Welcome to A10 Talk’s Preseason Top 25 Player Countdown for the 2017-18 season. Each day, we’ll be publishing a new article, counting down our best 25 players for the coming season. Today, we feature #11 Shavar Newkirk of Saint Joseph’s.
Our Top 25 Player Countdown is a compiled list based on voting from our staff and writers from across the league. Thanks to the following for helping configure this year’s Top 25 Atlantic 10 Player Countdown:
Grant Labedz (@GrantLabedz), Mat Shelton-Eide (@MatSheltonEide), Grant Kelly (@GrantKelly07), Andrew Phung (@LoveRI401), By George (@ByGeorgeGMU), Davidson Recruiting (@DavidsonMBBRecr), Steve DiMiceli (@SteveDiMiceli), Rhody Rampage (@RhodyRampage), UMass Recruiting (@UMassRecruiting), Bona Blog (@BonaBlog), Petey Buckets (@PeteyBuckets), and UMass Ball Report (@theumbr).
What He’s Done
When healthy last season, he did a lot. So much so that a healthy version next season would make this ranking criminally low (I voted him third in my submitted rankings…just sayin’). Newkirk exploded his junior season as a Hawk, going from a 8 ppg average and 38% shooter as a a sophomore to a 20.3 ppg average and 46.6% shooter (59.7% true shooting percentage) as a junior. With a healthy Newkirk in the lineup, Phil Martelli’s Hawks jumped out to a 7-5 start to the season, three of those losses coming to kenpom top-50 teams, the two others to teams within KP’s top-120 — all forgivable in my opinion for a team having just lost their big three of Bembry, Miles and Brown. Newkirk went down however after 18 minutes of SJU’s A-10 opener (a win), then the wheels fell off for the Hawks, finishing the season 4-15 without him. Gone were Newkirk’s team-leading scoring average, his insane 27.3 player efficiency rating and team-leading 8.1 player box plus/minus, one of just five players on the team in the positive in that statistic and the only player above +3.4.
Simply put, when healthy, Newkirk was one of the best players in last season’s A-10. Not top-10 best, I’m talking top-5 status. That makes his health status one of this season’s biggest A-10 storylines. Many are jumping on the Hawks bandwagon, but that could be become a lonely bandwagon if Newkirk can’t come back as a similar version to the one we saw on the court last season.
What He’ll Do
Newkirk began non-contact drills with the Hawks last month and should be a go by the time the season fires up, meaning expectations will be relatively high with him in the lineup. Saint Joseph’s will be a more experienced team than the version we saw last season and if their recent pattern remains true, that could equal one of those every-other-year Hawks bounce backs. Adding Pierfrancesco Oliva back to the lineup alongside a more experienced versions of Charlie Brown and Lamar Kimble should take some attention off of Newkirk as well, meaning another big year could be on the horizon, hopefully this time a full one and one that would no doubt equal an all-conference selection come March.
Consider these numbers when you think about Shavar Newkirk.
2016-17 Points Per Game:
J. Adams (Bona) – 20.6
P. Aldridge (Davidson) – 20.5
S. Newkirk (SJU) – 20.3
2016-17 True Shooting Percentage:
P. Aldridge – 60.8%
S. Newkirk – 59.7%
J. Adams – 59.5%
2016-17 Player Efficiency Rating
S. Newkirk – 27.3
P. Aldridge – 25.1
J. Adams – 24.5
2016-17 Box Plus/Minus
S. Newkirk – +8.1
J. Adams – +7.7
P. Aldridge – +7.2
My point there is not only is Newkirk a good returning player for Saint Joseph’s, he’s A-10 Player of the Year caliber good. Is health however remains the huge questions and likely why my fellow voters snubbed him of a top-10 ranking he likely deserves.
Previously: #12 Xeyrius Williams