The A-10 is clearly a conference on the rise, outdoing their five NCAA tournament bids in 2013 with six this past season despite losing schools like Xavier, Butler and Temple to conference realignment. While teams have been able to grab some studs, particularly as of late (see: VCU and Rhode Island’s recruiting success), for the most part Atlantic 10 schools have been able to build tournament caliber teams by relying on experienced rosters and cashing in on some diamonds mined from the rough.
Below is our top 10 recruiting finds for players who will compete in the A-10 this upcoming season. We’re talking diamonds mined from the relative rough (no composite 3-stars, no guys with BCS options), players who very well might have ended up in a lower conference had it not been for the vision of the coaches who have helped turn them into A-10 forces.
1. Treveon Graham (VCU) – The “Freight Train” as VCU fans call him will head into this upcoming season as the only returning A-10 First-Teamer, thus making him the likely Preseason Player of the Year. Graham has been a steady force since early on in his career and has racked up the rewards because of it, including an appearance with USA Basketball for the 2013 World University Games. Despite displaying an ability to consistently put the ball in the basket as a high school prospect, Graham saw limited offers, choosing VCU over the likes of Northeastern and Cleveland State as a 2-star composite ranking recruit.
2. Kendall Anthony (Richmond) – Anthony’s stature no doubt limited his recruiting ceiling, but the BCS schools caution turned into a major steal for Chris Mooney and the Spiders. At 5’8 140lbs, Anthony has displayed a big game since coming to UofR, averaging no less than 11.5 points in a season (his sophomore season) while shooting over 40% from deep in two of his three seasons under the Robins Center lights. Anthony held offers from the likes of Lipscomb, Colgate and South Alabama as a composite 2-star recruit out of high school. Richmond fans are no doubt glad he opted to become a Spider instead.
3. Briante Weber (VCU) – Weber came to VCU with one star next to his ESPN profile name but has made himself a legit National Defensive Player of the Year candidate heading into next season where he’ll attempt to break the NCAA all-time steals record. Weber is a perfect example of recruiting to a team’s style of play and will head into this season as potential Preseason First Team selection.
4. Kethan Savage (GW) – Savage made a huge jump from his freshman to sophomore season, increasing his scoring by 9.6 points per contest. The Fairfax, VA native was on the radar of a number of A-10 schools with a 2.3-start composite ranking, including hometown team George Mason as well as VCU and Dayton. Unfortunately a mid-season injury derailed most of Savage’s sophomore season but the Colonials are no doubt looking forward to seeing a healthy Kethan on the sidelines next season.
5. Youssou Ndoye (Saint Bonaventure) – The Dakar, Senegal native found his way to Olean, NY as an ESPN 1-star recruit their recruiting service described as “very raw”. Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt will look for Ndoye to go from “raw” to “well done” in his senior season after averaging 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game this past season.
6. Patricio Garino (GW) – There is but one note on Garino’s ESPN recruiting page: “Native of Argentina …” It’s true, Garino is from Mara Del Plate, Argentina, but it’s also true that Mike Lonergan found himself a damn good basketball player despite the big “NR” next to his name on sites like ESPN.com. The 6’6 Garino averaged 12.1 ppg this past season on an incredibly impressive 56.1% field goal mark and looks to help take GW back to a second consecutive NCAA tournament.
7. Kevin Larsen (GW) – Yet another foreign success, the Danish Larsen is no creme puff, instead the 6’10 247 lb Larsen has established himself as one of the best returning big men in the Atlantic 10. Larsen saw interest from the likes of Providence and Temple but in the end wound up on the nations capital where he has helped rebuild GW into an NCAA tournament squad. The Copenhagen native got to GW as a composite 2-star recruit despite a big “NR” from ESPN but will look to make his first All A-10 appearance as a junior.
8. Terry Allen (Richmond) – Another great find for Chris Mooney and Richmond basketball fans, Allen made the move from Manvel, Texas to Richmond, VA with a 2.3 composite ranking out of high school. The rising junior had a big sophomore season, averaging 10.2 ppg and 5.7 rebounds for the Spiders, up from 4.4 ppg and 3.4 rebs as a freshman. Big No.15 has hit over 50% of all his attempts since joining the Spiders and could be due for a big junior season as Richmond looks to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
9. Jalen Jenkins (George Mason) – Jenkins had a number of A-10 schools interested (offers from URI, Fordham) in obtaining his services but the 2014 A-10 All-Freshman teamer opted for Mason where he averaged 7.2 ppg and 6 rpg this past season. And ESPN 2-star out of high school, the Bronx native was described as “a tremendous looking physical prospect”, but one that had his motor questioned. One season into his college career, Jenkins seems to have answered some of those questions and looks to be an A-10 future star for years to come.
10. Mo Alie-Cox (VCU) – My favorite line from big Mo’s ESPN recruiting profile: “Cox is an undersized power forward”. In that case Alie-Cox may be the biggest undersized player you’ll come across. Sure, Cox stands all of 6’6, but at 250 lbs with a 7’1 wingspan, Mo proved he was a load in the paint, all-be-it in limited minutes backing up Juvonte Reddic last season. While on the court the composite 2-star was a force for the Rams, blocking a league-best 10.3% of opponents shots and finished the season with a VCU-leading 52.5% effective field goal percentage. Shaka Smart may be racking up the top-100 players as of late but it’s yet another 2-star that could end up as one of VCU’s brightest future stars.