Niagara Gazette — Four of the University at Buffalo's top five scorers from a year ago have graduated. Three of the top four rebounders, too, not to mention the backbone of one of the nation's top defenses.
But UB fans are hopeful there won't be much of a drop off from last year's 20-win campaign, mostly because of one player who is returning.
Javon McCrea has been the Bulls' best player since he arrived on campus two years ago. Now the time has come for him to be the team's leader.
The Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2010, McCrea deferred to eventual MAC Player of the Year Mitchell Watt last season, but the 6-foot-7 forward still played his way onto the all-conference team.
This year he's been chosen as the preseason favorite for MAC Player of the Year, as well as the newly-created Big 4 Player of the Year award, and has been included on a few national lists of top players.
"I'm glad that his jersey says the same thing as mine," said guard Tony Watson, UB's lone scholarship senior. "In my opinion, he is the best player in the MAC. He has raw talent that you just don't get in most players. When he keeps his mind right and applies our theories and does what the coaches want, Javon can't be stopped."
McCrea averaged 14.7 points and 6.9 rebounds in his sophomore year. Most expected his numbers to be a bit better, but that was before Watt emerged as the premier player in the conference.
UB coach Reggie Witherspoon is trying to get McCrea to adopt the mindset that Watt did last season.
"More than anything, we are trying to do is accelerate his assertiveness, to think in a more dominant fashion," Witherspoon said. "He's making great strides with that."