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Rising to the Top: Five MAC MBB players to watch in 2020

These five MAC players are on the rise, and are due for strong seasons. Keep their names in your head.

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament - Buffalo vs Bowling Green Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

We saw astonishing games from several players from the conference, last season. Which player was the most fun to watch?

In my estimation, NIU’s Eugene German and his 20.5 points last season, along with Toledo’s Marreon Jackson and his 19.8 points per game, could be argued as the most exciting players to watch at the MAC level in 2019. German has graduated and will be moving on to the professional ranks, while Jackson will return for his senior season after exploring his options.

With COVID-19 cancelling all basketball postseason play, we sadly never got to see if any of the big names in the MAC could have gone on to be national legends in the sport’s collective hearts and minds.

But 2020 is a new season, and here are five players that are due for massive seasons in the next campaign:


Justin Turner, Bowling Green:

Justin Turner was all but packed up a couple months ago.

The eyes of the college basketball world were on Turner, a scoring machine last season with Bowling Green, as he was expected to be the best transfer on the market. Some of the schools who expressed serious interest included Missouri, Marquette, and Iowa State, making it seem certain a move to power conferences was in the works.

Turner, the 6’4 205 pound player, shocked the college basketball world by having a change of heart and staying home in Bowling Green, and we’ll see if that was the right decision. He’s set up for another phenomenal year. As he averaged a dazzling 18.8 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and shot 36.1% from beyond the three-point arc in 2019, while playing and starting in all 34 games. He can clearly score at all three levels.

But, the main reason why he is set up for a phenomenal season, is because he will be a senior.

Bowling Green hasn’t gone dancing in 52 seasons, and that will surely provide Turner with some motivation to help his teammates get to the promised land. He’s a well-sized, 205-pound guard who can make excellent use of his body. If he can add about 10 more pounds in the offseason, he’ll be looking like a beast.

With his ability to make plays happen off the dribble and off the catch, he projects to be scoring at a very high rate, a trait which will surely catch the eyes of professional scouts. After his final season next year, he could be hearing his name being called at the NBA draft.


Jayvon Graves, Buffalo:

Jayvon Graves, a six-foot-three, 200 pound guard for the Bulls, broke out of his shoes last season.

He tossed up 17.1 points as a junior last season, nearly doubling his points per game from his sophomore season (9.7), while starting in all 32 games. Graves completely carried the load for the Bulls, as he was the only UB player to eclipse the 12 PPG mark in 2019. Graves can do it on defense as well, averaging 1.2 steals per game last season. He puts his nose down and gets to work. Down the stretch of tight games, Jayvon was often depended upon in clutch situations, and converted several times.

Graves withdrew from the NBA draft waters on June 3, and will officially returning for his final season, with all eyes on him to continue to carry the load. If he explodes this year, Graves could be getting some looks on Draft night.


Loren Christian Jackson, Akron:

Loren Christian Jackson was an integral part of an Akron squad which secured the best conference record, and lead the team in points per game en route to securing the top overall seed.

He is a zippy player, who very nearly made it into the 50-40-90 club in 2019, shooting 46.5% from the field, 42.% from beyond the arc, and 87.7% from the charity stripe. On top of that, he averaged 19.8 points per game, putting him amongst the top scorers in the Mid-American Conference. This past season, was his redshirt sophomore season, where he started 33 games. He’s going to become a household name.

A natural scorer, Christian Jackson posted 70 points in two game (over four days) against two of the best teams in-league in Buffalo and Bowling Green. Christian-Jackson is a guard who can make good use of the ball when it’s in his hands, proving himself to be one of the more efficient guards in the conference in 2019.

Christain Jackson will certainly be in contention for first-team All-MAC honors both in the pre-season and post-season, and will definitely be in the running for the conference’s most valuable player.

It’s still a little early to tell wether the NBA will be a legit option for him, but if he keeps up this type of play, he’s got a shot.


Jason Preston, Ohio

Preston, a sophomore last season, is only just starting to show off his full potential and phenomenal assets.

The 6’4, 187 pound general is a brawler, who isn’t afraid to put his body out on the line for a rebound despite standing at six-foot-four. He pulled down 6.4 rebounds per game last season to go along with 16.8 points per game.

Preston is a scoring threat from any level on the floor, but he is perhaps most dangerous as an off-ball play creator. He showed a knack for knowing the right play at the right time, whipping the ball to open teammates or initiating a new play mid-possession to create windows for open shots. Preston is the type of player who is going to pass up a shot, for an even better shot.

As a team, Ohio finished well out of the hunt, but with Preston as the centerpiece for the program for the next couple of years, he could be bringing something special to them. This kid has the grit and skill to continue to the next level when all of his pieces are falling hand in hand.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio at Buffalo Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Pippen, Kent State:

Pippen, the six-foot-nine, 222 lb. rising senior, is set up for a significant season in the box score and on the court.

As last season came to a halt, Danny averaged 14.3 points a game, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game, placing him amongst the better players in the conference in the frontcourt. Pippen is extremely consistent, as he put up this statline in 31 games. He has an admirable touch in the short-range game and is a strong finisher at the hoop. Danny is an enabler on both sides of the ball, making Pippen a nightmare matchup. He loves to scrap away, throwing his whole body into the play, to help his team achieve victories.

Another player with only one season remaining, and coming off a Top Four finish in the conference race, don’t expect Danny Pippen and the Kent State Golden Flashes to ease off the gas pedal. Pippen’s going to get a lot of attention this season, if he stays healthy.