From now until April, try to watch a Saturday-night episode of SportsCenter without hearing the names Doug McDermott (Creighton), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), or Cody Zeller (Indiana)… You can’t do it. (Side Note: Those of you ‘Cuse fans discouraged with MCW’s poor performance on Saturday against Temple, calm down. Dude is tops in the nation in assists per game and third in steals. The only thing you should be worried about is deciding what flavor of ice cream you will “depress-eat” the day he declares early for the NBA Draft.)
We know all about the big-time programs and the student-athletes that make their programs tick, but what about the kids who don’t get the type of exposure of a well-known unibrow or possess a last name with a marketable catch-phrase? What about the kids who, whether at a big school or not, are under the radar? What about them?
In this week’s Stats Slant, I will delve into some of college basketball’s best talent that I bet you didn’t know about… Enjoy.
(Credit: Jon Gardiner, Duke Photography)
He’s not the best player on the best team in the country, but he’s arguably the most important. Last season, Quinn Cook played 12 minutes per game and scored 4.4 PPG as a freshman for Coach K and the loss of Austin Rivers paired with the absence of a true point raised questions about this year’s Duke squad. Cook has put those questions to rest. His minutes (31.7) and points (10.4) are both indicative of the tremendous growth he did in the offseason. He’s currently averaging 10.4 PPG, 6.0 APG, and 3.9 RPG for the No. 1 team in the country. On November 28th against then #4 Ohio State, Cook played all 40 minutes, had 12 points, with 8 assists, and 6 rebounds in the Blue Devil’s 73-68 victory at Cameron Indoor. Most important player for the Dukies? That’s for you to decide.
He’s not a flashy player who will make an appearance on the #SCtop10 (yes, I can use hashtags) anytime soon, but South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters is a “do-it-all” type of basketball player. Don’t believe me? Just look at his 20.0ppg/6.3rpg/5.8apg statline. This past Saturday, he led the Jackrabbits to a 70-65 win over previously unbeaten No. 16 New Mexico at “The Pit” with a typical 28-point, seven assist, five rebound performance. Wolters currently has 1,868 career points at SDSU despite being a below average three-point shooter (career 32.7%). He scores in a variety of ways and, if he can, will his team to a Summit League Conference Title and into the tournament, this team could potentially make some noise in March.
Don’t look now, but the freshman having the best season is not on Kentucky’s roster or under further investigation by the NCAA involving impermissible benefits. In fact, he’s Canadian. Meet 6-foot 8, 240-pound UNLV forward, Anthony Bennett who has scored in double-figures every game this season and has four double-doubles. The Brampton, Ontario native has taken the college basketball world by storm to the tune of 19.5 points, 8.5 boards, and 1.7 blocks per game. Bennett was the 7th ranked player in the ESPN top 100 of 2012 and graduated high school from Findlay Prep in Henderson, NV with Univ. of Arizona F, Brandon Ashley. The Mountain West is very solid this year, so Bennett and (11-1) UNLV will eventually receive more national recognition if they continue their success. Next Saturday afternoon will be a matchup of two All-American power forwards as Bennett and No. 21 UNLV travel to Chapel Hill to take on James Michael McAdoo and No. 23 North Carolina at 2pm on ESPN2.
There are 19 players in the country currently scoring 20+ PPG. Only four of those players are shooting better than 50% from the field; Doug McDermott (Creighton) – 54.9%, Erick Green (VT) – 52.1%, C.J. McCollum (Lehigh) – 50.9%… and Warren Niles.
Warren Niles (Oral Roberts) – 51.6%. Arguably the most efficient scorer in the nation, the sharp-shooting Niles is a rare shooter who makes a higher percentage from three-point range as he connects from 53% from deep, and at 87% from the FT line, there aren’t many weaknesses in his offensive game. At 5-6, the Golden Eagles will need Niles to shoulder the scoring load if they are going to accomplish anything in the Southland Conference this year.
McDermott Stat of the Week: Of the top-20 scorers in the country, Doug McDermott (23.1 PPG) is the only player with less than 14 shots per game (13.7).
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