Every year, star players from lesser known teams make their names known on the national stage, becoming March Madness folk heroes. The most recent run has been the duo of Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker of Wichita State, but the Shockers are on the bubble this season and everyone knows about Baker and Van Fleet, so here are some different candidates that fans may or may not have heard of before this years tournament.
Isaiah Miles and DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s Hawks, 27-7
The winners of the A-10 were led by this dynamic duo of Isaiah Mills and DeAndre Bembry. The forward duo were the leading scorers and rebounders for the Hawks. They were two of the most productive players in the A-10 all year long, with Bembry taking home conference Player of the Year after averages of 16.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Bembry’s assists and steals totals led the team. It seems as though the only thing the junior can’t do is shoot, as he shot just 26% from deep and 64% from the free throw line. Mills on the other hand is a proficient shooter from deep, knocking down triples at 39% and shooting 88% from the line. Mills led Saint Joe’s in scoring and rebounding, dropping in 18.2 points and eight rebounds per game.
Saint Joe’s is a serious mid major cinderella threat, but they’ll need their excellent duo to show up big when it matters most.
Jameel Warney, Stony Brook Seawolves, 26-6
Jameel Warney has been the best player in the American EastConference for the last three seasons, taking home conference Player of the Year three straight seasons. Despite his success, this is his first time taking part in the NCAA Tournament.
The senior forward led his team to a 14-2 conference record, capped off with a conference championship game win over Vermont. In the American East tournament, Warney went off for 27 points and 23 rebounds against UMBC, then went for 21 and 13 against Hartford, and capped off the run with a 43 point explosion against Vermont, where he also pulled down 10 rebounds.
On the year, 19.8 and 10.7 rebounds a game and shot an excellent 62% from the field. Warney is a certified beast down low, and with him scoring the bulk of Stony Brook’s points, they’ll rely on him to make an impact each night.
A.J. English, Iona Gaels, 22-10
The son of NBA Hall of Famer Alex English, A.J is erecting is own legacy at Iona. The senior led the Gaels to a 16-4 conference record and a MAAC Tournament title. English saved his best year for last, averaging career highs in points (22.4), assists (6.2) and steals (1.5).
English has a tendency to take bad shots, as seen with his 42% field goal percentage, but still knocks down threes at a respectable rate of 37%. He does the majority of the scoring for the high powered Iona offense that scores almost 80 points a contest.
If Iona can make a run, expect English to have tournament runs reminiscent of Jimmer Fredette.
Cover Photo via RantSports