NEC First Look: Wagner

This is the seventh of our NEC First Look series in which we take a early glance at all ten Northeast Conference men’s basketball teams for the 2015-16 college basketball season. Here are my first six posts on CCSUBryantSt. Francis BrooklynSacred HeartSaint Francis U. and Fairleigh Dickinson

Gone:

Marcus Burton (G) – Finished second in the NEC in scoring at 17.5 ppg. All-NEC first teamer.

Stedman Allen (F) – Played only one season at Wagner. 6.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg last season. Started 21 of 29 games. Transferred.

Hugo Naurais (F) – 1.1 ppg career scorer for his four-year career. Had a career-high 10 mpg last season.

Nolan Long (F) – 4.4 ppg and 3.1 rpg last season. 57.3% shooter. Left team to pursue a professional baseball career.

Additions:

Devin Liggeons (G)
Henry Brooks (F) – Fifth-year senior, Transfer from Penn
Marquis Salmon (F) – Junior College Transfer
Michael Carey (G) – Junior College Transfer

Pluses:

Wagner went into last season with not a whole lot expected of them. They did lose several key players that help build the program and led them to three straight 2-seeds in the NEC tournament. Using a rather young team, head coach Bashir Mason guided the Seahawks to a 7th-place finish in the NEC and reached the NEC tournament for a fifth straight season.

One of several pluses to come out of last season was the playing time several freshman received due to roster turnover and injuries. Corey Henson, JoJo Cooper, and Romone Saunders, all freshman, each played at least 23 minutes per game and all three finished in the top five in team scoring. All three could likely be starting the season opener for Wagner come November.

Another plus was the arrival of junior forward Mike Aaman, the Rhode Island transfer from Hazlet, NJ, who had two monster back-to-back games during NEC play (20 pts/23 rebs vs FDU & 22 pts/15 rebs vs Bryant). Aaman only played in 17 games last season due to another concussion which he has a lengthy history of sustaining. If he stays healthy all season long, he will be a dominating force in the interior for Wagner which they will desperately need to have.

Wagner also finished 17th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 37.2% of thir missed shots.

Minuses:

Wagner loses its final major link to their tremendous success from 2011-2014 with the graduation of guard Marcus Burton. In the last two seasons, Wagner have seen players like Kenny Ortiz, Latif Rivers, Burton, Orlando Parker and Naofall Folahan graduate and last season was the first season of rebuilding of the Wagner men’s basketball program which first with its first losing season since 2010-11.

Another key loss was forward Stedman Allen who transferred to Wagner last offseason and after a rather decent season in which he started 21 of his 29 games played and averaged 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, he surprisingly decided he would transfer and as of yet has found a new school to play for his senior season.

Then comes the curious case of Dwaun Anderson. I debated with myself in what section I wanted to included him in. I decided to put him in the minus because quite frankly, his college career has been quite a disappointment considering the pedigree he had in high school as a former Mr. Basketball in Michigan and having committed to play at Michigan State before changing his mind and coming to Staten Island. A foot injury caused him to miss all but one game last season. He has a career 4.8 ppg average through 63 career games at Wagner and he is a career 35.3% shooter and just a 20% career three-point shooter. After a basically a year off, which Dwawn Anderson will we see? His athleticism is bar none but is his starting spot a given? Has he been supplanted by younger guys on this team?  It will be interesting to see how Mason goes about it with Anderson. I believe Mason will give him a shot at earning his spot as a senior and out of loyalty but will he be able to hold it?

Projected Starting 5:

JoJo Cooper (G) – Started 23 of 30 games last season as a freshman. Averaged 6.9 points and 4.0 assists last season. Led Wagner in assists.

Corey Henson (G) – Finished third on team in scoring at 9.1 ppg. 39.5% shooter last season. Started 22 games last season and played in all 30 games.

Dwaun Anderson (G) – Played in just six minutes last season in his only appearance dealing with a foot injury. Started 21 of 31 games in 2013-14. Career 35.3% shooter and 20% three-point shooter.

Japhet Kadji (F) – Penciling him at the four spot. Played in 24 games last season as a freshman, getting five starts. 3.2 ppg average in 10.6 minutes per game. Shot 47.5% from the field.

Mike Aaman (F) – Finished second on the team in scoring at 10.4 ppg. Also averaged 9.3 rebounds per game. Started 9 of 17 games in his first season at Wagner. Health will also be his issue but when healthy will be dominant in the NEC.

Early Outlook:

I believe is one of the up and coming teams of the NEC this upcoming season. They finished 8-10 in the league last season with a pretty young team so adding a few more wins this season in not out of the realm of possibility. Now, they will need to find someone who they can go to for points without Burton around. The health of both Mike Aaman and Dwaun Anderson will be a big factor on how far the Seahawks will go this season. Aaman, in particular, should be in contention for an All-NEC position at season’s end if he stays healthy.

Under Bashir Mason, Wagner had gained a reputation for being one of the NEC’s best defensive teams but that wasn’t the case with all the young talents on their roster last season. If Mason can get his team to play well on the defensive end once again, I could see this team possibly reaching a double figures wins in conference play. It will be interesting to see who among the new arrivals will earn the trust of Mason and get some of the minutes left behind by the departures of Burton, Allen and others.

Presently, Wagner has yet to release a schedule of games but we know that they will open their season at St. John’s (Nov. 13) to open the Chris Mullin era there. Two days later, they face another Big East team in Seton Hall (Nov. 15) at their on-campus home Walsh Gym. They have home games against Maine (Nov. 21) and Morgan State (Dec. 2). They also have road games at Rider (Dec. 8) and at George Mason (Dec. 22).

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