Paradise Jam Tournament features competitive field of teams for Mason men's basketball
The 2012 Paradise Jam, located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, offers a plethora of great competition. The eight-team tournament, consisting of George Mason, Iona, Mercer, New Mexico, Quinnipiac, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Connecticut and Wake Forest, will certainly provide a weekend chock-full of tremendous basketball.
Opening Round Match-up
The Bears are coming off of a record-setting season, winning a school-best 27 games and the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Having not played a Division I opponent yet this season does not mean the Bears will not be ready. They return a solid group of players with plenty of experience.
Langston Hall is the Bears top returning scorer from last year, averaging 11.4 points per game. The junior guard received honors before the season from CollegeInsider.com as one of 31 players named for the Preseason Mid-Major All-American list. Hall and his junior forward teammate Jakob Gollon received Preseason All-Atlantic Sun honors, while 6’10’’ junior forward Daniel Coursey received Preseason Defender of the Year. George Mason's first round match-up with the Bears is slated for 1:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 16.
The Field at a glance
Iona of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference won 25 games a season ago while gaining an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels return three starters from that team, including guard Lamont “Momo” Jones (15.7 PPG in ’11-’12).
Losing forward Mike Glover to graduation will force the Gaels to rely on 6’7’’ senior forward Taaj Ridley in the frontcourt, where the team is inexperienced. The Gaels are relying on nine newcomers to step up into key roles this season.
The Lobos, of the Mountain West Conference won 28 games a season ago while advancing to the NCAA Tournament and finishing the season in the Top 25. The Lobos are a potential second-round match-up for the Patriots, who would have to face a very experienced backcourt. New Mexico returns three starters including junior guard Kendall Williams (12.1 PPG in ’11-’12).
Quinnipiac, picked to finish fourth in the Northeast Conference, boasts an experienced and talented frontcourt. Of the players to watch the most, Ike Azotam is an absolute force in the paint, leading the NEC in rebounding last season.
UIC, of the Horizon League, returns two very experienced guards in seniors Daniel Barnes (10.4 PPG in ’11-’12) and Gary Talton (11.6 PPG in ’11-’12). The Flames return a total of four starters from a season ago.
The Huskies, of the Big East, are prohibited from playing in the postseason this season due to NCAA violations. Despite the controversy surrounding the program, UCONN has played well to start off the season, knocking off highly-touted Michigan State and is now ranked in the Top 25. The Huskies have a very talented group of players including junior guard Shabazz Napier (13.0 PPG in ’11-’12).
Wake Forest, of the Atlantic Coast Conference, welcomes seven newcomers to a team that has had back-to-back losing seasons the past two years. The Demon Deacons will rely heavily on senior guard C.J. Harris (16.7 PPG in ’11-’12) in their 2012-2013 campaign.
Players to watch
Sherrod Wright (George Mason), Lamont “Momo” Jones (Iona), Kendall Williams (New Mexico), Langston Hall (Mercer), Ike Azotam (Quinnipiac), Gary Talton (UIC), Shabazz Napier (UCONN), C.J. Harris (Wake Forest).