The America East Conference is a small conference centered around the New York-New England area.
Vermont's upset of Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA Tournament is what the America East is best known for. Other than that one game, the conference has not accomplished too much.
Marqus Blakely will change that.
Blakely, a junior forward at Vermont, is only 6'5", but he puts up big man numbers because of his outstanding leaping ability and overall talent.
He only averaged 13.4 minutes per game as a freshman, but his playing time skyrocketed in his sophomore year.
Blakely played 34 minutes per game and averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and two steals en route to winning the America East Player and Defender of the Year Awards and being an Honorable Mention for the AP's All-American Team.
Vermont generally does not schedule too many games against big opponents, but they traveled to Virginia and Florida last season. Blakely posted impressive stat lines in both games; he recorded a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds against Virginia, and had 16 points and nine boards in Gainesville. The then-sophomore also blocked two shots in each contest.
In 2007-08, the native of Metuchen, New Jersey scored in double-figures in every game except for an America East semifinal loss to UMBC.
DraftExpress saw something that they liked from Blakely, as they ranked him 37th on this year's juniors list.
He started the 2008-09 season with a bang, as he scored 24 points, grabbed eight misses off the glass, blocked four shots, and recorded four steals in a tough overtime loss to George Mason.
Vermont coach Mike Lonergan expects an impressive season from his 6'5", 220-pound forward, and was quoted saying, "Marqus is going to have another terrific year. His stats might not improve, but I think he will become a better all-around player. He is a tremendous athlete that is developing into a great basketball player. Marqus will continue to make spectacular plays for the Catamounts and be the top player in the America East."
Vermont was chosen by America East coaches to finish second on the season, and if they make it to the NCAA Tournament, Blakely's name will come up when analysts discuss Vermont's first round match-up.
Even if Blakely transcends his sophomore campaign and leads Vermont to the Tournament, it is very unlikely that the Catamount will bounce for the draft after this season.
His stock will only increase by the time his senior campaign concludes.
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