Exhibition games have begun for the DII men’s basketball season. That long-awaited first tip is right around the corner.
Let’s take a look at some impact players for the 2018-19 season.
Adam Eberhard, Bellarmine
The senior forward is one of the more balanced players in DII basketball and could very well contend for player of the year honors. With a bevy of returners, Bellarmine should threaten for a national championship from the opening tip, and Eberhard leads the way. Last season, Eberhard averaged 14.3 points with team-bests in rebounds (7.0 per game), assists (4.7 per game), and steals (35).
Beau Justice, Valdosta State
Justice had a nice debut with the Blazers in 2016-17 but was great in his follow up performance last season. Now he is the central figure on a team that should contend for the Gulf South Conference title and has the pieces to make a deep run in March. The Blazers’ guard averaged 20 points per game last season and was stellar from both 3-point land — where he sunk 81 3s at a 41.1 percent rate — and accurate at the free throw line where he converted 131 of 145 free throw attempts. There’s no question Justice will fuel the GSC’s top-ranked offense.
Juvaris Hayes, Merrimack
RECORD BREAKER:— The NE10 (@TheNortheast10) March 16, 2018
Congratulations to @MC_Athletics Juvaris Hayes on setting a new NE10 mark with 1️⃣2️⃣4️⃣ steals this season.
It broke a record that had stood since the 1991-92 season and was the 5th-highest total in #NCAAD2 history @NCAAStats#NE10EMBRACE pic.twitter.com/Hd1eBSdMC8
Hayes is a triple-double waiting to happen on any given night. The junior point guard, listed at 6-foot, is quick and versatile, following up a Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year campaign with a huge 2017-18 season. He led the Warriors in scoring (17.8 points per game), rebounds (5.8 per game), assists (7.9 per game), and steals (124). Hayes’ 255 assists and 124 steals were best in DII basketball last season. The NE10 is going to be a tough gauntlet, but with an ever-improving Hayes leading the tempo, Merrimack should be able to contend and make some noise.
Tommy Bolte, Concord
Tommy Bolte drains the three and sets an MEC Tournament record with 42 points! Concord trails Fairmont State 63-65 with nine minutes to go. pic.twitter.com/1V3e7ZgU5j— Mountain East Conf. (@TheMountainEast) March 2, 2018
The Mountain East Conference is very top heavy with teams like West Liberty and Fairmont State perennial postseason contenders. The Mountain Lions are expected to finish fifth in the MEC, but if Bolte can repeat his 2017-18 performance, Concord could make a run. Bolte broke out as a junior, leading DII basketball with 858 points, a monstrous 31.8 points per game. Bolte shot about seven 3s a game, hitting at a 39.1 percent rate, but he is so much more than a scorer. He can crash the boards, leading the Mountain Lions in defensive rebounds and isn’t afraid to give it up, finishing second in the MEC in assists. It won’t be easy to have that kind of year twice in a row, but Bolte will make it fun to watch him try.
Jacobo Diaz, Indiana (Pa.)
2016-17 All-American » Jacobo Diaz @IUPMens_Bball pic.twitter.com/1Abt83MEJZ— IUP Athletics (@IUPCrimsonHawk) April 20, 2017
The PSAC has some of the best scorers in DII returning this season. Keshawn Liggins is a dominant force for Edinboro, Micah Till is a big presence for Slippery Rock, and Amir Hinton is an absolute beast for Lock Haven, but if IUP wants to dethrone East Stroudsburg atop the PSAC, it will come from the all-around play of Diaz. Diaz was second on the team in scoring last season and the 6’9” senior is accurate inside the paint, sinking over 52 percent of his shots. He led the Crimson Hawks in rebounding (9.7 per game) and steals (37) while finishing second with 89 assists. One of Diaz’s biggest strengths is his versatility (he hit for 42.9 percent from 3), giving him a complete, all-around game. He should hear his name called as PSAC Player of the Year by the end of the season.
Cornelius Taylor, Lincoln Memorial
The Railsplitters were dominant in 2017-18, ending the regular season as the No. 1 team in the land. This year’s version will have a much different look, with Trevon Shaw, Emanuel Terry, Dorian Pinson, and Josh Odem all graduated. That leaves Taylor the lone returning starter, but he is certainly a good one. Taylor can score on his way to the hole or from 3 and was second on the team in assists and steals last season. His versatility will be invaluable as a new look starting five hopes to contend for the South Atlantic Conference.
Tim Guers, Saint Anselm
Guers has been as consistent as they come the past two seasons, averaging 21.7 points per game in 2017 and 21.5 points per game last year. Now he returns for his senior season, and along with fellow senior Cody Ball (14.7 ppg) and sophomore Chris Paul (11.8 ppg), the Hawks return 48 points per game in a very powerful form of a Big Three. Guers is arguably the best player in the NE10. If he plays like it for one more season, the Hawks may be in for a historic season.
Jhonathan Dunn, Southern Nazarene
M🏀: Can you say conference champs? Storm take down UAM 62-57 as Jhonathan Dunn earns GAC Tournament MVP! Selection show is tonight at 9:30 to see where SNU is headed for NCAA Regionals! #BoltsUp⚡️ #GACchamps— SNU Athletics (@snuathletics) March 4, 2018
Final stats: https://t.co/wcdqEMh5VW pic.twitter.com/kqCvr838ge
Dunn and company led The Storm to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last season. Dunn seemingly shined when it mattered most. The Great American Conference Player of the Year also took home tournament MVP honors and scored 22 points against St. Cloud State in the NCAA tournament loss. All five starters from last year’s magical run return, but it will be Dunn’s big scoring that can propel them to the next level.
Ryan Quaid, West Texas A&M
How does a school replace the Lone Star Conference’s all-time leading scorer? It won’t be an easy task, but Quaid showed last season he has the all-around game to keep the Buffs competitive. If you leave Quaid alone inside, he’ll burn you, scoring 14.3 points per game at a 62.8 percent lick. He also paced the Buffs in rebounds, pulling down 9.9 per game. Quaid has improved from glue guy to major contributor over the years and now it’s his turn to be the star for West Texas A&M.
David Dennis, Nova Southeastern
Nova Southeastern's David Dennis has been selected SSC Men's Basketball Newcomer of the Year! He's the first NSU student-athlete to win the award. | Read more: https://t.co/4cle6oGEGb pic.twitter.com/NAEYDhOimt— Sunshine State Conf (@D2SSC) March 1, 2018
Points leader? Check. Rebounds leader? Check. Assists leader? Yep, that, too. Dennis was the driving force behind the Sharks' 11-win turnaround and may now be poised for even more improvement. It won’t be easy. Star freshman Malik Hardy transferred to Dunk City, but Dennis still has a few reliable returners to dish it off to like Dwayne Gibson and Nick Smith. The Sharks could be a sleeper team on 2018-19, and if they plan on surprising it will be on the shoulders of Dennis’ biggest season yet.
Adam Dieball, Christian Brothers
Once again, the GSC is stacked, and once again the Bucs will have their work cut out for them. Dieball is the perfect player to lead the charge. The lone senior on the team, Dieball is a do-it-all player but excels in running the floor, leading the GSC in assists last year while dropping 17.8 points per game. Dieball loses his wingman Jeff Larkin this year but has a few returners like Joe Laravie who can put the ball in the net. The Bucs will go as far as Dieball can take them, making him one to watch.
Others to watch:
Kendarius Ash, Lane: Call him Mr. Double-Double as Ash returns as the active DII leader in the stat. The 6’7” is an absolute beast in the paint, posting highs of 27 and 22 rebounds last season, and a dangerous scoring threat as well.
Christian Oshita, UC San Diego: A pair of Christians return to the Tritons, as both Oshita and Bayne scored more than 16 points per game for UC San Diego last season. Oshita’s dominance on the boards is what gives him the edge and can make him UC San Diego’s real X-factor.
Christian Little, Regis: Make no mistake. Jarrett Brodbeck is a star, earning RMAC preseason player of the year honors. But Little does everything well, as he was second on the team in scoring (15.0 per game) and rebounding (5.4 per game) while leading the team with 104 assists. If Regis wins the RMAC it will be behind the dynamic duo of Brodbeck and Little.