Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top Pre-Season 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 #24 Jeff Dowtin of Rhode Island.
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
The second half of the 2016-17 season was Jeff Dowtin’s coming out party, and his emergence as one of the best rising sophomores in the A-10 earned him a spot in this year’s Top 25 Player Countdown. Dowtin got the starting point guard position midway through January, and with more playing time, the freshman got better and better. As a starter, Dowtin averaged 3.3 assists per game and even had 2 contests with 7 dimes. In the same time period, Dowtin averaged just 0.9 turnovers per contest. Needless to say, the freshman was exceptional with the basketball in his hands and ran the point effectively for a team that has a plethora of talented guards. Not to mention, Dowtin’s 23 points in the NCAA Tournament against Creighton certainly cast optimism; moving forward, Dan Hurley’s got a guy that will serve as both a distributor and scorer for the next 3 seasons.
Watch this video of Dowtin as he calmly dribbles out of a double team and gets to the hoop for the lay-in before the shot clock expires. This is the kind of poise that you hardly see from a freshman point guard.
Dowtin did just about all he could as a freshman last year. In a system where he wasn’t expected to get much playing time, the young gun earned himself minutes late in the season and essentially locked up the starting PG position for next season. If Dowtin doesn’t show up on the road against Davidson (19 points and 4 assists) or against Creighton in the NCAA Tournament, Rhode Island’s season could have ended earlier than it did. Even when he wasn’t scoring, he had 9 nights with 4 or more assists as a freshman.
What He’ll Do
The question for the 2017-18 becomes: how much can we expect from Dowtin considering how loaded this backcourt is? The answer should still be: a lot. Despite a load of talent at the 1 and the 2, I think the rising sophomore has done more than enough to earn a majority of the team’s minutes at PG. While Fatts should see some court time, and Jarvis Garrett may also play the 1 here and there, Dowtin should be the guy right off the bat. This enhances Rhode Island’s backcourt a lot because the sophomore has proven he can create offense for other players; particularly guys like E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell.
While Matthews wasn’t diabolic from three last year, his shooting in last year’s A-10 Tournament is testimony to his potential from long range. Also, look at a guy like Jarvis Garrett who shot 52.4% from 3 in conference play as a sophomore. If you implement Dowtin at the point and let him drive and kick to open shooters, you could see Rhode Island’s efficiency skyrocket from 3. Remember: this was a team that shot just 32.6% (10th in the A-10) from long range last season. Dowtin’s distributing abilities should give the Rams more open looks, especially if he continues to establish himself as a threat off the dribble, which he very much is.
Without Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson in the post, Rhode Island loses some star power and force in the middle; subsequently, this backcourt has a lot of extra slack to pick up, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I don’t doubt that Jeff Dowtin will be a big key in setting up the Rams with open looks, but he’ll have to be sharp defensively as well. If he continues to establish himself on both ends of the floor, he’ll undoubtedly be Rhode Island’s best player heading into the 2018-19 season, and he could help the Rams reach the Sweet 16 and beyond this year.
Previously: #25 LuWane Pipkins