When the news is slow and the season is still months away, what else is there to do but make lists?
Newcomers are exciting, and there will be plenty of time to break down incoming players like Jarkel Joiner and Casey Benson. But for now, let’s look at the WAC’s top-25 returning players to get a sense of how the league could shake out in 2017-18.
Some of this is based on production. Some of it’s based on potential. All of it’s based on one person’s opinion, so please feel free to tell that person (me) how wrong he is in the comments.
Check out the full rundown on Nos. 25-21 here.
25. Moataz Aly
24. Xavier McDaniel Jr.
23. Morgan Means
22. Broderick Robinson
21. Zach Nelson
20. Conner Toolson (Utah Valley)
Toolson’s first season in Orem didn’t go as expected. Billed as a lethal shooter, he shot just 28.1 percent from distance in WAC play. But that belies the Lone Peak High alum’s ceiling over the next two seasons. Toolson got uncorked a number of times last year, including games against BYU (21 points, 4-8 3FG) and UTSA (29 points, 3-7 3FG). Expect that on a more consistent basis in 2017-18 from a talented player whose quick trigger finger fits perfectly in Mark Pope’s system.
19. Aaron Menzies (Seattle)
Menzies is the WAC’s biggest player, and may also be its biggest mystery. The 7’3’’ Englishman played in just 11 games last season before a foot injury shut him down in late December. But in that time, the sophomore showed flashes of developing from an intriguing project to a consistent force. He put up 35 points and 11 rebounds against Louisiana Monroe, and his new coach — Jim Hayford — saw him average 15 points and 10 rebounds over two games against Eastern Washington. There were no gaudy stat lines against high major talent and length, but if Menzies can stay healthy, Hayford has a mismatch nightmare at his disposal each night in the WAC.
18. Isaiah Ross (UMKC)
UMKC scores a 1st half season-high 45 points! Roos up 13 at the break. Isaiah Ross leads with 12 points & LaVell Boyd has 9 - all from 3️⃣! pic.twitter.com/eg5LMK9hFo— UMKC Basketball (@UMKCmbb) February 18, 2017
With five key seniors, including LaVell Boyd, out of eligibility, there is abundant opportunity at UMKC in 2017-18. Ross may be primed to grab it. The big-bodied guard shot just 32.8 percent from distance in WAC play, but has big-time three-point potential in Kareem Richardson’s up-tempo system. He scored in double figures 12 times despite limited minutes (17.2 MPG). He also did not lack for confidence. Multiple three’s late in the second half sealed the Roos’ CBI win over Green Bay. Richardson will look for more of that next season.
17. Kenneth Ogbe (Utah Valley)
Another big-bodied three-point marksman with a high release checks in at No. 17. Ogbe was the bright spot on a Wolverines’ team that surprisingly struggled from distance all season. The Utah transfer drilled 40.7 percent of his 135 three-point attempts. He also was one of the best perimeter defenders for a UVU team that rode its defense to a late season surge. After sporadic playing time over three seasons in Salt Lake City, the German has found a home, and significant role, in Orem.
16. Gerard Martin (Grand Canyon)
Gerard Martin takes in GCU Media Day. pic.twitter.com/VSpMUkFTU0— GCU Men's Basketball (@GCU_MBB) September 14, 2016
Martin may get overlooked in the Lopes’ glitz, but other than GCU’s two stars — Dewayne Russell and Josh Braun — no player saw the court more than Martin last season (29.2 MPG). The sophomore had Dan Majerle’s complete trust, even as he worked his way through a difficult shooting season. Nonetheless, Martin was one of the WAC’s best defenders, and should continue to lock down the perimeter (and, when necessary, post) next season. If he can return to the shooter he was as a freshman (40.3% 3P%), we may be talking about an All-WAC player.