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 #8 De’Monte Buckingham of Richmond.
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
What’s he done? In a freshman season on a Richmond team that featured two star scorers (Cline and Jones), Buckingham has already done A LOT. Earning A-10 Rookie of the Year Honors was no joke for De’Monte; he averaged 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per contest as a freshman. Rarely in the league do you see an underclassmen with that kind of distribution in stats; he affects all facets of the game. Dare I say De’Monte Buckingham is the next T.J. Cline (2016-17 A-10 POY) in a couple of seasons?
I’m high on Buckingham for a number of reasons. First off, he brings plenty of spark on the defensive end of the floor. Leading the team in steals and blocks per game in his first year, Buckingham was the main reason the Spiders ranked in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency last season. Buckingham scores with efficiency as well; he’s a dual threat from three (39.5% in A-10 play) and two (55.3% last year) meaning he can beat you from all over the court. Most notably though, Buckingham showed his ability to take over games when A-10 POY T.J. Cline struggled: take for example Richmond’s OT loss to VCU in the A-10 Championship. Cline’s 4-12 from the field was augmented by Buckingham’s 26 points on 9-14 shooting. That’s the kind of poise and dominance that a future A-10 star shows in his first year in the league.
What He’ll Do
If you thought Buckingham did a lot as a freshman, imagine what his numbers are going to be like without seniors T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones in the mix. You’re talking about more than 35 points per game that have departed. Enter Buckingham with a chance to be a 20+ PPG scorer. Seriously, this kid is that good. The combination of Buckingham along with rising star Khwan Fore could be a lethal one; Chris Mooney’s just going to have to work the rest of his roster into the mix if he wants the Spiders to stay relevant.
It comes down to this: Richmond will go just as far as Buckingham is willing to take it this year. There will be a lot of moments when the sophomore is going to have to embrace the “team on my back” mentality throughout the season. The Spiders have a lot of new faces, and chemistry is something that will have to be developed. What we do know is that Buckingham, through his passing ability and defensive intensity, has the means of making his teammates better. In this sense, the Spiders could get better and better as the season progresses. UR was picked 8th in the Atlantic 10’s official preseason poll, but Buckingham may have something to say about that…
Previously: #9 Matt Mobley