With the season just around the corner, Paint Touches is taking a look at the top 50 players in the Big East. Instead of doing a true top 50, we took the five best players from each team and ordered them one to fifty. Important to note, these are the five best players, not necessarily the five starters from each team. This list is the product of a lot of analysis and debate and will hopefully inspire some reaction and debate.
The top 50 is being broken down in to five ten team segments. We’ll start with #50-41.
50. Brandon Cyrus of DePaul
6-5 185 lb FR SG
3 star SG, ranked #195 by 247 Composite
Brandon Cyrus is native Canadian who spent his last year of high school playing for basketball powerhouse La Lumiere. Cyrus hurt his knee his junior year and it scared away a lot high majors who were sniffing around. DePaul was one of the few who stuck with Cyrus and it paid off for them when they earned his commitment last November. Cyrus spent the rest of his senior season helping the Lakers to the National High School Championships. They ended up losing to Oak Hill but it was Cyrus’ defense that helped it from being a blowout to actually being tightly contested at the end.
Cyrus has great length for a wing. He uses that length to guard any position on the floor minus the post. He is a rare freshman guard whose defense is actually ahead of his offense. His offensive game is at its best when he is in transition and he can use his athleticism to the fullest. His jumpshot, including his three pointer has gotten more consistent in the last year, but it is far from a finished product. His handle can be erratic at times and will be vulnerable going against Big East caliber defenses. Though Cyrus is likely to get major minutes, he probably won’t get the starting nod. Depaul has experience at guard with Billy Garrett Jr, Eli, Cain, and grad transfer Chris Harrison-Docks. Cyrus figures to be one of the first players off the bench.
49. Isaiah Jackson of Providence
6-6 225 lb RSSO SF
26.2 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .348 FG%, .706 FT%, .356 3P% (14-15 stats for George Mason)
This might be a lazy comparison because they ended up at the same school, but Isaiah Jackson reminds me of former Providence Friar Junior Lomomba. Both were fairly unheralded recruits coming out of high school, both started at a low level program where they were very inefficient on offense. Lomomba had a rough first year at Providence before becoming the fifth starter as a junior. Jackson is a little better than Lomomba was at this point in his career. His freshmen year at George Mason he was one of the higher scorers for the Pioneers, averaging 8.7 ppg. He was unfortunately very inefficient in getting to that 8.7. He shot a respectable 35.6% from deep but a miserable 34.2% on FGs inside the arc.
Jackson will be one of the pieces that Providence uses to try and replace the juggernaut that was Ben Bentil. He has good size for a wing and can defend all but the beefier post players. He might bring some size and some outside shooting but he has a lot of trouble scoring in traffic and doesn’t bring much to the boards. He’s had a year to get Big East ready but there is a big adjustment from George Mason to Providence.
48. Chris Harrison-Docks of DePaul
5-10 189 lb RSSR SG
23.9 mpg, 10.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .392 FG%, .788 FT%, .380 3P% (stats for Western Kentucky)
Three players in and we are already at our second Blue Demon. Coach Leitao turned to the grad transfer market to try and bolster his outside scoring. Chris Harrison-Docks spent his last three years as a Hilltopper of Western Kentucky. He was a starter his first two seasons but saw his playing time shrink this past season. The reduced playing time might have actually done Harrison-Docks a favor. He was still a double digit scorer and he saw both his FG% and 3P% increase significantly. CHD didn’t return this favor and got himself removed from the team twenty games into the season.
The best situation for CHD would be as three-point specialist on a good team. Well over 50% of his career field goals made came from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, he will have to be a lot more than that for the Blue Demons. He did spend some time at Western Kentucky playing the point. Garrett Jr. has that role that locked down but CHD could be the second point guard for DePaul. However, his defense will be a liability as he lacks the speed of other Big East guards.
47. Yankuba Sima of St. John’s
6-11 220 lb SO C
23.4 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.4 bpg, .487 FG%, .386 FT%, .000 3P%
As a freshman, Yankuba Sima earned the role of starting center for the dismal Red Storm. He represented one half of the St. John’s swat bros with fellow freshman Kassoum Yakwe. The two combined to average over 5 rejections per contest. While Yakwe’s athleticism was more impressive, Sima has superior size, low post moves, and rebounding ability. Sima’s talents are only useful right next to the rim. Sima’s shooting ability doesn’t even approach Shaq levels, as he shot a dismal 38.6% from the line.
Sima is the only true center on the Red Storm’s roster so his starting spot is almost guaranteed. He should continue roaming the interior and racking up the blocks. He will have a lot more help around him this season which could actually mean a reduction in minutes for Sima. It will also help him keep out of foul trouble which was often the issue for him.
46. Marcus LoVett Jr. of St. John’s
6-0 175 lb RSFR PG
2015 4 star PG, ranked #95 by 247 Composite (coming off redshirt)
Marcus LoVett was the star of Chris Mullins’ inaugural recruiting class. He is a true scoring point guard. He has both the explosiveness to blow by defenders and the strength to finish through contact. His outside shot is good enough to keep defenders honest and his mid-range shot is one of the better parts of his game. He was a highly sought after recruit who could claim offers from the likes of Indiana, UCLA, and even Kansas. However, high major interest seemed to slow and even come to a halt as his senior year dragged on. It was later revealed that LoVett Jr. was behind academically, probably the product of attending three different high schools in four years. LoVett ended up with rebuilding St. John’s and was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA, meaning he could practice but not play.
St. John’s could have really used LoVett last year. Fellow class of 15 member Federico Mussini was the closest thing they had to a PG and he was clearly meant to play off the ball. LoVett would have given them a legitimate PG to run the offense, though in all honesty, there was little chance that his presence would have made last year’s dismal performance much better. LoVett will now compete with top 50 freshman Shamorie Ponds for the role of lead guard. Ponds figures to be the better all-around player but LoVett has had a year to learn the system and that can be invaluable.
45. Eli Cain of DePaul
6-6 200 lb SO SG
28.3 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.4 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .434 FG%, .657 FT%, .425 3P%
If you believe in recruiting websites, Cain was not the prize recruit in the first year of the Dave Leitao reunion tour. He was ranked well behind fellow class of 15 members Develle Phillips and Oumar Barry. Fortunately for Cain, basketball isn’t played on paper. It only took a few games for Cain to get himself cemented into the starting lineup for the Blue Demons. His efficient scoring and accurate three point shooting eventually earned him a spot on the All Big East Freshmen Team.
DePaul lost three of its starters this offseason. This will be both an opportunity and a detriment to Cain. What made him so impressive last year was his 49.4 eFG%. He will have to become one of the more focal points of the offense and it is unlikely that he will be able to keep that level of efficiency up. It might seem harsh to have a player who made the Big East All Freshman Team this low on the list, but Cain made that team because he was given the opportunity to produce. The reality is that if Cain had played on any other team in the conference (sans St. John’s), he would have been near the back of the bench.
44. Billy Garrett Jr. of DePaul
6-6 210 lb SR PG
28.0 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.5 tpg, .395 FG%, .819 FT%, .277 3P%
Billy Garrett Jr. has been starting in Lincoln Park since the day he stepped on campus. The former ESPN top 100 recruit made an immediate impact for DePaul, earning All Big East Freshman his first year. DePaul fans hoped that his arrival combined with Tommy Hamilton would issue in a new era of relevance. Unfortunately, Garrett Jr. never really seemed to improve. His scoring never increased, his assist rate stayed pretty level and his defense was always a question mark. In fact, his turnovers increased, his 3P shooting got less accurate, and most notably his elite level free throw rate dropped around 20 points into just very good territory.
We’re at our fourth Blue Demon and we haven’t even left the 40s. Garrett Jr. has the starting position locked down for DePaul. He’s a very a big guard with the strength and quickness to get to the rim and more importantly to the foul line. He had a free throw rate of .602 his sophomore year which is ungodly high. With Hamilton and Myke Henry departing, DePaul is going to be seriously hurting for size. If Garrett Jr could find a way to contribute on the boards, it might help slow DePauls decline back to a last place finish.
43. Myles Powell of Seton Hall
6-2 205 lb FR SG
4 star SG, ranked #81 by 247 Composite
Trenton native Myles Powell committed to local Seton Hall after being perused by almost every school on the east coast. Sometimes recruits out of high school have good all-around games that need some development to become college ready. Powell does not fit this mold as he is better known for having one elite skill and that’s his deadeye outside shot. ESPN probably summed it best in their scouting report, “virtually automatic when his feet are set.”
Seton Hall was the bruisers of the Big East last season and with Angel Delgado and Ish Sanago returning they will continue that trend. However, with Whitehead gone to the Nets, the Pirtates will really be struggling the score from the outside. This is exactly why Powell’s arrival is timed perfectly for Seton Hall. Powell will bring some much need spacing which will allow the bigs of Seton Hall to do what they do. Powell is undersized for the two guard position and is far from an athletic specimen. He will have a steep learning curve on defense and will struggle to keep up with bigger and more athletic guards.
42. Emmitt Holt of Providence
6-7 230 lb JR PF
21.2 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 1.6 bpg, 1.8 tpg, .695 FG%, .731 FT%, .000 3P% (for Indian Hills Community College)
Is it too soon for a car crash joke? Yes, this is that Emmitt Holt. The former Indiana Hooiser who hit and injured his teammate with a car while having alcohol in his system. Holt was not assigned blame for the accident but a few months later he was cited again for alcohol and was dismissed from the team. Before that, Holt was having a fairly run of the mill freshmen season, putting up 3 points and 3 rebounds a game in about 11 minutes of action. Holt went from Bloomington to JUCO powerhouse Indian Hills. The Rochester, NY native put together a very solid season, averaging 11.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting an efficient 69.5% from the floor.
Providence was monstrously tall two seasons ago before being forced to run a micro lineup this past season. Wing Ben Bentil and stretch four Rodney Bullock were the players manning the starting center spot for most of the season. Holt may not be a traditional center at 6”7, but he brings a 7”3 wingspan and high motor that is willing to defend the interior and be the garbage man for the Friars. Besides Holt the only other center on the roster is true freshman Kalif Young who projects more as a project than an immediate impact player. Holt should get plenty of minutes and do well on the boards and defending the post. How he contributes to the offense, going against towers like Luke Fischer, Bradly Hayes, and RaShid Gaston is much more of question mark.
41. Tre’Darius McCallum of DePaul
6-7 207 lb JR SF
20.3 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.4 bpg, 2.3 tpg, .555 FG%, .654 FT%, .408 3P% (for Indian Hills Community College)
To round off the first article in this series, we have two players who were teammates this past season but will be squaring off as opponents in the next. Tre’Darius McCallum is the second Indian Hills Warrior in a row to make this list. He committed to DePaul a short two weeks after teammate Emmitt Holt signed up to be a Providence Friar. The pair, while similarly heighted, played very different roles while leading the Warriors to a #6 ranking in NJCAA polls. McCallum fits the mold of a stretch four very well. He has the size and motor to defend the interior and grab boards, but he does most of his damage from beyond the arc. He sunk a respectable 51 long balls at a 40.8% clip while scoring almost 12 points per game.
Oh DePaul. We are only 10 players in and 50% of them have been Blue Demons. Leitao is bringing a good class this year (by DePaul standards) but they are still years away from being competitive in the Big East. The good news for McCallum is that he will have a chance to come in and make an immediate impact. He has the versatility to play a lot of different roles for the Blue Demons. He is a good inside out player and adept at hitting the trailing three in transition. He can guard virtually any position. Unfortunately, DePaul only has true freshmen and scrubs to play in the post, so McCallum will spend a lot of time trying to handle much bigger and stronger posts.