JMU Men’s Basketball 2020-21 Roster Updates

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

The Louis Rowe era is over for JMU men’s basketball, and the Mark Byington era is underway.

While there’s tremendous uncertainty surrounding collegiate sports at the moment because of COVID-19, there’s hope that with its season beginning in November, college basketball will march on. Hopefully the season goes as planned and the Dukes take the court as scheduled in their new arena.

Even if it doesn’t begin on time, the Byington era will eventually begin.

When the Dukes do take the court for the first time under Byington, their roster will look noticeably different than it did during the 2019-20 season.

Let’s take a look at the recent roster shakeups and the team’s scholarship count.

The core

Last season’s main group of contributors was expected to return next season. With Rowe’s departure, a few players opted to transfer to take on new challenges at new programs. Others appear willing to play under Byington.

Matt Lewis, G, rising senior

Current status: Declared for NBA Draft but retained NCAA eligibility

What that means: It means Lewis is testing the NBA waters. He can receive feedback from NBA executives before deciding whether to return to JMU or turn professional. Receiving the information is a good move, as Lewis wants to one day be an NBA player. Feedback helps with that goal.

How does this impact JMU: Barring a major surprise, Lewis should return to JMU.

His game could use more work and a solid senior season at JMU could very well boost his NBA Draft stock. If Lewis becomes JMU’s all-time leading scorer and helps the Dukes improve while showing improved efficiency on offense and defense, he could become a draft choice in the 2021 NBA Draft.

If he stays, JMU has its No. 1 option back. He’ll be a leader and the team’s likely leading scorer. If Lewis opts to leave, it puts JMU in full rebuild mode. It makes sense for both sides for Lewis to play one more season in Harrisonburg.

Deshon Parker, G, rising junior

Current status: Transfer to Appalachian State

How does this impact JMU: Well, the Dukes lose their point guard. While Parker’s shooting numbers a season ago were disappointing, he’s a solid passer and a good ball handler.

Losing Parker creates an immediate need at the point guard position. Having two more years of Parker would’ve been nice, but he’s moving on to play for the Mountaineers.

Darius Banks, SF, rising senior

Current status: Transferring to Chattanooga

How does this impact JMU: Banks was a good one. The wing could score and defend. He rebounded well while also being a consistent shooter. Losing Banks hurts.

On the bright side, JMU was deep at the wing spot with players like Julien Wooden and Michael Christmas giving the Dukes plenty of options at small forward. Banks staying would’ve been helpful, but it doesn’t destroy the 2020-21 roster.

Dwight Wilson, PF, rising senior

Current status: Transferring to Ohio

How does this impact JMU: It takes away JMU’s one consistent post player. Wilson was awesome during his time as a Duke. He became a double-double machine.

Losing Wilson hurts. When used properly, he was one of the best big men in the CAA. He would’ve been a huge part of JMU’s 2020-21 team. Instead, he’s headed to the MAC.

Last season’s key reserves

The four players listed above were the most critical pieces of JMU’s 2019-20 squad, but the Dukes had a few other players that played major roles off the bench or in spot starting positions.

Many of those players return. Antanee Pinkard is the team’s lone senior graduating.

Julien Wooden, SF, rising sophomore

Current status: Staying at JMU

How this impacts JMU: Wooden staying helps the Dukes. He played well in his freshman season and showed impressive athleticism. He has the tools to score, rebound and defend.

Wooden averaged 5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in his first season in Harrisonburg. He’s also a highlight waiting to happen.

Sign us up for three more seasons of this.

Michael Christmas, SF, rising sophomore

Current status: Staying at JMU

How this impacts JMU: Rejoice, JMU fans!

Louis Rowe was a great guy, but the results didn’t come. One of his most questionable decisions was how he used Christmas — a former 3-star recruit — last season. The talented freshman barely played at the end of last season despite elite talent.

At his best, Christmas is a beast on the boards who can score at the rim or beyond the 3-point line. He and Wooden have the ability to become All-CAA performers.

Both players also have interesting defensive upside.

Zach Jacobs, PF, rising senior

Current status: Staying at JMU

How this impacts JMU: Jacobs is basically a small forward having to play power forward and center. He’s undersized for the 4 and woefully undersized at the 5.

He’s never quite been put in a great position to succeed because he’s usually forced to play the power forward or center spot, but Jacobs is a very solid role player.

He likely won’t be the star of the show next season, but Jacobs brings athleticism to the power forward spot. If coached well and put in the right position with good players surrounding him, Jacobs can make an impact at the CAA level.

He’s a good player to have back, especially without much returning in the post.

Other reserves

Few other players were thrust into major roles, although players like Jayvis Harvey and Quinn Richey saw some spots of playing time a season ago.

Jayvis Harvey, SG, rising sophomore

Current status: Staying at JMU

How this impacts JMU: Harvey is a talented young guard with potential. He didn’t do much in limited minutes a season ago, and his 3-point shooting percentage (18.2%) needs improvement, but it’s hard to do much with limited playing time. He adds guard depth, which is needed.

Quinn Richey, SG, rising sophomore

Current status: In transfer portal

How this impacts JMU: Considered a shooter, Richey shot just 18.2% from the 3-point line on 22 attempts. He barely played a season ago, but he was a bit of a liability defensively in limited minutes. Is that because of Richey or a subpar defensive scheme? Probably the scheme.

Judging Richey in limited minutes is tough, but he does move well offensively. JMU needs better shooting and Richey might have brought it, but we won’t find out.

He’s moving on with several more athletic guards moving in.

Zyon Dobbs, G, rising sophomore

Current status: In transfer portal

How this impacts JMU: Dobbs didn’t play much last season, but he had the potential to add depth at guard. Dobbs is a good athlete with decent size for a potential point guard.

He’s entering the transfer portal, leaving JMU to lean on its incoming guard transfers and commits.

Devon Flowers, PF, rising redshirt sophomore

Current status: In transfer portal

How this impacts JMU: As we’ve said before, the Dukes lack depth at power forward and center. This only adds to the need for depth at those positions. Injuries derailed his time at JMU and he played just 40 minutes over parts of two seasons.

Dalton Jefferson, SF/PF, rising sophomore

Current status: Staying at JMU

How this impacts JMU: Jefferson is a walk-on within the program, so it doesn’t make a major impact. It’s unknown what role if any he would have under a new coach. He does, however, have enough size to possibly play power forward if the Dukes find themselves in desperate need of Jefferson’s length.

New additions

This is where JMU fans should get excited. Losing players in the transfer portal stinks. Gaining them, however, is a whole lot of fun.

Byington has been busy adding a group of uber-talented transfers. He also added a few high-school recruits.

Justin Amadi, PF, incoming freshman

Size: 6-feet-6-inches tall and 205 pounds

How this impacts JMU: Amadi possesses similar size to Christmas and Wooden. He’s listed as a power forward despite being listed at just 6’6″ and he’ll add depth in the post.

He’s super explosive, which helps make up for a lack of size as a power forward. He’s an exciting prospect, and given JMU’s distinct lack of post depth, could find playing time immediately.

Terell Strickland, PG, incoming freshman

Size: 6-feet tall and 170 pounds

How this impacts JMU: Hello, guard depth.

The Dukes desperately need help at point guard this season with Parker leaving. Strickland will have a chance to play right away, given the lack of depth at point guard.

He’s another dynamic athlete who does well scoring near the rim.

Terrence Edwards Jr., SF, incoming freshman

Size: 6-feet-6-inches tall (unlisted weight)

How this impacts JMU: Edwards Jr. is an athletic wing and the third non-transfer member of the 2020 recruiting class. He adds yet another wing player who can score.

The Georgia product is considered a 2-star recruit by some sites and a 3-star recruit by others. He’s another solid signing in JMU’s freshmen class.

Rashawn Fredericks, SF, Graduate transfer

Previous stops: Started career at a JUCO before heading to Cincinnati. He then transferred to UAB and now he’s headed to JMU

How this impacts JMU: At 6-feet-5-inches tall and 200 pounds, Fredericks is a tremendous addition. He’s eligible immediately for the Dukes after sitting out last season and playing in all 35 games for Cincinnati during the 2018-19 season.

He averaged 2.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in a bench role for the Bearcats. During his JUCO days, Fredericks scored and rebounded with the best of them. He’s a talented wing and immediately makes up for the loss of Banks.

Jalen Hodge, PG, rising junior

Previous stops: Hodge transfers to JMU from Louisiana Monroe. Unless he receives a waiver, he’ll likely need to sit out the 2020-21 season.

How this impacts JMU: Even if Hodge doesn’t play in 2020, the left-handed point guard has two years of eligibility remaining. He’s a good scorer, a solid passer and someone with experience playing point guard. He adds depth at guard and is an interesting prospect.

He’s flashed the ability to be an elite 3-point shooter. He has some shooting guard skills but possesses the vision and size of a CAA point guard.

Joel Mensah, C, rising junior

Previous stops: A San Diego State transfer, Mensah likely needs to sit out the 2020-21 season before taking the floor for the Dukes.

How this impacts JMU: He’s a 6-foot-10-inch center coming from one of the best programs in the country. It’s a major signing. He was a former four-star recruit out of high school.

Given his shooting touch from the free-throw line area and his post play, he’s a solid offensive prospect. Add in his rebounding and shot blocking and Mensah could become the best big man in the CAA.

JMU has gone years without a dominant presence in the post. Mensah could change that. JMU Nation should be thrilled with this signing.

TJ Taylor, SF, rising junior

Previous stops: Taylor transfers to JMU from Wyoming. Since he’s from Virginia, there’s a decent shot he receives a waiver from the NCAA for coming closer to home amid the coronavirus pandemic. The waiver would make him immediately eligible. If he doesn’t get one, he’ll still have two years after sitting out the 2020-21 season.

How this impacts JMU: Taylor played a solid amount during two seasons with Wyoming. While the Cowboys weren’t all that good, the left-handed shooter showcased the ability to shoot and get to the rim.

He’s a good addition who can contribute on the wing or even at the power forward spot if needed. He plays big and adds versatility as either a small or power forward. Adding him immediately would help the 2020 team, especially given the lack of depth outside of Jacobs in the post.

Vado Morse, PG, rising junior

Previous stops: Morse comes to JMU from Mount St. Mary’s. He’s a solid point guard who won NEC Rookie of the Year honors in 2018-19. If he doesn’t receive a waiver, he’ll sit out of a season before playing two years for the Dukes.

How this impacts JMU: Morse arrives in Harrisonburg as a potential point guard of the future. With both Hodge and Morse joining the program, the duo could split duties at point guard or even have one play at shooting guard occasionally. Hodge appears to be a little bigger and a better shooter, making Morse a likely option at point guard.

The CAA is not a good conference, but it is better than the NEC. Morse is super talented, but there will be a minor adjustment to better play. If he handles that well — he scored 16 points in his first collegiate game against N.C. State in 2018 so he’s capable — he’s a leading candidate to become JMU’s point guard of the future.

Important notes

As of now, the Dukes have 13 players on scholarship if Lewis returns. Division I programs receive 13 per season, so the Dukes are all set now with players announcing their departures via transfer.

Four of the team’s new additions are non-graduate transfers. If all four sit out next season, the Dukes will have just nine scholarship players available for the coming season.

Given this uncertainty, we’ll wait to project a starting lineup.

All we know now is that Byington added four really strong transfers and three good incoming freshmen prospects. If Lewis returns, the Dukes could surprise people as a decent CAA team in 2020 despite limited depth.

If he doesn’t, it could be a really rough first year in the new arena. Like, really rough. The next season, however, will feature an influx of eligible transfer talent.

If Lewis returns, 2020-21 will be fun. If he doesn’t, don’t rush to buy tickets to check out the Dukes. Wait until 2021-22, when the Dukes should make a run at a CAA title.

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