MAAC Basketball: Michael Glover and 6 Players to Watch
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference doesn't usually produce NBA players, but every year it has a substantial number of mid-major stars.
Last year, the league flaunted Ryan Rossiter, a double-double machine.
It seems like the MAAC always has one of the best distributors in the NCAA—think Scott Machado, Ronald Moore and Jared Jordan.
The conference also produced top-five scorers like Keekee Clark, Luis Flores and Andre Collins.
So, which MAAC players should you keep your eye on in 2011-12?
Rakim Sanders, Sr., Fairfield Stags
Rakim Sanders transferred to Fairfield after playing three seasons at Boston College.
After sitting out 2010-11 as a transfer, Rakim Sanders will be eligible for Fairfield in 2011-12.
Sanders received substantial playing time at Boston College, where he averaged 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a junior, but he chose Fairfield after the firing of Al Skinner.
At 6'7", Sanders is a wing capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Fairfield took a preseason trip to Italy, and the senior dropped 35 points in one of the team's four games.
Here's what head coach Sydney Johnson had to say of Sanders, according to CBS' Jeff Goodman, "Rakim Sanders is as good as people described him to be - especially from a talent standpoint. At this point in the school year, he's walked the walk. He played well on the trip, he's smart and talented."
Novar Gadson, Sr., Rider Broncs
After improving his offensive game last season, Novar Gadson became a more legitimate threat to opposing defenses. His field-goal percentage rose from 43.2 percent to 47 percent, while his three-point percentage drastically inflated to 37.5 percent from 29.2 percent.
As a result, Gadson averaged a career high 13.7 points per game.
Now, Justin Robinson and Mike Ringgold have graduated, leaving Gadson as the indisputable No. 1 on offense. His percentages might drop, as the void of Robinson and Ringgold will require him to take more shots, but his scoring should increase.
Gadson originally arrived at Rider as a power forward, but his above-average ball-handling and improved mid-range and three-point jumpers make him even more valuable as a combo guard-forward.
Gadson, who also averaged 5.8 boards per game as a junior, is capable of posting close to 20 points per game in his final season in Lawrenceville.
George Beamon, Jr., Manhattan Jaspers
George Beamon is a freakish athlete. He's only 6'4", but he might as well be 6'7" because of his leaping ability and long arms, which enabled him to snatch 6.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore. No MAAC guard grabbed more rebounds per game in 2010-11.
In his first season as a starter, Beamon played 36.8 minutes per game and led Manhattan with 16.3 points per game.
According to a blog post by head coach Steve Masiello, Beamon has "vastly improved" his left hand and jumper. Beamon inflicts the most damage by getting into the lane, so if he can add a reliable mid-range jumper to his repertoire, he'll be one of the toughest defensive assignments in the conference.
Expect a huge season from Manhattan's junior.
Derek Needham, Jr., Fairfield Stags
Derek Needham burst onto the MAAC scene as a freshman, leading Fairfield with 16.4 points, 5.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game. We all attributed his 3.8 turnovers per game and 38.2 percent field-goal percentage to his status as a freshman.
However, Needham didn't improve in either area as a sophomore. In fact, he declined, handing the ball over 3.9 times per game and shooting just 35.7 percent from the floor.
Needham's scoring (14.1 PPG) and assists (4.5 APG) also took a hit.
The potential he displayed as a freshman could still come to fruition, especially now that he has Rakim Sanders on the wing. Yorel Hawkins wasn't the same force after an injury forced him to miss the end of his junior year, so having a strong offensive partner can lighten Needham's scoring onus.
Fairfield will compete with Iona for the MAAC crown, and Needham's resiliency from a rough year could be the factor that takes the Stags to the next level.
Scott Machado, Sr., Iona Gaels
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MAAC outsiders might recognize Scott Machado's name. That's because he finished 2010-11 tied for second in the nation with 7.5 assists per game.
The point guard had the best season of his career, scoring 13.6 points and corralling 3.9 rebounds per game.
In Iona's fast-paced offense, Machado can toss an alley-oop to Michael Glover, find Kyle Smyth for three, or—keep your fingers crossed, Gaels fans—dish to a slashing Momo Jones, who is anticipating a decision from the NCAA on his request for a hardship waiver after transferring from Arizona.
With his passing ability and the talent surrounding him, Machado could lead the country in assists this season.
Michael Glover, Sr., Iona Gaels
Michael Glover led Iona with 18.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season.
He's a very good athlete for his size and can score in the post, on the break, and even from mid-range.
Glover, who scored at least 20 points 16 times last year, is the favorite to be named MAAC Preseason Player of the Year.