We figured most would go pro. How wrong were we?
A.J. Bramah’s decision to transfer from Robert Morris has opened up a number of discussions within Horizon League fandom. The senior forward led the team in both scoring and rebounding in every game he played against Division I competition this year, so it obviously throws a great deal of uncertainty into the end of the Colonials’ season. But RMU is currently in last place and the regular season ends on Saturday, so it might not change all that much for the team.
Next came questions of how it would impact All-League teams. Some media members feel Bramah’s per-game production warrants First Team selection, while others feel that choosing to leave the team should mean he’s not in the running at all. Obviously there will be a significant impact, with a likely spot on the first team opening up.
One question that hasn’t been addressed is: if a player whose senior year went as well as A.J. Bramah’s plans on taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility and holding off on a pro career for another season, who else might?
Let’s take a look at some of the Horizon League’s top seniors who might return next year:
Al Eichelberger – if there was one senior star that seemed likely to return for another year, it’s Eichelberger. After averaging 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a junior on his way to Third Team All-League honors, injuries have derailed his season this year. He’s averaging just 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in limited minutes this year. The overseas opportunities he’d see coming off of this year likely wouldn’t compare to what he’d get with a return to his 2020 form in 2022. Don’t be shocked if Big Al is back for the Vikings next year.
Te’Jon Lucas – while several of the Horizon League’s 2020 stars have struggled this year, most of them would’ve had eligibility left without the blanket waiver. Lucas is the biggest name senior who hasn’t played as well as he did last year. There’s also an added caveat for the Milwaukee guard: if 6-foot-10 5-star recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. opts to play for his dad and the Panthers, his combination of size and skills will draw heavy attention from opposing defenses and open things up for Lucas to regain the efficiency he showed last year. His assist-to-turnover ratio would likely also skyrocket in the process of his team adds a mobile shooter who is taller than many Horizon League post players.
P.J. Pipes – the upside of another year for Pipes is…well, upside. He’s steadily improved over the last three years from a promising youngster to a player who was robbed of sixth man of the year honors, and now into one of Green Bay’s go-to players. Making his 4.4 point per game improvement from last year to this year even more impressive, Green Bay’s pace has plummeted. The Phoenix were among the ten fastest teams in the nation under Linc Darner last year when Pipes averaged 9.3 points per game, while this year the teams tempo ranks 254 nationally – tenth in the Horizon League – while Pipes is scoring 13.7 points per contest. If he kept on the same trajectory he’s been on, Pipes could be in line to become Green Bay’s 1b. to Amari Davis’ 1a.
Marcus Burk, Jaylen Minnett and Elyjah Goss – many were surprised when Burk, Minnett and Goss opted to return to IUPUI after the Jaguars posted a 3-15 league record under Byron Rimm. All three seemingly could’ve pursued bigger opportunities like Bramah has. Given that they’ve already shocked us once, who knows!?!?! Maybe they’ll go for one more surprise and try to lead the Jaguars to a winning league record in 2022.
Loudon Love – OK, maybe I just want to throw a little nightmare fuel onto the fire. Love is the caliber of player who would likely have lucrative opportunities overseas and with his style he would be unlikely to improve his stock with another season. With the Raiders once again looking like the team to beat in the Horizon League Tournament, another possibility is that a major team will hire Scott Nagy away and Love might take an extra year of eligibility to play for his coach in a power conference.
Naz Bohannon – I genuinely don’t believe this one as I’m typing it, but I wouldn’t have pegged A.J. Bramah as a candidate to spend another season in college for all the same reasons that I don’t think Bohannon will. Bohannon is a highly productive college frontcourt player who has some elements you’d look for as he transitions to the wing at the next level (if he gets a rebound, he’s probably the guy taking the ball up the court) but severely lacking in others (he hasn’t hit a 3-pointer since his season debut against Binghamton.) Both Bohannon and Bramah might do well to ask Amari Davis what he did to become a passable 3-point shooter on a much higher shot volume than last season. Until that happens, I don’t see much upside in Bohannon staying another season…but Bramah’s doing it, so what do I know?