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2007-2008 TOP PLAYER PREVIEW: THE WINGS
June 12, 2007

SCS.comSouthernCollegeSports.com continues with its look at the top college basketball players for the 2007-08 season with part two of its three part series, a look at the country's top wing players. This past season featured some incredible talent on the perimeter, both young and old. Kevin Durant of Texas had maybe the most impressive season for any freshman in the history of the game, while Brandon Wright made an immediate impact at North Carolina. Florida State star Al Thornton was yet another example of a player staying for four years and still drawing attention as a potential lottery pick. Next season, the NCAA will still sport plenty of elite shooting guards and small forwards. Here is a look at the top five wing players for next year and a look at some of the top incoming freshman.

1. Brandon Rush - Kansas

Rush decided to return to the Jayhawks for his junior season despite being a lock as a first round selection in the NBA Draft, and a potential lottery pick. Rather than playing with pro players in the NBA’s summer league though, Rush will be spending the upcoming months rehabbing from a torn ACL. Should he return at full strength, there won’t be a better wing player in the country. Rush is the quintessential perimeter scoring threat. He is a deadly outside shooter, connecting on better than 43% of his shots from beyond the arc each of the last two seasons. More than just a deep threat though, Rush has tremendous athleticism and is very explosive around the basket, able to finish in a crowd.

Rush didn’t see much of an increase in his numbers from his freshman season, a big part of that is the number of weapons that Kansas was able to put on the court last year. With Julian Wright having moved on to the NBA, Rush should see his numbers go up as he becomes even more of a focal point of the offense.

2. Chris Lofton – Tennessee

The SEC’s Player of the Year is back for his senior year, and Tennessee fans couldn’t be happier. Lofton was a scoring machine last season, scoring 20.8 points per game. After being primarily a spot up perimeter shooter his first two seasons with the Vols, Lofton added further dimension to his game in the form of a pull up jump shot and an increased ability to go to the basket. While he doesn’t provide a tremendous amount in regards to rebounds or assists, Lofton’s mere presence on the court is a tremendous boost for Tennessee, who was 0-4 in games that Lofton did not play in last year.

Lofton will see even more attention from opposing teams next year, so he has a real chance to see his assist numbers go up. Regardless though, Tennessee will go as far as their senior star will take them, which means the potential for a big post-season run from the Vols.

3. Chase Budinger – Arizona

As a result of last season’s stellar freshman class, Budinger’s fantastic first year with Arizona didn’t receive as much press as it might have in other years. Possessing tremendous athleticism and a strong feel for the game, Budinger is already a very enticing NBA prospect. He has good form and nice touch on his shot, which has range out beyond the arc. Budinger frees himself up for looks on the perimeter by constantly staying in motion on offense when he doesn’t have the basketball. If his game lacks anything offensively right now, it’s the ability to break his man down off the dribble. He has tremendous explosiveness around the rim and can attack the lane when defenders are out of position, but this is an area of his game he has time to improve. His feel for the game comes out in his passing. Budinger exhibited great court vision for a freshman, especially in transition where he showed a real ability to find open teammates.

Defensively, Budinger relies on his hustle and athleticism to disrupt opposing offenses. Marcus Williams, Ivan Radenovic, and Mustafa Shakur are all gone next season, so Budinger will have to step up as a go to player in his sophomore season.

4. Josh Shipp – UCLA

This may seem like a surprising pick for this list, but Shipp has often been overlooked because of the wealth of talent on UCLA in the past few years. Shipp is an efficient offensive player with nice touch and a knack for finding his shot, as shown by his 46.9% shooting from the field last season. Though his rebound numbers dropped a little from his sophomore season, his passing game improved greatly. Shipp’s hip was an issue for him down the stretch, but arthroscopic surgery in April should help.

Arron Aflalo is gone next season, and incoming freshman Kevin Love may need an adjustment period early on, so the bulk of the offensive scoring responsibilities will fall on Shipp and teammate Darren Collison. Shipp is a fundamentally sound veteran who is poised for a very strong senior campaign.

5. Kyle Weaver – Washington State

Weaver was a tremendous reason for the unexpected success of Washington State last year. The long guard makes his living offensively as a slasher; he is a pretty good athlete but has a tremendous arsenal of moves that allow him to take his defender off the dribble. Weaver lacks much a perimeter game, he doesn’t shoot from beyond the arc often, but when he does it isn’t for a high percentage. The appeal of Weaver as a player is that he does a lot of things well. He is a great passer both in transition and in the half court set, and averaged a career best 4.6 assists. He is a great rebounder for a guard as well, relying on his length and tenacity to pull down nearly 6 rebounds per game.

Defensively is where Weaver really earns his stripes. The Cougars as a whole were a very strong defensive squad last year, and Weaver was at the center of that success. His length and quick feet make him a very strong perimeter defender in one-on-one situations.

Top Incoming Wing Players

  • Michael Beasley – Notre Dame Prep – Committed to Kansas State
  • O.J. Mayo – Huntington HS – Committed to USC
  • Eric Gordon – North Central HS – Committed to Indiana

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