With college players breaking for final exams, now would be a good time to point out some key players so far. Many players have already shown their value to their team, while others are still making a name for themselves. Some of these names you have no doubt heard and will continue to hear their right up to NBA Draft day. Some of them have made their reputation from high school statistics and now have to fight to get to the top of the college basketball ranks, but all of these players teams are depending on their ability to help them get to Atlanta.
Two Players who will have a good season because their team depends on it
Josh McRoberts, welcome to your spotlight season. If you want it. With the exit of J.J. Reddick and Sheldon Williams to the NBA, someone on the Blue Devils young team is going to have to step up and lead. And as sure as a Reddick free throw (or a Coach K explicative), that player has to be McRoberts.
In case McRoberts hasnít figured it out (and by his performance so far, Iím not sure he has), heís got a pretty big job ahead of him. Nine of the twelve players on the Blue Devils squad are underclassmen. This includes four freshmen and McRoberts who is a sophomore.
You could make the case that DeMarcus Nelson or Greg Paulus would have to be the leader or go-to guy, but if either one of them has a bad day, they have the other one to come to the rescue. This isnít the case for McBob. If he has a bad day, Coach K will have to look to 6-7 forward Jamal.... Wait, he just left. If McRoberts has a bad day, Coach K will have to go to freshman project Brian Zoubek. There is no way that Coach K can depend on a freshman to lead the Blue Devils at this position in the ACC, so McRoberts canít afford to have a bad day once league play starts up.
Duke isnít the only team looking for a new leader. Coach Mark Few will have to have a player or a combination of players to step up and have a good season to replace the near 50 points and 15 rebounds per game turned in by now NBA employees Adam Morrison and J.P. Batista. While the obvious choice to fill this spot may look to be 6-11 sophomore Josh Heytvelt, I think it will have to be senior guard Derek Raivio.
Gonzaga will most likely be successful, if for nothing else because of the weaker conference that they play in and also from the great coaching of Few. But for the Zags to continue the forward progress that they have had in the last few years, Raivio will have to dish out assists to Heytvelt and others and also add some points of his own. So far Raivio has been able to lead the Zags to some quality wins, most noticeably against North Carolina in the Preseason NIT. If he is able to keep this pace up and continue to improve, Gonzaga should again be in good shape come March.
Two players you should watch every time they play
Let me be a little more specific; if you can keep up with this guy, you should watch him every time he plays. It is hard to explain in words how quick this kid is. Some analysts have said that Lawson is quicker than UNC National Champion Raymond Felton. I had my doubts about this - who would believe anyone could be faster than Felton with a basketball? - until this yearís "Late Night With Roy."
During the scrimmage part of ďLate NightĒ this year, UNC fans were able to see the returning players like Tyler Hansbrough and Reyshawn Terry do things that we saw them do last season. Fans were also able to see the new freshmen display their talents. On one certain play, Lawson was bringing the ball up the court. Just as he dribbled into three opposing players and it seemed that he would pass it off to Brandon Wright, I remember blinking and then seeing the ball go through the net. It was Lawsonís bucket.
Although he has shown that he is a freshman who can make freshman mistakes, he has also shown that his quickness is no fluke. With time, he may even make the camera man miss.
It may not be safe putting a lot of confidence in a player after watching him play in one game. But after watching Paul Harris play against Oklahoma State, he looks like a pretty exciting player. Not only is he fun to watch, but it looks like he will be given the chance to showcase his talent often.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has never been afraid to let people know how confident he is in his players. This is no different with Harris, as he said he felt that Harris would fit in with the Big East style of play because is a is a physical player. This should be encouraging to Harris since Boeheim said the same thing about NBA superstar and National Champion Carmelo Anthony.
While watching Harris play against OSU, he looked very comfortable running the floor. He was key to the Orange run in the second half that almost brought them back to a victory. A few times he looked like a guard, driving the lane through defenders and then transforming to his listed forward position as he dunked over and drew fouls on the OSU players. All of this, and he is just a freshman.
Two players who will become instant millionaires at the end of this season
First thing: Does this guy scare you when you see him on TV? I donít mean when he plays. I saw him on television when the Buckeyes and the Tar Heels played. He wasnít in uniform, just at the end of the bench, and it was still kind of scary.
Physically, heís huge. Oden stands taller than seven feet and weighs in at 255 pounds. He holds a basketball like most of us hold a baseball, and he scores and blocks shots like most of us donít. The wrist injury on his right hand may have only increased his value come Draft day.
Now not only can he block opponents' shots with is right hand, he can dunk on them, draw the foul, and shoot the free throw with his left hand. David Stern should go ahead and practice saying Greg Odenís name. It will be the first one he says on Draft day.
The first Christmas card Rick Barnes should send should be to David Stern wishing him a Merry Christmas and then thanking him for the new NBA age limit. The second card he should send should also be to David Stern asking him when and where he wants the second pick to be in New York come Draft time. Durant looks like a player with a Kevin Garnett type of build, and it seems that he may also be able to have much of the same impact.
While the Longhorns have some work to do to get back into the top 25, they are well on their way and stocked with talent to help them get there. The road back to the rankings starts with Durant. They have already upset a talented LSU team, and this will probably not be the last upset they pull off this season. Durantís high school accomplishments are numerous. He was the co-MVP of the McDonaldís All American game and the Jordan Classic. He also performed well at the Nike Hoops Summit. In addition, he was part of a team that ended the 40-game win streak of Montrose Christian Academy when he scored 31 points to lead the way. He has picked up in college where he left off in high school as he leads the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding.
Durant can do it all. Whether itís posting up, shooting the mid-range shot, or taking a deep three, he can be a threat in all of these situations. Fans in Austin should enjoy all of him while they can because they wonít get to see him in the Erwin Events Center for too long.