Every Atlantic 10 season brings expected outcomes; usually we’ll have a good idea who’s going to be the best in the league. That being said, there are always sleepers, some harder to predict than others. Here’s a sleeper to watch for on each Atlantic 10 team, as these guys could go from under-the-radar to breakout star.
Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson
Most people learned his name last year, but Jon Axel Gudmundsson will look to become one of the league’s best shooting guards in 2017-18. Gudmundsson shot 32.7% from three as a freshman, but he made 6/10 three pointers in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Jon had one of the better assist rates among guards in the nation; he became a better passer as the season went on. And mind you, this was all with Jack Gibbs on the floor taking a majority of the team’s shots and making a majority of the passes. There’s tons of room for Gudmundsson to grow.
Jordan Pierce, Dayton
There’s a lot of hype around Dayton’s frontcourt heading into 2017-18, and one of the most vital pieces may be freshman Jordan Pierce. At 6-10 and 245 pounds, Pierce is a mass in the paint, and he’ll have the body to battle down low with the likes of Justin Tillman and Rashaan Holloway. As a senior in high school, Pierce averaged 9.5 boards per contest. He’ll add rebounding capability to a team that ranked 9th in the Atlantic 10 on the offensive and defensive glass in 2016-17.
Jordan Robinson, Duquesne
Not a lot of people know Robinson’s name, because right as he was beginning to heat up, he went down with a season-ending injury in 2016-17. He’ll be back and ready to surprise. Robinson had 14 points and 4 boards on the road against SLU before getting injured in practice. He also went for 9 points and 5 boards at home against Rhode Island. Without Darius Lewis or Isiaha Mike around down low, he’ll step up big time.
Prokop Slanina, Fordham
Slanina missed a significant portion of time to finish the season after suffering an injury; like Robinson of Duquesne, he was showing signs of improvement prior to getting hurt. Slanina had 15 points in a double overtime win over Saint Joseph’s; he also had 13 points and 7 boards in a road win over Massachusetts. Slanina was undoubtedly an important part to Fordham’s 2016-17 roster, and that won’t change this coming season.
A.J. Wilson, George Mason
There’s a lot to like about Goanar Mar and A.J. Wilson, George Mason’s two stud freshman recruits. Wilson led his high school team in blocks and was second in rebounding, and he’s an athletic, high-flying player that will make a lot of highlight reel plays next season. I wouldn’t sleep on Wilson, especially on the defensive end of the floor, as he’ll do a lot of the intangibles that the Patriots lost in Marquise Moore.
Jair Bolden, George Washington
Jair Bolden had his ups and downs throughout the 2016-17 season, but he certainly had some big games to help the Colonials finish 6th in the Atlantic 10. Bolden’s 12 points were big in helping George Washington beat Dayton to finish the regular season. Similarly, he had 9 in the CBI, giving George Washington the lift it needed to take down Toledo. Two things stand out to me when looking at Jair Bolden’s freshman campaign: assists and three point shooting. Bolden had the 20th best assist rate in conference play, and he had 15 dimes in the month of March. The freshman shot 40.4% from deep in conference play, and that number drastically improved as the season went on. Look for Bolden to improve in those two areas, as well as more next season.
Amar Stukes, La Salle
Amar Stukes was a rock for La Salle last season, and still, not enough people know this guy’s name. Stukes went for 22 points and hit 13 of 14 free throws to take down Rhode Island on the road. It’d be one of the biggest steals in A-10 conference play, and Amar Stukes was the main reason the Explorers came away with the win. The junior had the best free throw shooting percentage in A-10 play (88.5%) and he had the 8th best free throw rate as well. He gets to the line, and when he’s there, you know he’s cashing in. Amar Stukes had the 4th best offensive rating in the A-10 according to Kenpom, and he’s a silent but deadly piece to La Salle’s offense.
Luwane Pipkins, Massachusetts
Though he wasn’t one of the most consistent players in the Atlantic 10, Luwane Pipkins had a few enormous performances last year. He had 5 games with at least 18 points last season, and he even scored a career-high 27 points over Kennesaw St. early in the year. Pipkins had the 36th best steal percentage in the nation last year; he was an absolute pest and affected both sides of the ball phenomenally. I’d look for Pipkins to take a big step up in 2017-18 after the Minutemen lost Donte Clark and DeJon Jarreau.
Andre Berry, Rhode Island
There’s been quite a bit of talk surrounding Cyril Langevine when talking about Rhode Island’s 2017-18 frontcourt, but could Andre Berry be your guy? The rising senior led the Rams in scoring in their first overseas game in the Bahamas, showing signs of growth heading into 2017-18. He didn’t get tremendous amounts of playing time with Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson in the mix last season, but that should change this year. In fact, Berry rarely played, but his performance in the Caribbean shows that he might be Hurley’s secret weapon.
Khwan Fore, Richmond
With ShawnDre’ Jones and T.J. Cline having graduated, Khwan Fore looks like the next man up to make a huge impact on this Richmond team. While De’Monte Buckingham is the obvious Batman, Fore is the Robin that not enough people are giving credit to. Fore shot better than 50% from 2 point range last year, which is incredible for a guard. He was also top 25 in the Atlantic 10 in steal and turnover percentage; Fore’s got a lot working for him.
Markell Lodge, Saint Joseph’s
Believe it or not, this guy had the #1 offensive rating in the Atlantic 10 last year. Why? He was an incredible rebounder, he rarely committed turnovers, and he shot 81.2% from the field in conference play; sure, he didn’t take a ton of attempts, but that’s incredible efficiency. Needless to say, Phil Martelli needs to take a greater chance on Markell Lodge, because he put up some incredible numbers last season. If he could emerge as a big sleeper in the A-10, this team is going to be absolutely lethal and could make the NCAA Tournament.
Elliott Welmer, Saint Louis
There’s a lot of talk surrounding Saint Louis’ transfers and freshmen, but you shouldn’t forget about rising sophomore Elliott Welmer. As a freshman, Welmer was great on both ends of the floor. He was a top 25 rebounder on offense and defense in the A-10 last season. He also had the 13th best block percentage in the conference. Welmer is incredibly dangerous because he knows how to step outside and hit threes as well as play inside. He shot nearly 40% from range in conference play last season. He could be real dangerous as a sophomore .
Idris Taqqee, St. Bonaventure
Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley are the stars that fuel this St. Bonaventure offense, but Idris Taqqee is your guy on defense. He was top 25 in both block and steal percentage last season, and he actually played a significant amount of time (10th highest percentage of minutes in the A-10). Expect Taqqee to take on an even bigger role next season, and if he can enhance his offensive ability as well, he’ll be more than just an asset for Mark Schmidt.
Khris Lane, VCU
The Longwood transfer was a prolific scorer on the D-1 level last season, and he’s hoping that success can translate over to the Atlantic 10. He averaged 17.1 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Lancers last season. Lane should be a big addition to a frontcourt that loses Alie-Cox and Hamdy. Lane was also very effective from the field, cashing in on 62.8% of his 2 point attempts; he can also step outside and hit the three at a 32.8% rate.
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