We as college basketball fans like to credit experience as the main virtue that drives a team to be successful. Senior-loaded squads with players who have “been there before” know how to get it done. It’s tough to argue with that statement; upperclassmen tend to play with a certain edge that only comes with more time on the court. That being said, every upperclassman had to be an underclassman first. Some college basketball superstars have the talent to go right to the pros; most have to grind it out at the collegiate level in order to fully develop their games before playing professional ball. We’re going to take a look at some of the young guns across the A-10. These are some talented basketball players who have impressed many in their short-lived careers. And the best part? They still have room to grow at the collegiate level. You’ll more than likely see them around next season. Without further ado, here are, in no particular order, some of the best underclassmen in the Atlantic 10 conference this season.
Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
I hope no one was blindsided by this pick; Jaylen Adams is obviously one of the better underclassmen, let alone players in the Atlantic 10 conference. As a sophomore, Adams is averaging 18.5 points per game on 46.2% shooting from the field and 44.5% shooting from downtown. With senior counterpart Marcus Posley, the two make a formidable backcourt, likely one of the best in the nation. The best part about Jaylen Adams is that he is a clutch performer. He knocks down 87.9% of his free throws and can always be relied upon when the game is on the line. Not to mention the fact that he hit a huge game winning three pointer against Saint Louis just the other day. And yes, he’s only a sophomore, but he plays with the poise of a senior.
Steve McElvene, Dayton
The Flyers have a stud in 6’11 powerhouse Steve McElvene this season. The freshman has been huge (literally) on the block, averaging 6.4 points per game on 59.4% shooting, even though he’s limited to just 20.2 minutes per contest. But McElvene’s most known for his dominant defense. He leads the conference in block percentage, swatting away 14.7% of the opponent’s two-point attempts while he’s on the floor. He also ranks 9th nationally in that category. Not to mention that he also pulls down a very impressive 6.6 rebounds per contest. Given that this kid is just a freshman, the Flyers will undoubtedly be looking forward to seeing him succeed more and more on both ends of the floor in the near future.
Justin Tillman, VCU
With all the attention that VCU’s star upperclassmen have been getting this season, it’s easy to forget just how good rising sophomore Justin Tillman has been for the Rams. It may come as a shock to you, but this guy is leading the conference in A LOT of statistical categories according to Kenpom. For one, he’s got the best offensive rating in the league. Justin Tillman is also a monster on the glass, grabbing offensive rebounds on 15.2% of missed shot attempts while he’s on the floor (1st in the A-10). The sophomore doesn’t turn the ball over; he’s got the best turnover rate in the conference. He’s also leading the league in two-point field goal percentage at 76.3% in conference play. Born to lead, Justin Tillman’s future is bright with VCU.
Peyton Aldridge, Davidson
As an underclassman, Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge is beginning to step into the role of Robin to Jack Gibbs’ Batman. Averaging 14.9 points per game, Aldridge is a threat to opposing defenses because he can truly do everything. He scores inside (56.0% from 2), can step-out to knock down the three (26 made threes), is an effective passer (2.3 assists per game), and also rebounds the ball very well (6.6 rebounds per game). He’s proven to be a very integral part of the Wildcats’ system, and when Bob McKillop’s squad loses a large chunk of its scoring next season, Peyton Aldridge will certainly be the guy called upon to step up.
Jarvis Garrett, Rhode Island
As a sophomore, Jarvis Garrett is leading the Rams in scoring and proving to be a very productive point guard that can bring this team back to prominence. Garrett has very solid numbers across the board; he’s averaging 13.2 points per game, 4.2 assists per game, and 4.0 rebounds per game. He’s a very elusive guard that also rebounds well for his size. Though the Rams haven’t been great by any means this season, Jarvis Garrett has certainly been a bright spot. Rhode Island will return a lot of talent for the 2016-17 season, and if Jarvis Garrett continues to be as efficient as he’s been at the point, the Rams could do some big things in the near future.
Yuta Watanabe, George Washington
The sophomore Yuta Watanabe, along with being a fan-favorite, has stepped up as one of the better upperclassmen in the Atlantic 10. In addition to scoring 8.2 points and pulling down 4.0 rebounds per game, he may be one of the best finishers in the game (it always seems to drop when he drives the lane). Though he definitely has some work to do on his outside shooting, Watanabe is the definition of a fundamental player; he doesn’t turn the ball over that often, he plays good defense, and he gets to the line frequently. He’ll be a major threat for the Colonials during his tenure in Foggy Bottom.
Donte Clark, Massachusetts
Though the Minutemen have been struggling this season, sophomore guard Donte Clark has given fans a reason to believe in the future of the program. Averaging 17.4 points per game, Clark has proven to be one of the best scorers in the league. He, along with Trey Davis, are major contributors on the court, and both take a lot of Massachusetts’ shots. Donte Clark rebounds well for a guard (4.3 per game) and also dishes out a decent number of assists (2.5 per contest). There are certainly strides to be made in his game, but the sophomore will be called upon in the near future as the go-to-guy when Trey Davis is gone.
Otis Livingston II, George Mason
George Mason’s Otis Livingston II is a dark horse candidate for Rookie of the Year in the Atlantic 10. Averaging 12.2 points and 3.4 assists per game, Livingston II has proven that he can score and pass at an efficient rate for the Patriots. While it is unlikely that George Mason finishes with any kind of record it was hoping for, you have to think that the future will be bright with this kid in the backcourt. He’s been proving all year long that he’ll be able to step up once leading scorer Marquise Moore graduates in 2 years.
Joseph Chartouny, Fordham
Despite being limited in playing time this year due to an injury, Fordham freshman Joseph Chartouny is really having himself a pretty good season. He’s scored in double figures 6 times this year and really has the capability to become a complete player in the Atlantic 10 conference. He ranks 12th in the league in steal percentage and 6th in assist rate. In just his first year playing collegiate-level basketball, Joseph Chartouny has senior-style poise and will certainly be called upon to step-up when his teammates graduate. Look for him to do some big things for the Rams in the near future.