By Benjamin Shinault
On the morning of Oct. 17, the results for Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll were announced, and for the first time since the 2009-10 season, a Bronc was voted as the preseason player of the year, with senior forward Mervin James being named the conference’s best player.
Last season, James had season averages of 12.9 points per game, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 48.2% from the field.
The honors did not stop there for the men’s team, as they were also voted first in the MAAC’s preseason rankings. The last time that the Broncs placed first was before the 2018-19 season.
The women’s team ranked 10th in the preseason rankings poll. The Broncs were ranked second to last, only ahead of the Saint Peter’s Peacocks who finished last season at 0-30. With a bunch of the top contributors from last season’s team transferring to other programs and some graduating, Rider will look quite different.
The poll also revealed preseason All-MAAC teams and Rider had two players land on the list, as James and senior guard Allen Powell earned All-MAAC first team honors.
Powell joined the Broncs in 2019 and is coming off a tough shooting season where he finished with a field goal percentage of 36.8%, with shots at 29.2% from beyond the arc. But based on past seasons, especially his 2020-21 season where he shot 44% from three and 40.5% from the field, Powell has the potential on the offensive side of the ball to deal damage in the MAAC.
Senior guard Makayla Firebaugh was placed on the All-MAAC second team, the only player representing Rider women’s basketball. In last year’s preseason rankings, she was placed on the third team.
Last season, Firebaugh finished sixth in scoring in the MAAC with 14.3 points per game, making last year her best offensive season as a Bronc. Firebaugh led the Broncs in total points with 444, exactly 100 points more than the team’s second-highest scorer.
Firebaugh also saw an uptick in her field goal percentage last season, improving her efficiency to 35.6% from 31.7% the year prior.
Men’s basketball will kick off its season on Oct. 28 at home against Georgian Court in an exhibition matchup at 1 p.m.
Women’s basketball will host TCNJ on Nov. 1 at home at 7 p.m.