Niagara Purple Eagles
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #114
Conference Rank: #2 Metro Atlantic
Niagara Team Page
Coach Joe Mihalich does not lose too often. However, Niagara has endured a couple losing seasons in a row. During the 2010-2011 campaign, the Purple Eagles win total was a mere nine. Last year they boosted that number to 14 and, more importantly, went 8-10 in conference play. For a team that was picked by many to finish dead last in the MAAC, 8-10 is not bad. The low expectations were due to the loss of a lot of talent from a team that won just nine games. But Coach Mihalich molded this young group into a team by conference play. Now the vast majority of them return and those freshman and sophomores are now experienced players. That includes superstar point guard Juan’ya Green. Green had an amazing freshman campaign, leading the Purple Eagles with 17.7 points, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals. Sure he shot a few too many three-pointers and committed a few too many turnovers, but those are freshmen mistakes. He will not have to score 17.7 points per contest this year and he will be more comfortable running the show.
2011-12 Record: 14-19, 8-10
2011-12 Postseason: None
Coach: Joe Mihalich
Coach Record: 246-189 at Niagara, 246-189 overall
Josh Turner and Ali Langford are the only losses and those two left the program after averaging just 10.7 minutes per game last season. Losing Langford, a 6-6 forward, will hurt the overall team depth a bit, but for all practical purposes this is the same team returning that won five of their last eight games.
Niagara would not even be considered a contender in the MAAC for another year or two if it was not for the addition of Devon White. White is a 6-8 post player who graduated from La Salle with one year of eligibility remaining. That allowed him to transfer to Niagara and be capable of playing right away. He is the missing piece to the puzzle on a team that was in dire need of a post presence. White started a handful of games for La Salle last season and averaged 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. He is a bruiser in the paint and a fine defender. With White in the lineup, this team has what it was missing last season. T.J. Cline, a 6-8 freshman, will add some much needed depth to the frontcourt and could play some major minutes if he is ready. Guard Tahjere McCall rounds out the class, but he will find it difficult to crack the regular rotation.
Who to Watch:
During the 2011-2012 campaign 6-6 guard Ameen Tanksley was force to play the four spot. On offense it allowed the opposition to defend the perimeter and it occasionally caused problems on defense as well. Tanksley can now move to his natural three spot and continue to knock down some three-pointers and use his size to attack the basket. With a smaller defender on him, Tanksley should have more success driving to the basket and shooting over the opposing defender. In the MAAC, a 6-6 wing like Tanksley can be a big advantage. Antoine Mason can stay at the shooting guard spot after averaging 15.1 points per game last season. Mason, like Tanksley, also had to help out on the glass a lot. They can still rebound, but their responsibilities can change a little bit with more size on the roster. Mason is not a great shooter, but the team as a whole had trouble shooting due to the lack of an inside scoring threat. Three-point specialist Marvin Jordan and Malcolm Lemmons split starting time last year and will likely come in off of the bench this year. Jordan will provide an offensive spark, while Lemmons is a more balanced and efficient scorer who also does plenty of work on the glass.
Scooter Gillette was the big man on the team last year. He only averaged 4.2 points per game, but did make the most of his scoring opportunities. The development of Gillette was going to play a huge part in the success or failure of this season, but with White on board, Gillette can keep doing the dirty work in the paint while the pressure to score is in on White. However, Joe Thomas, a 6-7 sophomore, has plenty of upside and could turn into another interior scoring threat. His offensive game was not there as a freshman, but he did prove to be a decent shot blocker and a quality rebounder. If Thomas develops his game, he will find himself in the starting lineup…that is assuming Coach Mihalich wants to play big. With all the talent in the backcourt and Tanksley proven ability to manage the power forward position, this is a team that can still play small when they want to. But the important thing is now they are a year older and Coach Mihalich actually has options in the frontcourt.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Juan’ya Green, Sophomore, Guard, 17.7 points per game
Antoine Mason, Sophomore, Guard, 15.1 points per game
Ameen Tanksley, Sophomore, Guard, 8.7 points per game
Scooter Gillette, Senior, Forward, 4.2 points per game
Devon White, Senior, Center, DNP last season