Rider Basketball Preview: #84
Overall Rank: #84
Conference Rank: #3 Metro Atlantic Athletic Association
2008-09: 19-13, 12-6
2008-09 postseason: CIT
Coach: Tommy Dempsey (77-52 at Rider, 77-52 overall)
There were concerns that Rider would not be able to replace 6-11 center Jason Thompson heading into the 2008-2009 campaign, but the Broncs put those concerns to rest pretty early in the season. This may not be the best team in the conference, and they were not last year, but they definitely proved that they deserve to be mentioned right behind Siena and Niagara. This year they hope to prove that they should be mentioned right alongside those two traditional MAAC powerhouses.
Key Losses: G Matt Griffin, G Harris Mansell
Jhamar Youngblood, a transfer from Monmouth, is eligible to play this season and he is the newcomer who is expected to have the biggest impact. On a team that lost its most prolific outside shooter in Harris Mansell, it is nice to have an experienced shooter available to fill the void. Incoming freshmen Carl Johnson and Jonathan Thompson will also look to bolster the depth on the perimeter this season. The lone big man coming in is Dera Nd-Ezuma. At 6-10 and 215 pounds, the Nigerian has the size to be a solid player in this league, but it will probably take some time.
Getting scoring out of the backcourt should not be much of an issue even without Mansell. One possible replacement is his brother Patrick. However, he averaged just ten minutes per game last year. Justin Robinson can take over most of the outside shooting, especially if he can take more attempts and knock down 43.7 percent of those attempts like he did last season. Novar Gadson is not much of a shooter, but he had a great freshman campaign, tallying 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds. The 6-7 wing is even a decent shot blocker and most small forwards in the MAAC will have an extremely difficult time stopping him.
With his size Gadson could play some minutes at the four spot and he probably will, assuming Nd-Ezuma is not ready to contribute 15 minutes per game as a freshman. Yet, the starters in the frontcourt are pretty well set with Mike Ringgold and Jermaine Jackson returning. Ringgold is the scorer under the basket and he tallied 11.4 points and a team high 6.8 rebounds as a sophomore last year. Jackson had a relatively successful freshman season, but he has not developed into much of a scorer at this point in his career. However, he is a decent shot blocker and will do the dirty work in the paint.
Who to Watch:
Already this is a team that is full of proven talent and a few underclassmen who are only going to get better. But it is Ryan Thompson who is the star of the team. The 6-6 guard can do it all. He led the squad with 18.0 points per game, hit 42.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, grabbed 6.5 rebounds per game and led the Broncs with 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals. Thompson is a superb talent, nearly on par with his brother, and this team will go as far as he will take them.
The problem is that Siena and Niagara are still standing in the way of the Broncs making a great run in the conference. An NCAA Tournament bid will probably come down to the conference tournament for everybody in the league and Rider has not had much success there recently. That has to change if this team group wants to go dancing. But even if the NCAA Tournament is out of reach, another postseason berth, the team’s third straight, should be very feasible.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Robinson, Junior, Guard, 10.4 points per game
Ryan Thompson, Senior, Guard, 18.0 points per game
Novar Gadson, Sophomore, Guard, 10.8 points per game
Mike Ringgold, Junior, Forward, 11.4 points per game
Jermaine Jackson, Sophomore, Forward, 2.4 points per game