Welcome back to the Bryant Notebook! Despite being in the thick of summer, it’s been a cold, long offseason without college hoops.
That being said, we’re happy to say that House Enterprise is your home for all things Bryant Hoops this year. I’ll have a front seat to most of the action; I’ll be at most home games and might even hit the road a couple of times for the big ones.
Peter Kiss is poised to have another great year. PIC: David Silverman
It’s been an action-packed offseason for the Bulldogs, so let’s start by getting a quick picture of what the team’s composition will look like this year.
Mike Green III (PG): The departure of Mike Green was one that arguably stung the most for Bryant. While the Bulldogs’ mantra has been to share the basketball and to distribute its offense to the best of its ability, losing a player like Green forces the group to re-evaluate its offensive scheme for the next year. Mike Green III averaged 16 points-per-game in the 2020-21 season, and chipped in nearly 4 assists-per-game, too. Green’s 33-point performance was key in a 93-88 win on the road against A-10 opponent UMass, Bryant’s second straight win over an A-10 team. Replacing a player like Green will require a team effort, but Jared Grasso best not be concerned given the talent incoming. We will get there in the “Who’s New?” section, but rest assured, there should be nothing to worry about.
Nathaniel Stokes (PF): An interesting experiment for the Bulldogs, Stokes transferred to Coppin State in Maryland. The 6-8 power forward had a solid uptick in minutes during his sophomore campaign, up from 6 minutes-per-game the previous year to 16 minutes-per-game last season. The Bulldogs tried to use him as a paint defender and an outside threat, but he never really got rolling in either area, only averaging 3.4 points and less than 3 rebounds per game. Given that he shot less than 30% from downtown in both seasons, this could be a case of addition by subtraction.
Melo Eggleston (G/F): Eggleston transferred to Bryant after stints at Arkansas State and Wake Forest. After scoring 5 points and 4 rebounds in the first half in Bryant’s opener against Syracuse last year, Eggleston tore his Achilles tendon and never played another game. I’m told there were some disagreements with the players and coaching staff afterwards, so Eggleston will finish his Bryant career with 10 total minutes under his belt. He still seeks to find what will be his 4th program in 5 years.
Walk-ons: Dren Dedushaj (C) & Nick Crocker (C): Dren Dedushaj will hang up the cleats despite one last year of eligibility, and Nick Crocker found a home at D2 New Haven’s program. Neither of them played much (Crocker had a few minutes), but nonetheless were clubhouse guys. We wish them well.
The good news: every other contributor returns for the Bulldogs. You know these names by now, so here are some quick hits & what each needs to do to be successful this year.
Peter Kiss (SR, G/F): By far the standout returner, Kiss shined in his first year in Smithfield. He will be a focal point of this offense and an instant contender for NEC Player of the Year...if not a favorite. Expect Kiss to shoot like it’s going out of style.
Charles Pride (JR, G): Pride had a fantastic sophomore campaign. He has a bad taste in his mouth after scoring 33 in the NEC Championship loss, and was even out shooting on a basket whose net was cut down by Mount St. Mary’s just minutes beforehand. Pride is hungry.
Hall Elisias (R-SR, F/C): They call him “The Blockfather” for a reason. Elisias ranked 17th in the nation in blocked shots per game last year, and continues to be an elite rebounding threat. The key will be keeping him healthy, as he is still not a full participant in practice after a lingering injury that banged him up for a chunk of last season. As Jared Grasso told us, the best thing to do is “pray & go to Church on Sunday’s.” Let’s hope Elisias can ramp himself up.
Luis Hurtado Jr. (SR, G): For lack of size, the 6’6” guard had to play a small/power forward position for a bulk of last year. Now, with more height on the way, Jared Grasso says Hurtado will likely return to a role as a primary ball-handler that he grew comfortable with at UAB two years ago. It’ll be interesting to see how they use Hurtado this year.
Chris Childs (SR, G): One of the nation’s best 3PT shooters in JUCO continued the trend in his first year of D1 basketball. Childs finished last year 22nd nationally in 3-pointers per game (2.9) and made almost 40% of the shots he took from downtown, which is third-best in a single-season in program history. Childs will be key to this offense succeeding, even if it’s off the bench.
Erickson Bans (SO, G): In a crowded backcourt, the Rhode Island product will still get his opportunity. Bans was second or third off the bench towards the end of last year, and will continue to function as a quick ball handler, unafraid of the paint, and a sharpshooter from mid-to-long range. Bans should get a solid minute share of the backcourt.
Kai Kostmayer (SO, C): After playing with the Finnish National Team, Kostmayer was hurt and is still recovering, per Jared Grasso. It’d be nice to see some height as the 6’9” center chipped in a few minutes last year when he needed to. Let’s monitor how Kostmayer is coming along.
Joe Moon IV (SO, G): It all came crashing down last year for Joe Moon, who was supposed to be one of 7 players eligible in the NEC Semifinal after the rest of the roster was contact-traced for COVID. But Moon - reportedly in frustration - shattered his hand; he was spotted in a full-arm cast for the remainder of the playoffs. With plenty of backcourt additions that should compete for minutes, Moon may have trouble finding his role.
Walk-on: Timmy Kiggins (JR, G): Kiggins played a few minutes in the NEC Semifinal to give Erickson Bans & company a break. He did his job on defense and was a good ball-handler. Who knows - maybe we’ll spot Kiggins again in Year 3!
The exciting part! Bryant added 5 scholarship players and 4 walk-ons for a total of 9 additions this offseason. With some solid experience among them, this should be an exciting group of additions.
Tyler Brelsford (FR, PG, George Washington): With the departure of Mike Green, the Bulldogs lack a true point guard. Even though Grasso tells us “Our point guard is whoever rebounds the ball,” it is generally believed that Brelsford is best suited to fill this void. Brelsford did well at GW when he had the opportunities, but they were slim behind Jameer Nelson Jr. and James Bishop. This should be a better environment for Brelsford, a true ball handler and offensive creator, to thrive - and potentially get the starting nod on Opening Day.
Adham Eleeda (GR, G, Northern Kentucky): Grasso recruited Eleeda heavily in his JUCO days, and finally it pays off, as Eleeda exercises his last year of eligibility in Smithfield. One coach told me that Eleeda is viewed as an “elite shooter” in the D1 community, and the stats are there to prove it. He hit 129 three-pointers in 2018-19, and that ranked third nationally among all JUCO players that year. To put it into perspective, only 3 of the last 7 three-point leaders in D1 would’ve beat that mark. Eleeda can offer some experience, good defense, and laser-vision from downtown. Sign me up.
Greg Calixte (GR, PF, George Mason): In a similar situation as Brelsford last year, Calixte was a perennial contributor that suffered from an influx of new talent; he started one game in his last year at Mason after starting a large chunk of his career at the A-10 level. Calixte should get a solid share of the frontcourt minutes this year, and if Hall Elisias isn’t 100%, his role becomes indescribably more important to the Bulldogs this season.
Grant Coleman (R-FR, F, Milwaukee): Although he didn’t stand out at Milwaukee, Grant Coleman has promise. He hit double-figures three times with the Panthers; Big Twelve opponent Kansas State, Horizon League champion Cleveland State, and Robert Morris. He shows promise as another sharpshooter, hitting 36% of the shots he took from downtown. Let’s see the share of minutes Coleman garners this year.
Mike Iuzzolino (FR, PG): The son of former Mavs draft pick Mike Iuzzolino will get an opportunity with the Bulldogs. He averaged 16 points at the Canterbury School in CT, and was praised as a solid recruit for Grasso, originally thought to replace Mike Green. Despite a packed guard group, Iuzzolino should get at least some minutes this year.
Walk-ons - Max Zakheim, Mike Marshall Jr, Liam Dunfee, Josh Ozabor: Keep your eyes on knockdown shooter Max Zakheim, who reportedly may crack the rotation in the event of injury or emergency.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Bryant’s first game is by way of exhibition on Monday against Nichols College. The Bisons have new leadership; they are coached by Brock Erickson - who spent 2 years as Jared Grasso’s number-two in command - and their new president is Glenn Sulmasy, who spent the last 6 years as the Provost & Chief Academic Officer at Bryant. Needless to say, this will be one of the most important contests in Nichols history. Per sources, Nichols will be bringing a fan bus and packing it to the brim.
I’m looking to see what the starting lineup looks like, who the primary ball handler will be, and how healthy Hall Elisias looks. In a game that should obviously be a rout, we’ll see how well Bryant comes out firing.