Projecting men’s basketball’s starting five, key contributors

Freshman guard Ace Baldwin dribbles against Davidson in the A-10 semifinal game on March 6. Photo by Megan Lee

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

After the departure of sophomore guard and A-10 Player of the Year Bones Hyland to the NBA draft, men’s basketball will have a slightly different look on the court.

Hyland, a Wilmington, Delaware, native who logged 50 assists and averaged 19.5 points this past season, declared for the NBA draft on April 17.

Coach Mike Rhoades added five players to the roster for the 2020-21 season: junior guard Marcus Tsohonis, senior forward Jimmy Nichols Jr., incoming freshman guard Jayden Nunn and incoming freshmen forwards Jalen DeLoach and Nick Kern. 

Here’s what the starting lineup and key contributors could look like on opening night at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in the upcoming season.

Projected starting five

Ace Baldwin – sophomore point guard

Baldwin started all 26 games this season for the black and gold, averaging 6.7 points. The Baltimore, Maryland, native logged 114 assists and committed just 63 turnovers. 

After posting some of the top numbers in the A-10 in assists, Baldwin was named to the A-10 All-Rookie team. 

“When you’re a college point guard and you play college basketball, the No. 1 thing is winning,” coach Mike Rhoades said in a February press conference. “For a freshman and the way he’s played this year, we wouldn’t be where we are at if it wasn’t for him.” 

Baldwin should start again at point guard for the second-straight season, this time without Hyland, who Baldwin called his “brother.”

Marcus Tsohonis – junior shooting guard

Tsohonis, a transfer from Washington, is slated to replace Hyland in the Rams’ starting lineup. 

The Portland, Oregon, native played in 23 games this season with the Huskies, starting in four of them. He averaged a career-best 10.4 points, logging 10 double-figure games. Tsohonis recorded a career-high 29 points against Washington State on Feb. 15, including a game-winning shot. 

Tsohonis recorded 32 turnovers and 26 assists with shooting percentages of 37% from three and 44% from the field total.

Tsohonis was a standout player at Jefferson High School in Portland, logging 24.1 points and 7.4 assists during his junior season en route to being named the state Player of the Year. He led the team to a No. 1 ranking the same year. 

Vince Williams – senior guard/forward

Williams seems to have mastered the art of taking charges during games, swinging momentum to the Rams.

The Toledo, Ohio, native started the final 22 of the Rams’ 26 games this season. He averaged 10.6 points, the second-most on the roster behind Hyland, shooting 41% from beyond the arc. 

Williams added 58 assists for the black and gold and averaged 5.2 rebounds. He was out due to back spasms in the A-10 semifinal but returned for the championship game in Dayton, Ohio, to score 12 points against St. Bonaventure.

Levi Stockard III – graduate student forward

Stockard will return to the VCU roster after taking advantage of the NCAA’s added year of eligibility for seniors. Senior forward Corey Doulgas did not use his extra year and will not return to the team for the 2021-22 season.
Stockard, a Kansas State transfer, started all 26 games this season, averaging 6.5 points and 2.3 rebounds for the black and gold.

He dropped a season-high 15 points in the Rams’ road win over Rhode Island on Feb. 3 and logged a season-high seven rebounds twice during the season. 

Hason Ward – junior forward 

Ward, a player who broke into the black and gold’s starting lineup 16 games into the season, should stay there for the 2021-22 season. 

The St. Thomas, Barbados, native logged five double-figure games, including a season-high 13 points against La Salle on Jan. 30. 

Ward averaged 6.4 points and 5.1 rebounds, anchoring the paint for the Rams. He recorded three games with 10 rebounds, including his first-career double-double against the Explorers. 

Key contributors

Jamir Watkins – sophomore forward

Watkins had a breakout freshman season with the Rams, averaging 7.2 points off the bench. He had seven games with double-figures in points, six of them in A-10 play. 

The Trenton, New Jersey, native logged a career-high 15 points against Western Carolina on Dec. 15. He also averaged 2.6 rebounds, while recording 18 assists.

Jimmy Nichols Jr. – senior forward

As one of five newcomers to the Rams roster for the 2021-22 season, Nichols could play a role in the paint for the black and gold. 

The Providence transfer averaged 6.1 points and 0.7 assists while playing in 16 games before injury shut him down to end the season with the Friars. Nichols shot a 40% clip from three, while shooting 54% from the field total. 

Nichols battled injury during his sophomore season as well, missing 25 games with Providence. 

The Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, native was initially recruited out of high school by Rhoades and his staff, but he chose Providence. Now as a transfer to VCU, he has the opportunity to contribute key bench minutes and possibly break into the starting five. 

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