By Jon Rothstein
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1. ISAIAH CANAAN, MURRAY STATE
THE SKINNY: Always locked and loaded, there is no spot on the floor that isn’t in Canaan’s range. An incredibly effective outside shooter, Canaan has shot over 40% from 3-point range in each of his three seasons in college. The 6-foot point guard has also improved the other areas of his game, averaging 3.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game last season.
2. FRANTZ MASSENAT, DREXEL
THE SKINNY: Look for this crafty southpaw to be one of the better point guards in all of college basketball next season. The 6-foot-4 Massenat tremendously improved his offensive accuracy last season and is the main reason why many believe Drexel is a borderline Top 25 team once practice starts in the fall. If someone else other than Massenat is named CAA Preseason Player of the Year, it will come as an absolute shock.
3. RAY MCCALLUM, DETROIT
THE SKINNY: The epitome of a stat sheet stuffer, McCallum nearly single handedly willed the Titans to the NCAA Tournament. With good size at 6-foot-2, the son of Detroit head coach Ray McCallum Sr. is a reliable jump shot from having a chance to play in the NBA. His stats will tell you he’s got everything else covered — averaging 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and four assists per contest last season.
4. D.J. COOPER, OHIO
THE SKINNY: Lightning quick lefty guard sparked the Bobcats to a surprise berth in the Sweet 16 and may have led them to a win over North Carolina had he not shot 3-20 from the floor and 1-10 from 3-point range. Despite being undersized at 5-foot-11, Cooper is adept at finding seams in the defense and creating opportunities for others.
5. JUAN’YA GREEN, NIAGARA
THE SKINNY: Don’t be surprised if this is the best player in the MAAC next season. A scoring machine who made a major impact as a freshman, Green is the main reason why many people think the Purple Eagles are primed to make a jump in 12-13. In his freshman season, the 6-foot-3 combo guard averaged 17.7 points per game and dished 4.5 assists per contest.
6. VELTON JONES, ROBERT MORRIS
THE SKINNY: Built more like a fullback than a basketball player, Jones has anchored the Colonials during Andy Toole’s first two seasons as a Division One head coach. The 6-foot, broad shouldered guard may play in the NEC but he’s hands down one of the strongest guards in all of college basketball. His production will determine if Robert Morris can get back to where they haven’t been since 2010 — the field of 68.
7. C.J. MCCOLLUM, LEHIGH
THE SKINNY: You want a reference for McCollum? Ask Coach K. Lehigh’s star sliced up Duke in the NCAA Tournament by the tune of 30 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Now he’s widely considered to be one of the elite players in college basketball heading into next season. With one more year to showcase his stuff for NBA scouts, look for McCollum to be drafted somewhere in June of 2013.
8. MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA, SAINT MARY’S
THE SKINNY: Crafty, skilled — this guy can do it all. In his first full-time season as point guard for the Gaels, Dellavedova flourished and had Saint Mary’s on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament victory before a narrow loss to Purdue. Look for his senior season in 12-13 under Randy Bennett to be a memorable one.
9. DAMION LEE, DREXEL
THE SKINNY: Like a volcano, Lee can explode at any minute. Last year as a freshman, the 6-foot-6 wing was second on the Dragons in scoring and tallied an impressive 20 points and 10 rebounds in Drexel’s CAA title game loss to VCU. An effortless outside shooter, Lee is eerily similar in build and in game to current Spurs and former North Carolina guard Danny Green.
10. NATE WOLTERS, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
THE SKINNY: Despite not shooting the ball from deep last season, Wolters led the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament where they suffered a narrow defeat to Baylor. With good size at 6-foot-4, the senior to be averaged over 21 points per game as a junior while also grabbing over five rebounds and dishing out over five assists per game. With Wolters in the fold, South Dakota State should accept nothing less than another berth in the NCAA bracket in 12-13.
FIVE ON THE BRINK:
GEORGE BEAMON, MANHATTAN
WILL CHERRY, MONTANA
KERRON JOHNSON, BELMONT
SHERROD WRIGHT, GEORGE MASON
D.J. IRVING, BOSTON UNIVERSITY