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Counting down the WAC’s 25 best returning players, Part I

Because it’s fun to rank things.

NCAA Basketball: Utah Valley at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

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.

25. Moataz Aly (CSU Bakersfield)

At a fundamental level, every player should be able to answer one question for their coach: what do I do for you. With Aly, it’s easy. The Egyptian big man flashed elite rim protection potential during his first season in Bakersfield. Despite limited minutes, he led the WAC in blocks per game (1.8), and the metrics, along with his wing span, suggest there is more there (18.9 block percentage). Rod Barnes is losing a number of key players off his league-best defense, meaning Aly should have a bigger role in 2017-18.

24. Xavier McDaniel Jr. (UT Rio Grande Valley)

Pedigree has to count for something, right? The X-Man’s son had a 27-point debut against UT Martin before having an up-and-down freshman season. But he’s a good athlete that should develop into a solid two-way player for Lew Hill. Antonio Green’s departure frees up minutes, and shots, for McDaniel.

23. Morgan Means (Seattle)

Like McDaniel, and most freshmen, Means had an inconsistent season. But he has one of the quickest first steps in the league and is a good shooter, which should allow him to develop into a consistent offensive threat. The Redhawks played slow last season, as was common under Cameron Dollar the past few years. Means could especially benefit should Jim Hayford open things up.

22. Broderick Robinson (UMKC)

The Roos had plenty of players step up alongside star guard LaVell Boyd last season. Though he may have flown under the radar, Robinson was right in the middle of it. The junior often guarded the opposition’s best perimeter player, while knocking down 42.5 percent of his three-point attempts during WAC play. He’s suddenly one of the oldest players on UMKC’s roster and will be relied upon heavily next season.

21. Zach Nelson (Utah Valley)

Nelson was understandably limited last year after missing the entire 2015-16 season with a broken leg. But go back to 2014-15, and he was one of the WAC’s most productive players. That season, he finished in the top-14 in the league in effective field goal percentage, offensive/defensive rebounding percentage, assist rate and block percentage. He may never be that player again, but he’s a veteran that would be welcome in any WAC front court, and is nontheless coming off a solid season (7.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG).

Just missed the cut: Shaq Carr (Grand Canyon), Fallou Ndoye (CSU Bakersfield), Lesley Varner (UT Rio Grande Valley), Lew Stallworth (UT Rio Grande Valley), Hayden Schenck (Utah Valley)