Riptide forward averaging 17.8 points, 8.6 rebounds in 14 games
By José Colorado
Add T.J. Maston to the list of dangerous wildcards making a late surge for Newcomer of the Year honours.
The Saint John Riptide has been on a tear since being introduced to the Canadian league in January as he is currently averaging 17.8 points per game and 8.6 rebounds on 51.8 per cent shooting.
In just 14 games Maston has already recorded five double-doubles, notched six 20-plus point games and even tallied an impressive NBLC career-high of 35 points on Jan.26.
Assuming the versatile swing man suits up in all of the Riptide's games in the next week and a half; the Texan will finally have participated in 60 per cent of his team's matches – making him eligible for this list.
With the other four Newcomer candidates holding strong and the London Lightning's Xavier Moon and Obinna Oleka (St. John's Edge) consistently on the bubble, the room for error just got that much slimmer heading into the season's home stretch.
1. Jaylen Bland (Sudbury Five, 15-13)
Hometown: Reseda, Calif.
Previous professional experience: Luxemburg, Mexico, U.S. (NBA G-League)
Season stats: 19.8 points per game (36.3 per cent three-point shooting), 6.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists
A horrific shooting week from Jaylen Bland was slightly salvaged from some heavy work on the backboard and a pair of wins as the Californian hangs onto to the No.1 spot by a thread following week 13.
When it came to the six-foot-three guard's specialty – shooting – things couldn't have gone much worse as Bland went four-of-24 from three-point range (17 per cent) and eight-of-34 (24 per cent) overall from the floor.
It wasn't all bad however as the former NBA G-Leaguer tallied back-to-back double-doubles, including consecutive double-digit rebounding games – the first time that has happened since the first week of December, including a season-high 13 boards versus the Cape Breton Highlanders on Feb.9.
Considering that it is a team sport, wins must also be taken into account so that will work in the gunner's favor.
But Bland must regain his touch in week 14 if he is to remain on top for the third consecutive edition; Glen Davis and Sampson Carter are knocking.
2. Sampson Carter (Island Storm, 5-18)
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Previous professional experience: Portugal, Dominican Republic, U.S. (NBA), Mexico, Philippines
Season stats: 22.7 points per game (39.5 per cent field goal shooting), eight rebounds, two assists
Had the Island Storm picked up even one win this past week then it's likely Carter would have regained the top spot but it's tough to reward the forward when his club suffered through another winless week, especially with two of those matches ending in blowout losses.
A rough scheduling stretch had the Baton Rouge-native playing three-games-in-three-nights with the results being mixed.
The Storm player did indeed average 17.66 points, 4.67 rebounds and one block per game in his trio of outings but that came on just 20-of-57 (35 per cent) shooting from the floor.
Granted, Carter's unequivocal worst game of the week came on the back end of that triple-header as heavy legs likely got the best of him by way of a season-low in points (seven), field goal percentage (14.3) and rebounds (three).
If that game is discarded then Carter averaged a much more impressive 23 points and 5.5 rebounds on 42 per cent shooting from the floor.
But the players must play the games as they are laid out.
Expect a recuperated Carter to bounce back Thursday.
3. Glen Davis (St. John's Edge, 15-8)
Hometown: Baton Rough, La.
Previous professional experience: NBA (Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, LA Clippers)
Season stats: 16.3 points per game (50.3 per cent field goal shooting), 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists
When Glen Davis was introduced to the Edge's line up on Dec.14, there was a thought amongst many NBLC pundits that the forward would eventually take hold of the Newcomer of the Year honors.
Well, that sentiment may very well be coming to fruition in the days to follow as 'Big Baby' has been devouring his opponents since the New Year rolled in.
This past week - in a pair of wins and a loss – Davis continued that trend by averaging 25.67 points, 8.33 rebounds and five assists while shooting 56 per cent from the floor.
Had it not been for Davis being content with slowly regaining his conditioning by way of a gradual minutes plan - he has played under 20 minutes in four of his 16 games to date - it's likely the former Celtic would already be No.1.
Nonetheless with the Edge consistently winning and Davis continuously ascending in his numbers, it seems like it's only a matter of time before the big man leapfrogs Bland and Carter; St. John's plays four games in six nights this week, providing plenty of opportunities for just that.
4. Frank Bartley (Saint John Riptide, 9-17)
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Previous professional experience: True rookie
Season stats: 19.1 points per game (43.8 per cent field goal shooting), 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists
Frank Bartley just keeps getting buckets.
The Louisianan continued his assault on the NBLC scoring charts this past week as the guard averaged 23 points on 44 per cent shooting – placing him seventh in the league in points per contest.
Perhaps more importantly to the guard however is the fact that the Riptide came away with a pair of wins and only a single loss in a rough season to date.
Beyond the team success and points, Bartley has picked up his defensive activity of late as well. He has now recorded a single steal in his past six games, including four multiple-theft efforts.
All in all, the NBLC rookie may be standing pat at the fourth spot but his efforts should not be dismissed – it was an outstanding week 13 for him.
5. Cory Dixon (Sudbury Five, 15-13)
Hometown: Argyle, Texas
Previous professional experience: Britain, Belgium
Season stats: 15.1 points per game (47.3 per cent field goal percentage), 8.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
Consecutive off-weeks has Cory Dixon trending downward as the forward once again struggled against the KW Titans by only mustering 10 points and seven rebounds on three-on-13 shooting from the floor in his lone game of the week.
Leading into the Feb.7 match up, the big man had only managed 12.16 points per game and 7.67 rebounds on 38 per cent shooting – all noticeably below his season averages - in his six previous matches against the club.
In fact in his past three games the Texan has only recorded 11.33 points on 10-of-35 shooting (29 per cent) from the floor – all of which just happened to be versus KW.
Perhaps some of that could be contributed to match up issues or attrition.
It's likely Sudbury is thinking the latter as the six-foot-seven player did not suit up in the club's other match on Feb. 9 against the Highlanders.
Regardless, when the forward returns he must continue to produce at his former level or he must quickly be replaced – many players are nipping.
Warming up the plane:
Obinna Oleka (St. John's Edge, 15-9)
7.9 points (46.7 per cent field goal shooting), 11.2 rebounds