It’s been a fun seven days. And it’s only the start.
Last Thursday, the Atlantic 10 Conference held its annual Media Day at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, offering a chance to connect one-on-one with coaches and talk shop.
Several teams – URI included – continued with either secret scrimmages or exhibitions over the weekend. And all league members hit the hardwood for keeps in the next week or so as the 2019-20 season tips off. Here are a few league-wide and Rhody-specific thoughts as we approach November.
KiShawn is key. At the Red/Black scrimmage last weekend in Davidson, the Wildcats 6-foot-6 redshirt senior KiShawn Pritchett did not suit up. It’s no secret that Pritchett has battled knee issues throughout his career. As for Davidson, the ‘Cats return the majority of their lineup in tact and head coach Bob McKillop is “hopeful” on the health status of Pritchett for this season.
Pritchett is by every account of any person I’ve spoken with at Davidson and across the A-10, a great kid. He averaged 6.9ppg, 3.6rpg and 2.4apg in 28 minutes a night last year. But the numbers represent only a fraction of the value he brings.
He’s a veteran, trusted presence in the lineup. He keeps the ball moving on offense with rapid, polished decision-making, terrific unselfishness and passing ability. He bangs down low for a team that isn’t full of bangers. He offers defensive length and understands angles and positioning. He makes winning plays.
Add it up and you’ve got a guy who’s important to both his program and the league.
Davidson returns plenty of firepower and know-how and will survive without Pritchett for as long as they need to do so. But they’re better with him.
So here’s hoping the kid can battle through these latest physical challenges and help his team and the league win the type of March-aiding games needed in non-conference play.
Surprise squad? VCU (19 first place votes), Davidson (8) and Dayton (1) led the Atlantic 10’s predicted order of finish among a panel of coaches and select media. All of the choices from 1-14 are reasonable and defensible, but as I look at who might outpace and outplace the prognosticators by a spot or two, I like Duquesne, chosen 8th.
Keith Dambrot’s team could surprise if they pocket a couple of confidence building wins early and team health breaks right for them. Dambrot expects 6-10 Austin Rotroff back within two weeks (knee) and 6-8 Amari Kelly (knee) back by early December.
Sincere Carry is one of the Atlantic 10’s rising stars at guard, Sixth Man of the Year Tavian Dunn-Martin returns in an amplified role, and Dambrot is very high on 6-5 freshman guard Maceo Austin who he expects to be among the best rookies in the league. Sprinkle in other experienced producers like 6-8 Michael Hughes and 6-4 shooter Frankie Hughes and it’s worth keeping an eye on the Dukes.
Ford’s training camp. Saint Louis roster is a loose facsimile of Rhode Island’s a year ago. Lost several producers, return an inside-outside combination of vets (Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French) and need guys to make jumps in terms of not only productivity, but also leadership and maturity.
For that reason I found Ford’s decision to take his team to Training Camp in Chicago during fall break to be an intriguing idea that could deliver significant payoff. While in the Windy City, the Billikens scrimmaged Loyola-Chicago (led by former SLU assistant coach Porter Moser), visited Navy Pier, toured the Chicago Bulls practice facility, underwent media training, and assimilated to a road schedule and routine.
Long position. When you’re long on a stock investment, you’re buying into it with the expectation that the stock will rise in time. While all of the Rhode Island freshmen – Jacob Toppin, Mekhi Long, and Gregory Hammond – possess great physical length, it was Long who looked the most comfortable on both ends of the floor in Rhode Island’s 93-55 exhibition win over Rhode Island College.
It’s foolish to infer much from tuneups against DIII opponents, but sensing a player’s comfort – or lack thereof – is almost tangible. And Long was at home on Saturday night. At 6-7 and roughly 200 pounds, he offers fluidity and length, is not a guy you need to run plays for, the ball doesn’t stick with him, and he seems the most conceptually up to speed on the defensive end.
He’ll be interesting to monitor moving forward and figures to be a versatile piece of the personnel puzzle for David Cox.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 television analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named an NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44
Catch LIU @ Rhody on YurView Cox Channel 4 Tuesday November 5 at 9pm (Tape Delay)