The Campaign

2016-17 Outlook

Courtesy: Rider Sports Information
         
Release: September 30, 2016
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Courtesy: Peter G. Borg (Rider University)

2016-17 Rider Men’s Basketball Outlook

When you combine the facts that half of the roster is made up of brand new faces and the other half experienced a down year last season, you can come to the conclusion that the expectations of the 2016-17 Rider University men’s basketball season might not be very high.

At least from the outside world.

“The expectations of us might be low, but they are high in our locker room,” said fifth-year head coach Kevin Baggett, the 2015 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. “I expect this team to be good.”

The reason for optimism is based on the return of seniors Kahlil Thomas, Jimmie Taylor III and Xavier Lundy, along with the addition of graduate student Norville Carey.

“This group of seniors wants to lead this team and I know we can count on them,” Baggett said.

Thomas earned third team All-MAAC honors last year after leading the conference in field goal percentage and finishing third in the league in rebounding.

“Last year Kahlil really found himself after his injured sophomore season,” Baggett said. “His confidence grew and I feel he is ready to be a first team All-Conference selection.  He’s more comfortable on the perimeter than he’s ever been so I think we’ll see him score from the outside as well as the inside. I see him continuing to be our top rebounder.”

Taylor enters the season with 1,026 points. A former MAAC All-Rookie team member and a preseason All-MAAC selection last year, Taylor is a veteran of 97 games, including 93 starts.

“Jimmie is going to finish his great career with close to 1,500 points,” Baggett said. “I’m proud of what he has done and I know he is looking to end on a high note. He will be the starting ‘two’ guard for us. He has averaged right around 10 points per game his entire career and I would love to see him take that next step.”

Lundy was sixth in the MAAC in field goal percentage last year and is a veteran of 86 games. “X had some games where he played really well last year and this year we think he will have a consistent, break out year, which we need him to have,” Baggett said.

Joining Lundy and Thomas in the front court will be Southern Mississippi graduate Norville Carey of the Virgin Islands. At Southern Miss Carey played 90 games before red-shirting his senior year.  A career 53 percent shooter from the field, Carey averaged 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds as a junior against the tough Conference USA competition.

“Norville was a very good player for Southern Miss and will give us a formidable front court with Thomas and Lundy,” Baggett said. “He is very athletic and can score in a number of ways, inside and outside.  He’s also a great rebounder. With Norville, Kahlil and X we should have one of the better front courts in the MAAC.”

The all-important point guard position will be fought for by sophomore Kealen Washington-Ives and freshman Stevie Jordan.

“Our success will hinge on our two point guards,” Baggett said.

Ives served as a back-up his rookie season to All-Conference selection Teddy Okereafor, but is ready to take on the starting role this year. As a freshman he played in 32 games and despite averaging just 18 minutes per game was second on the team in assists.

“Kealen needs to take the next step after showing flashes last year, especially in the MAAC tournament,” Baggett said. In the MAAC quarterfinals he compiled seven points and four steals in less than 20 minutes after scoring nine points in 21 minutes off the bench in the MAAC playoff win over Quinnipiac. “He needs to keep us in our offense and blow the ball up the court. He started 10 games last year and we need him to build on that.”

Jordan enjoyed a standout career at Conwell Egan Catholic of the Philadelphia Catholic League, leading the team to an AA State Title as a junior before honing his skills last season at Advanced Prep International in Texas. At API he played alongside six high Division I players.

“Stevie is a very talented point guard who was heavily sought after,” Baggett said. “We were fortunate to get him. His mother is an AAU coach and former college player. He’s a tough competitor, very athletic and will play significant minutes this year. He is capable of scoring but he is the guy who finds players and he can run the offense.  Stevie and Kealen will decide who the starting point guard will be this year, and there will be times that they both will be in the game.”

The point guard position will be even more important this year, as the Broncs plan on running as much as possible.

“This year we will run,” Baggett said. “I’ve said this from day one when I took over this program I want to run. We are committed to that. This year we have the personnel that we can really run.”

Another key returnee is Anthony Durham who red-shirted last year.

Durham played in 23 games as a rookie and five of the first seven games last year before a foot injury sidelined him for the season. “Anthony really works,” Baggett said. “That foot injury last year was very unfortunate, for him and for us. He’s more of a slasher than a shooter, but he can score.”

The newcomers, in addition to Carey and Jordan, are led by Jordan Allen, Xzavier Malone, Tyere Marshall and Dimencio Vaughn.

Allen is a shooting guard from Delaware, where he was the Gatorade Player of the Year, earning first team All-State honors as a senior after second team All-State honors as a junior. Last year he averaged over 26 points per game, most in the Diamond State.

“Jordan is a shooter,” Baggett said. “He brings another dimension to us that we haven’t had of late. He can really stretch the court. He has NBA range.  He should make an impact early on.”

Malone scored 1,173 points in just two seasons at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in the Philadelphia Public League, including 30 points in the District Championship Game against the powerful Chester squad. Last season he earned second team All-State honors while maintaining membership to the Academic Honor Roll.

“Za is very athletic and has a huge upside,” Baggett said. “He is one of the better athletes we’ve had here at the guard position. He is left-handed and is going to be a very good ‘two’ guard in the future.”

Marshall is a 6’8” center who played at Martin Luther King High School in Philadelphia, where he was a much larger player, before attending Putnam Science in Massachusetts, and was also a member of the Philly Pride in the Under Armour Association.

“Tyere lost almost 70 pounds coming out of MLK High School,” Baggett said. “He is becoming one of our more consistent post players. I like his work ethic. By the time the conference games role around he should be an impact player. He’s a brick house down low. He is left-handed and is going to be really, really good when all is said and done.”

Vaughn averaged over 23 points and 12 rebounds in 2014 at the Thurgood Marshall Academy before attending Callaway High School, and last season averaged 24 points and over eight rebounds per game at The Masters School.

“Dimencio was an A-10 recruit and the first New York City player we’ve had in my 10 years here,” Baggett said. “He’s very athletic and has that alpha dog mentality. He’s very good on the defensive end and is capable of scoring in a number of ways.  He is going to be on the court a lot.”

Two other newcomers who will not be on the court this year are sophomore Devine Eke and red-shirt freshman Frederick Scott, who must sit out the 2016-17 season due to transfer rules.

Eke comes to Rider from the University of Maine, and originally hails from Plainfield, NJ. He played in 30 games for Maine last year, starting 22, and led the team in rebounding, field goal percentage and blocks. At Union Catholic he led his team to a conference title and at The Robinson School averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“Devine will develop his game this year while sitting out and is very athletic,” Baggett said. “He’ll work on improving as a ‘four’ and could eventually develop into a ‘three’ for us.”

Scott comes to Rider from DePaul and has also played for the Milwaukee Runnin’ Rebels U17 team and at Oak Hill Academy. At Chicago power Simeon Prep School he was one of just 29 players in Illinois to be a McDonalds All-American nominee.

“Scott is a swingman, playing the ‘three’ or ‘four’ and has great length,” Baggett said. “He’s an above average shooter who is very athletic. He was heavily recruited and played for DePaul before an injury. So he still has four years to play for us. He will be an impact player for us next year.”

Despite all of the new faces the Broncs look to improve on last year’s record and place in the conference.

“Top to bottom we are better than last year,” Baggett said. “We are more skilled and we are a lot more athletic. The eight new players bring a lot of energy. This team is hungry and motivated to put what happened last season behind us.”

Hungry, motivated and skilled. Those are reasons why there should be high expectations for 2016-17.

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The Campaign