DAVIDSON

Davidson's Tyler Kilinoski increased his three-point percentage from 29.3% as a freshman to 42.3% as a senior.

Davidson’s Tyler Kilinoski increased his three-point percentage from 29.3% as a freshman to 42.3% as a senior.

A 29.3% three-ball shooter his freshman season with a career-low effective field goal percentage of 41.9%, who knew Kalinoski would make the strides he made throughout his career as a Davidson Wildcat? Bob McKillop, that’s who. Kalinoski increased his true shooting percentage 13% from his freshman to sophomore season, taking his two-point percentage from 35.1% to a career-high 58.8% his sophomore season and was able to elevate his pedestrian three-point to above 40% his final two seasons with the cats including a career-best 46.2% his junior season.

Comparable freshman Wildcat: Oskar Michelson

JORDAN SIBERT – DAYTON

Sibert played his first two seasons of college hoops with the Ohio State Buckeyes after signing as a top-40 recruit out of high school. Sibert was never really able to get things going with the Buckeyes, finishing both seasons in Columbus with a sub-90 offensive rating (not good). His effective field goal percentage there never cracked 40% as the future Atlantic 10 sharpshooter could not get his three-point average above 26% with the Buckeyes. Apparently a change of scenery was all that was needed as Sibert saw his percentages skyrocket after making the switch to the Flyers. Sibert’s three-point average climbed from 26% as a sophomore Buckeye to an outstanding 42.6% as a redshirt junior Flyer. His two-point percentage went from below 38% both seasons under Thad Matta to above 50% in his two seasons under Archie Miller including a career-best 61% his senior season. Insane growth.

Comparable freshman Flyer: None. Dayton played just one freshman this season, Darrell Davis, and he shot a blistering 45.2% from three this season. He did however connect on just 18.9% of his 37 two-point attempts, so plenty of room for growth there.

KENDALL ANTHONY – RICHMOND

Clearly, Kendall Anthony did all his growing before college (pun intended!). The Spider legend consistently kept an offensive rating of around 107 every season he played in Richmond and actually had career-best effective field goal (52.7%) and true shooting percentages (57%) as a freshman. He hit 41.7% of his threes as a freshman and 42.1% of his twos. That three-point number was only better his sophomore season while his two-point percentage steadily grew to a career-best 47.4% this past season.

Comparable freshman Spider: None, but sophomore Shandre Jones appears to be a very similar player, one who has made an impact right out of the gate for the Spiders.

DE’ANDRE BEMBRY – SAINT JOSEPH’S

Bembry was a beast of a freshman on a very good Hawks team and won a Rookie of the Year award to go along with Saint Joseph’s A-10 tourney title. As a sophomore he’s been equally as impressive despite teams throwing all their attention to the Charlotte, NC native. His shooting percentages have taken a minor dip but that’s somewhat to be expected with the added attempts and extra attention. Hawks knew exactly what they were getting after Bembry’s freshman season and have to be thrilled that they get the guy for two more seasons. But will he get some help?

Comparable freshman Hawk: No Saint Joseph’s freshman came close to matching Bembry’s introductory season although my money is on Shavar Newkirk to make the biggest jump from freshman to sophomore due in part to the graduation of starting point guard, Chris Wilson.

TREVEON GRAHAM – VCU

Graham was a solid freshman right out the gate that Ram fans knew had a bright future ahead of him. Still, his 31.3% three-point mark and 44.5% clip from inside the arc left plenty of room for growth. Graham made steady improvement from his freshman to sophomore seasons in both but no massive jump, and eventually elevated his three-point average to a career-best 38.1% his senior season. For the most part Graham made his biggest jump during the summer between his freshman and sophomore season and has been a steady force for the Rams ever since.

Comparable freshman: Terry Larrier. The Bronx native came to VCU as their highest rated recruit since 1990 McDonald’s All-American Kendrick Warren be didn’t exactly have a D’Angelo Russell freshman year with the Rams. The 6’8 guard/forward shot just 26.2% from long range while hitting 45.1% of his shots inside the arc for an effective field goal percentage of 41.8%, just south of Graham’s 45.6% as a freshman. Graham played bigger than Larrier despite giving up two inches in height but you could start to see Larrier using his size late in the season, averaging just under six rebounds per game during VCU’s A-10 tournament championship run. Larrier took one more two-point shot than three during that run and while he didn’t connect at a high clip, was able to get to the free throw line where he hit 18 of his 19 free throws including four big ones late in VCU’s championship game.

QUICK HITS ON A-10 SECOND TEAM

Jack Gibbs (Davidson) – Gibbs increased his three-point percentage nearly 10% in his freshman to sophomore jump, increased his assists rate by virtually the same amount and overall went from a darn good rookie to a dangerous sophomore, one of the best players in the Atlantic 10.

Brian Sullivan (Davidson) – Sully hit just under 45% of his 176 threes as a freshman, a percentage that has declined but to respectable 37.7% and 36.4% marks. He’s been better at scoring around the basket however and has improved his assist rate while lowering his turnover percentage. His offensive rating has steadily improved each season despite his effective field goal percentage taking a dip.

Dyshawn Pierre (Dayton) – Pierre was on beast mode as a freshman, hitting over 46% of this threes and 56.7% of his twos. All of his shooting percentages have gradually decreased but to a still very good 50.8% mark inside the arc and 35.6% from downtown. Where he has improved the most in his #TrueTeam skills, hitting career bests in assist and turnover rates this past season.

Jordan Price (La Salle) – Price was a highly rated recruit out of high school, opting for Auburn where he averaged 14.8 minutes per contest as a freshman. Statistically Price has been about the same player for both teams but has done an incredible job of getting to the free throw stripe for La Salle where he hit just under 80% of his 174 attempts this past season. Still lots of room for growth from an already solid player and that’s growth the Explorers will need after graduating the majority of their production from last season’s starting lineup.

Hassan Martin (Rhode Island) – Martin was a hell of a freshman and become an even better sophomore, seeing slight improvement in his shooting percentages, free throw rate, blocks percentage and rebound percentages. Not sure if he’s hit his ceiling but the opposition better pray he has.

EC Matthews (Rhode Island) – Believe it or not Matthews took a bit of a dip overall from his freshman to sophomore season, albeit the slightest dip as a combo guard. His effective field goal percentage was exactly the same (48.8%) but his assist rate decreased while his turnover rate went up. Matthews is solid inside the arc but an improved three-point stroke would greatly improve his value, not to mention potential draft stock.

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About Author

Mat Shelton-Eide has been involved in college athletics since 2007, starting as a co-founder of VCURamNation.com where he covered the Rams all the way to Houston as the one-time CAA darling shocked the hoops world with a historic run to the Final 4. He has worked within two Atlantic 10 athletic departments, first as a graduate assistant in the VCU Sports Information Department during the '09-'10 basketball season, then after receiving his M.Ed. from VCU's Center for Sport Leadership, as a ticketing and marketing intern in the University of Richmond's athletic department during the inaugural season of Richmond's Robins Stadium, months before the Spiders 2011 Sweet 16 run.

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