It’s year No. 2 of the WPRI College Hoops Column. And we’re less than two weeks out until the games begin, we figured we would put together eight preview pieces to chew on leading up to Opening Night on Monday Nov. 7. The first two pieces dropped last week, and on Tuesday we revealed our Top 5 Games to Watch.
Today, we present the Top 5 Players to Watch in 2022-23.
5. Ed Croswell – Providence senior forward
On a list full of guards, Ed Croswell is the top big man to watch in the state. He will bring a tenacity this PC team needs and will feed off of. He brought it on a nightly basis last season in his role off the bench, now he will be looked upon to start and finish games as the key cog down low. Part of the guard and wing success hinges on Croswell’s performance. If he can make a second year leap like the one we saw at his first stop (LaSalle University) then the scorers and playmakers will benefit. He was highly efficient in 15 minutes per night a season ago. Can he do the same in 25 minutes? I’m looking for 10 points and seven rebounds per game.
4. Brayon Freeman, URI sophomore guard
Brayon Freeman was the first player to commit to Archie Miller when the head coach was hired in the spring. And the first player Miller brought to Kingston will be used heavily in 2022-23. Freeman already has a year under his belt at A10 foe George Washington which gives the Rams a steady, experienced hand to help lead the way. In reviewing his tape, it’s easy to see the game slowed down for Freeman. He finished with finished with double figure points in nine of the last 11 points and while his season numbers were very respectable his efficiency skyrocketed down the stretch. In February and March he shot 48% from floor and 57% from deep.
3. Kino Lilly Jr, Brown sophomore guard
The reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year will be atop opposing team’s scouting reports this season. His numbers were impressive as a true freshman: 13.3 ppg, 43% from floor, 40% from three, 82% from the line. Lilly’s best attribute is his demeanor which allows the game come to him. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts as sophomore without the like of Tamenang Choh and Jaylan Gainey. If Brown is going to contend for a postseason berth in the Ivy League tournament, at a minimum, Lily will have to replicate his numbers.
2. Charles Pride, Bryant senior guard
Peter Kiss and Hall Elisias no longer call Smithfield home. The only returning piece of the 3-headed monster that led the Bulldogs to their first Division I NCAA Tournament appearance is Charles Pride and now it’s his squad. Pride checks in at No. 2 due to his performances in early February. With both Kiss and Elisias sidelined, Pride was named National Player of the Week with a two-game performance that rivaled any in the country all season. He dropped 44 on a Thursday night at St. Francis (Pa.) and two days later followed it up by scoring 32 at defending league champion Mount St. Mary’s. He won’t need to come anywhere close to that production this year but to know that’s in the tank in case key pieces around him are out is an awfully sweet feeling for head coach Jared Grasso. Pride is must-watch and is well on his way to finishing his collegiate career north of 1,500 points.
1. Jared Bynum, Providence senior guard
The preseason 1st team all Big East selection is the clear cut No. 1. He’s the best returning player from the best team a year ago. Once he found his stroke, he lit the conference on fire with a few epic performances and quite a few clutch shots. He shot 47% from the floor and 43% from deep over the final 22 games of the season. The Sixth Man of the Year from 2021-22 will step into the spotlight for the Friars. Not only will he be tasked with navigating the Friars back to the NCAA Tournament but also he must make sure a plethora of new faces hit the ground running in November. If Bynum is able to accomplish both he will go down as one of the best guards in the last decade.