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Surprises At The Holidays

Dec 17, 2012, 10:14 PM EDT

Northeastern's Reggie Spencer

With the gift-giving season upon us, it seemed like a good time to look at some players who have been pleasant surprises for their teams this season.

Rayshawn Goins, James Madison:  Goins missed last season with a shoulder injury, so it was unknown how much of an impact player he would be for the Dukes in 2012-13. Through 10 games, he leads the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg) while shooting 48.6% from the floor. He’s topped the 20-point mark four times and has a pair of double-doubles. Even though he anchors the post for JMU, Goins has also added a perimeter jumper to his arsenal, hitting 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

Reggie Spencer, Northeastern – Spencer had a solid freshman season for the Huskies a year ago, earning a spot in the starting lineup and tallying 6.8 ppg and 5.1 rpg. However his game has gone to another level this year as NU has tried to adjust without injured All-CAA guard Jonathan Lee. Spencer is shooting a league-best 63.8% from the floor and is contributing 12.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg. Spencer has scored double figures in seven of NU’s nine contests and has grabbed at least five rebounds in each game.

Kyle Gaillard, William & Mary – Gaillard missed last year with a knee injury but has started to return to form in recent weeks for the Tribe. He’s averaging 8.8 ppg while shooting a team-best 59.2% from the floor and is W&M’s second-leading rebounder (5.8 rpg). He’s scored double digits in four of his last six contests, including 16 points in an overtime setback at Richmond and a double-double (13 pts/11 reb) in a road victory at Radford.

Johnny Williams, George Mason: Williams also sat out last season with a shoulder injury and hadn’t played a game for the Patriots since Paul Hewitt took over as head coach. During his time away from the court he lost a considerable amount of weight and has become most versatile. Williams is currently Mason’s second-leading scorer with 8.0 ppg, ranks third on the team in rebounding (4.5 rpg) and tops the squad with 11 steals. He posted a double-double (16 points/10 rebounds) in a win over Mercer at the Paradise Jam.

James Vincent, Georgia State – Vincent has shown flashes of being a dominant inside player for the Panthers over the past couple of years, especially on the defensive end. This season, the 6-foot-10 center is averaging better than 20 minutes per game and is contributing 4.3 ppg and 5.0 rpg per game. He also leads the CAA with 25 blocked shots. Vincent grabbed a season-best 12 rebounds vs. Southern Poly and just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine boards at Troy last Saturday.

Stephen Nwaukoni, Hofstra – Nwaukoni has provided a lift off the bench for the Pride over the past couple of weeks. Despite averaging less than 20 minutes per game, the junior forward ranks fifth in the CAA in rebounding (7.7 rpg) and is chipping in 6.6 ppg. He’s been especially good over the past three contests, contributing 10.0 ppg and 9.7 rpg which included a double-double (12 pts/11 reb) vs. Wright State.

Tanner Milson, UNCW – Milson turned in some noteworthy performances over his first two seasons with the Seahawks, but it was unknown how big of a role he would play this season with several newcomers in the backcourt. This season he has been one of the team’s most consistent contributors, ranking second on the team in scoring (8.9 ppg) while leading the squad in assists (24) and three-pointers (15). After a slow start, he’s reached double digits in five of his last seven contests.

Richard Ross, Old Dominion – Despite having to deal with a hand injury, Ross has been solid for the Monarchs thus far. While averaging only 19 minutes per game, Ross is scoring 5.6 ppg while shooting a team-best 60% from the floor and ranks third on the team in rebounding (4.9 rpg). He had eight points and seven boards in ODU’s narrow loss to UCF last Friday.

Rafriel Guthrie, Towson – Everyone knew that transfers were going to play a key role for the Tigers this season, but with three newcomers from high-profile Big East schools, Guthrie flew under the radar. He’s averaging 20 minutes per game as a reserve and is chippping in 5.1 ppg and 3.1 rpg. He scored a season-high 16 points as Towson nearly knocked off unbeaten Eastern Kentucky last month.

Kazembe Abif, Drexel – Abif was a seldom-used reserve on the Dragons’ 29-win team a year ago, but he’s proving to be a key reserve for Drexel this season. The sophomore forward is averaging 20 minutes per game and contributing 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest. In an overtime setback to Illinois State, Abif tallied 10 points and seven rebounds and he’s had six points in the Dragons’ past two games.

Kyle Anderson, Delaware – Playing with a mask to protect a broken nose early in the season, Anderson got off to a slow start for the Blue Hens. That’s changed lately as Anderson has scored nine or points in six of his past seven contests, including double figures in UD’s last two games. Anderson is averaging 7.9 ppg for the season and has made 17 three-pointers, which ranks second on the team.

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