PROVIDENCE (WPRI) – It’s year No. 2 of the WPRI College Hoops Column. With only a few more weeks left of the preseason, we figured we would put together eight preview pieces to chew on leading up to Opening Night on Monday Nov. 7. The first piece dropped two days ago. Click here to read about the Top 5 Newcomers to Watch in 2022-23.
Today, we present potential breakout seasons for five players in the state.
5. Jalen Carey – URI
This quote from A10 media day in Brooklyn on Oct. 13 is a big reason Carey makes this list. Head coach Archie Miller said “It’s funny, because I recruited him in high school. He was 6’2-ish, but he played a lot bigger. I had a talk with him the other day and I said, ‘A lot of people don’t know what I know about you, they don’t know the type of player I think you are.’” Miller will strive to tap into Carey’s ability that made him a national name coming out of high school. If he takes care of the ball and defends at a high level, he could turn into Rhody’s top guard off the bench. Also, keep track of Carey’s success from range. He hit 14 of his 30 threes last year after making just four of the 30 he took in his three prior college seasons. Should URI surprise and finish closer to the Top 4 than their 9th place selection in the preseason poll, Carey will have been a key cog and might have a case to be an all-A10 selection.
4. Dan Friday – Brown
Kino Lilly Jr. won’t be able to do all the heavy lifting. The Bears need a go-to scorer behind the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year. And the two options are Friday and Paxson Wojcik. Friday enters his third year on the East Side with a clear understanding of the culture and expectation Mike Martin has set at his alma mater. Friday has learned from recent program greats like Brandon Anderson, Zach Hunsaker, Tamaneng Choh and Jaylen Gainey. Will be interesting to see if Mike Martin utilizes Friday in the post and occasionally as a small ball four. There aren’t many 6’4″ 225 pound guards in the Ivy League.
3. Jayden Pierre – Providence
Mark this down … Jayden Pierre is going to be a fan favorite. In a backcourt that graduated Al Durham, Justin Minaya and AJ Reeves, minutes are plentiful and Pierre will have a chance to earn a bulk of them in his first season playing college basketball. Early reviews of him are high. He plays with a tenacious motor which suits his head coach’s style. And like his head coach, Pierre’s game is flanked by a similar swagger and personality that his teammates already gravitate towards. It’s hard to crack a rotation as a true freshman at any level, though I expect Pierre to do so by conference play.
2. Nana Owusu-Anane – Brown
Of the 21 games he appeared in during his rookie season, Nana Owusu-Anane delivered his best performance in Game No. 2. It was actually his first against a Division I opponent and the eventual National Runner-Up North Carolina Tar Heels. Down in Chapel Hill, he went for 20 points and eight rebounds against their vaunted frontcourt. That game, averaging more than 17 minutes per night and a season spent battling two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Gainey day in and day out should give Bruno fans hope that Owusu-Anane can immediately solidify their frontcourt and replace Gainey, one of the best big men in program history.
1. Bryce Hopkins – Providence
If PC is to return to the dance with a shot at a second straight Sweet 16 appearance, you will be hearing a lot about Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins. The physical gifts are apparent. Hopkins is listed at 6-foot-7 220 pounds. What is most impressive — and we saw this live at the MAL Brown scrimmage — is that when he decides to drive to the hoop he has the shiftiness and ball handling skills to play like he’s 6″3″ and then once he gets inside his frame allows him to finish through contact. He has the traits to be a force in the Big East for years to come. Like Pierre, the former 4-star recruit has a major opportunity to push for starter minutes at the wing position. Plenty of scoring will come from Bynum and Locke though the best Cooley squads have been the ones where there are three to four double-digit scorers. It’s fair to expect Hopkins to be in the 10-12 point range and grab 5-7 rebounds per night. If he’s a tier higher (say 13-15 points/7-9 rebounds) he’ll certainly be an all-Big East performer and the Friars should finish in the top half of the league.