Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer 848d

Top newcomers in Atlantic 10

Men's College Basketball, Massachusetts Minutemen, VCU Rams, George Washington Colonials, Duquesne Dukes

Newcomers don't take long to impact college basketball, not in this world of one-and-dones and transfers. Over a two-week span, we will look at the top-five newcomers in each of the 10 biggest conferences. Next up is the Atlantic 10.

When conference realignment got through with shuffling teams around, folks understandably wondered if the Atlantic 10 could keep its foothold as a strong, albeit not power, conference. The answer lies in this crop of top newcomers. When a league is still good enough to not just attract top freshmen but is counted as a destination for graduate transfers looking to finish out their careers, it's still pretty darn good.

DeJon Jarreau, UMass Minutemen

Timing is everything, and Jarreau has arrived just in the nick of time for coach Derek Kellogg. Kellogg had a good run, including two NIT appearances followed by an NCAA run in 2014, but he has struggled to keep the good times rolling in Amherst, slipping to 31-33 in the past two seasons. Jarreau is part of Kellogg's most heralded recruiting class (No. 27 nationally) and has fans hoping for a turnaround. A New Orleans native, he is a terrific shooting guard who earned the No. 63 spot in ESPN's top 100. He averaged 16.9 points as a senior and is expected to make an immediate impact. Jarreau brought along high school teammate Brison Gresham, who is hardly a slouch, having averaged 14 points and eight boards in high school. But Jarreau is the big prize. He's also just the tip of the iceberg for the best recruiting class in the league.

De'Riante Jenkins, VCU Rams

So much for worrying about filling big shoes. Second-year coach Will Wade has stepped in for Shaka Smart with ease, guiding the Rams to the NCAA tournament last year and also winning on the recruiting trail. Jenkins is a 6-foot-5 forward who grabbed the No. 59 spot in ESPN's top 100. He's the perfect player for VCU: versatile, quick and fearless. Jenkins turned down multiple Power 5 schools such as Clemson, Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina to come to VCU. And thanks to the Rams' summer trip to Spain, he already is figuring out where he fits in and how to create some havoc He scored 24 combined points in the Rams' first two games there.

Chris Baldwin, UMass Minutemen

Two Minutemen in the top five? Yes, it's that sort of year for UMass, the lone Atlantic 10 team to earn a spot among the nation's top 40 recruiting classes. A Springfield, Massachusetts native, Baldwin is expected to be an immediate contributor from his forward spot. Though he's able to score in the double figures, he's more of a blue-collar worker who should really be able to help defensively and on the boards. Baldwin looked at a host of other schools, including West Virginia and Pittsburgh, but his decision to stay home and play for UMass is almost as critical as Kellogg's ability to attract Jarreau to campus.

Patrick Steeves, George Washington Colonials

Amid allegations and an investigation that coach Mike Lonergan verbally abused players, and with a roster that has seen 13 players transfer out in the last five years, the Colonials got some much-needed good news with the addition of Steeves. A Harvard graduate transfer, Steeves was a valuable sixth man for the Crimson last season. He suffered through a series of injuries during his Harvard career, including a broken metatarsal, torn ACL and a leftover tibial break from the torn ACL that required more surgery, but when he finally got healthy and was able to play, he delivered to the tune of 9.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Steeves is a solid shooter, connecting on 46 percent of his field goals last year, and he'll bring a jolt of experience as well as an assist to the frontcourt for George Washington. The defending NIT champions lost Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen, the team's second- and third-leading scorers from a year ago.

Emile Blackman, Duquesne Dukes

The Dukes have made steady progress under fifth-year coach Jim Ferry but still haven't crossed the threshold to become legitimate A-10 contenders. Blackman might help. He, along with Kale Abrahamson, are the first two graduate transfers in the program's history, and they're arriving at a critical time. Duquesne loses its top-three scorers in Derrick Colter, Michah Mason and L.G. Gill and need some firepower. These two have it. Blackman scored more than 900 points in two seasons at Niagara, leading the Purple Eagles in scoring at 15.8 points per game before opting to leave after receiving his degree. Abrahamson arrives from Drake, where he averaged 11.1 points per game from his forward position. But it's Blackman, who fills a vacant backcourt role, who will be especially critical as Ferry tries to improve on the Dukes' 17-17 record from a year ago.

^ Back to Top ^