Ian Nolan, Columnist
We continue ranking the top five players at each position in the Atlantic 10 --today reviewing the league's top power forwards.
For those of you who missed the Point Guard, Shooting Guard and Small Forward pieces, click the links below to be taken to Secondary Break, College Chalktalk's Blog and Monday's small forward piece here on the main site:
Be sure to check back for the best centers soon. Plus, we'll also take a look at who narrowly missed our preseason top five list at each spot, but could very well crash the party by year's end. As always, share your thoughts with us on twitter @cchalktalk.
Top Power Forwards
1. Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure - Nicholson's place atop this list was never in doubt as he is without question the best big man in the conference. The third ranked returning scorer in the nation this year (20.8), Nicholson has displayed a great shooting touch throughout his three-year career (58% career from the floor). As the senior continues to improve his range to the arc and beyond, he becomes even more difficult to contain. The Canadian possesses excellent footwork, soft hands and has the ability to get into the lane with the ball from just about anywhere. If he can start hitting the three-ball with more consistency (26% last year) he will cement himself as one of the best players in the country, if he isn't already. A sure-fire NBA draft pick in June, Nicholson will look to improve his draft stock while attempting to lead the Bonnies into the field of 68 for the first time in 10 years.
2. Chris Gaston, Fordham - Gaston has been stuffing the stat sheets of the Atlantic 10 Conference since he walked onto the Fordham campus... and this year will be no different. Through two seasons at Fordham, Gaston has averaged 16.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Look for him to continue developing a more fluid and consistent jump shot this year (just a 51% free throw shooter last year and just 46% from the floor) while learning to take better care of the basketball when he is doubled in the post (223 turnovers in two years). With the departure of Brenton Butler, the junior Gaston becomes the unquestioned leader of the Rams. A year away from being the top forward in the conference, Gaston's focus this year is to continue to polish off his offensive skills and improve defensively.
3. Travis Taylor, Xavier - Taylor arrives at Xavier via Monmouth University (a small school located just a stone's throw from the beaches of the Jersey Shore) where he played two years and simply dominated the Northeast Conference on an inferior Hawks team. Taylor averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists for a club that went just 9-21. Taylor cited that Xavier would better prepare him to achieve his goal of playing in the NBA and no one could argue with him there. Now the charge is to prove he can succeed in the much tougher Atlantic 10. Taylor should see time at both the three as well as the four position with incoming blue chip recruit Dez Wells doing the same (Wells reportedly played very well in Xavier's scrimmage). It's not often you can expect a player from a lower tier conference to step in and make an impact immediately, but Xavier has just that in Taylor. Some might call for Braswell here because he has proven he can play in the A10 already, but I'm banking on big time production from Taylor this year.
4. Chris Braswell, Charlotte - Braswell became a bit of a forgotten man down in Charlotte with a coaching change and challenging 49ers' season occupying the headlines in 2010-11, but make no mistake -- the kid can play. The forward averaged 11.1 points a year ago to go along with 6.9 rebounds, providing Charlotte with quality post play. Braswell has double-double potential every night and can bang down low (2.4 offensive boards per game), but needs to cut down on his turnovers (75 a year ago). In year two under Alan Major, look for him to team with Derrio Green (the team's top two scorers last year) to give the 49ers a solid inside-outside combination around which to build their offense.
5. C.J. Aiken, Saint Joseph's - Aiken learned on the fly last year and demonstrated comfort and confidence as the year progressed. The sophomore averaged 7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds while blocking 117 shots last year, a figure that easily led the Atlantic 10. Aiken is long and thin (6'9" and just 190 pounds) and has already shown a glimpse of versatility by connecting on 29% of three pointers while rotating at the four and five positions. As is the issue with many other freshman bigs, Aiken simply needs to beef up in order to take his game to the next level so he can absorb contact and finish in the paint. A player whose ceiling is incredibly high, Aiken could become the next Justin Harper if he adds muscle and rounds out his game.
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