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Senior Jalen Adaway, pictured here during a recent practice, was one of four Bonnies named to the author’s Atlantic 10 preseason all-conference teams. Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi were both First Team selections.

ST. BONAVENTURE — For the first time, perhaps, in eight years, I was truly perplexed.

In almost every other instance since I became a voting media member for the Atlantic 10’s official preseason poll, choosing the now 18- (and formerly 15-) player all-conference teams was a typically straightforward process.

In most years, there’s enough returning all-league players or a pretty clear-cut idea as to which younger guys are going to take the next step to comfortably fill out a ballot. Last October, for example, the A-10 had 14 of its 18 all-conference choices back for the 2020-21 campaign. It was perhaps the most established collection of conference talent in a full class cycle.

You knew what you had in four-year veterans such as Kellan Grady, Fatts Russell and Jalen Crutcher. And that made it relatively easy to arrange your three six-man squads.

But that’s not the case this fall.

FOR STARTERS, the league returns just seven all-league choices from March, and five of those are from two schools — St. Bonaventure and Richmond. Add in graduation losses, the myriad of transfers (both in and out) caused by both the pandemic and recent NCAA rule changes and the fact that six of the A-10’s 14 programs have made coaching changes within the last three years (including a pair of 2021 hires in Fordham’s Kyle Neptune and George Mason’s Kim English) and are still in transition mode, and you’ve got maybe the biggest shift in league personnel in recent history.

That’s not to say the A-10 will see a major drop off in caliber.

The league, led by Bona and Richmond, should be as good 1-4 as it’s been the last several seasons. And it could be even better in the middle than it’s been of late depending on how a number of transfers and youngsters pan out.

And that’s just it:

The A-10, in 2021-22, will be more dependent upon transfers and rising talent — a Mustapha Amzil, for example, the 6-foot-10 Dayton forward, who averaged a modest 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds last winter, but who oozes ability — than it ever has before. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it should actually make for a fun season of seeing who will work out and who won’t, who will legitimately challenge Bona for the top spot and who will succumb to its suffocating defense.

But that did make it a little more challenging in projecting the all-conference teams.

AS A general rule, I’ve tried to avoid picking transfers in the preseason, because you simply don’t know which ones are going to shake out as solid A-10 players. This year, though, there are upwards of 10 such guys who are not only expected to be contributors, but to potentially jump in as leading scorers or replacements for departed stars.

And so three appear here — one in the Top 18 and two in my new “Rest of the Top 25” category. Because this year, it’s hard to ignore a guy like Dayton’s Toumani Camara, a 6-foot-8 Georgia transfer who averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and over a block per game and tied for the SEC lead with eight double-doubles last winter.

Additionally, speaking of Bona and the Spiders … to me, at least for now, there’s a sizable gap between these two and everyone else. The Bonnies, of course, return all five starters from a team that won both the A-10 regular season and tournament titles in 2020-21. Any homer-ism aside, it could be legitimately argued that, merely based on last year’s production, they have five of the best 18 players in the league.

Richmond, though, also welcomes back five seniors from a couple of teams that have been knocking on the NCAA door the last few years, highlighted by “they’re STILL here?” standouts Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden, and including sixth-year guard Nick Sherod, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Given the sure-fire talent that each possesses, I’ve got four players from both in my top 18 (and all five Bona starters in the Top 25, with Dominick Welch, who might well make a preseason all-league team, in my latter category; although Sherod could well make it five from each).

On my list, I’ve got the Bonnies’ Kyle Lofton edging Saint Louis super senior Javonte Perkins as the top-ranked A-10 player, teammate Osun Osunniyi also on the First Team and rising stars Hyunjung Lee (Davidson), Tyler Burton (Richmond), Jordan Hall (Saint Joseph’s) and Amzil on the Second Team.

Six of the seven returning all-league players comprise my First Team while Bona’s Jaren Holmes checks in at No. 10 on the Second Team. Here’s one voter’s look at how the preseason all-conference teams should shake out when they’re released next week:

FIRST TEAM

1. Kyle Lofton, Sr., G, St. Bonaventure

2. Javonte Perkins, Sr., G/F, Saint Louis

3. Jacob Gilyard, Sr., G, Richmond

4. Osun Osunniyi, Sr., C, St. Bonaventure

5. Grant Golden, Sr., C, Richmond

6. Vince Williams Jr., Sr., F, VCU

SECOND TEAM

7. Hyunjung Lee, Jr., G, Davidson

8. Toumani Camara, Jr., F, Dayton

9. Tyler Burton, Jr., F, Richmond

10. Jaren Holmes, Sr., G, St. Bonaventure

11. Jordan Hall, So., G, Saint Joseph’s

12. Mustapha Amzil, So., C, Dayton

THIRD TEAM

13. Jalen Adaway, Sr., G/F, St. Bonaventure

14. Nathan Cayo, Sr., F, Richmond

15. Taylor Funk, Sr., F, Saint Joseph’s

16. Josh Oduro, Jr., F, George Mason

17. Noah Fernandes, Jr., G, Massachusetts

18. James Bishop, Jr., G, George Washington

REST OF THE TOP 25

Luka Brajkovic, Sr., F, Davidson

Yuri Collins, So., G, Saint Louis

D’Shawn Schwartz, Sr., G, George Mason

Jeremy Sheppard, Sr., G, Rhode Island

Marcus Tsohonis, Jr., G, VCU

Hason Ward, Jr., F, VCU

Dominick Welch, Sr., G, St. Bonaventure

** Italics indicates transfer

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