Player of the Week: Ahmad Starks, Oregon State
The Beavers got off to a terrific start in the post-Jared Cunningham era, knocking off Niagara and New Mexico State the season’s opening weekend. There was no bigger star for the Beavers than junior point guard Ahmad Starks. After hitting six threes in the opener, Starks exploded for 33 points, five boards, five assists and four steals against the Aggies.
It will be interesting to see how well Starks is able to continue this level of play. OSU needs a go-to scorer, and Starks — along with Roberto Nelson — was one of the guys expected to make that jump. The irony here is that the five assists that Starks handed out are almost as important as the 33 points he scored. Starks has always been known as a bit of a chucker, and operating as the team’s primary ball-handler this season, it will be important for him to get his teammates involved as well.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:
- G: Pierre Jackson, Baylor: Two games into the season, and Jackson is averaging 19.5 points and 9.5 assists with a total of five steals and just six turnovers. Perhaps more impressive is that Baylor’s three big men — Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers, Cory Jefferson — are shooting a combined 80% from the floor. Much of the credit for their effectiveness falls on Jackson’s shoulders.
- G: Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova: The Wildcats picked up a huge win on Sunday afternoon as they knocked off Marshall, who was picked by many to be the second best team in Conference USA this season. Arcidiacono was the star, finishing with 25 points — 20 in the first half — while handing out six assists and grabbing four boards.
- F: Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida: Central Florida can’t play in the NCAA tournament this season, but that doesn’t mean that can’t spoil the season for some rivals. UCF went on the road and smacked South Florida, 74-56, and Sykes was the star — 26 points, 11 boards, eight assists.
- F: Dwight Powell, Stanford: Powell, a junior, was an elite recruit in the Class of 2010, but he’s never quite lived up to the potential of being an athletic, 6-foot-9 big man with three-point range. Until Friday: Powell had 27 points and seven boards in a win over San Francisco. Powell’s going to have to continue to grow on the glass, however — Stanford was dominated on the glass by USF and finished with just three offensive rebounds.
- C: Alex Len, Maryland: Len and the Terps lost to Kentucky at the Barclays Center on Friday, but Len made a statement. He completely outplayed the duo of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, finishing with 23 points, 12 boards and four blocks and rocketing himself up NBA Draft boards. Oh, and he’s also now the biggest reason — literally — that the Terps are considered an NCAA tournament team.
- Other notable performances: Ryan Anderson, Boston College (29 points, 17 boards vs. FIU); Dee Davis, Xavier (22 points, 15 assists vs. FDU); Nurideen Lindsay, Rider (26 points, five assists vs. Robert Morris); Michael Lyons, Air Force (33 points, seven threes vs. The Citadel); CJ McCollum, Lehigh (36 points, eight boards vs. Baylor)
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.
The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.
A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.
“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”
While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.
Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.
Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.
The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.
Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.
(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)
The Las Vegas AAU events are all going on this week and it’s the final event for rising seniors.
At the Las Vegas Fab 48, forward Chris Seeley of the Splash City 17U team put down one of the best poster dunks of the summer as he skied over a defender for an emphatic finish.
The Class of 2016 forward attends Central High School in Fresno, California as he’s receiving plenty of buzz for his recent play.
LAS VEGAS, NV — Five-star Class of 2017 forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of the most sought-after recruits in the country since he was a freshman in high school.
The 6-foot-8 native of Houston is beginning to wind things down in the recruiting process as he cut his list to nine schools on Friday. Vanderbilt’s list includes some of the most storied programs in college basketball and plenty of schools from his home state of Texas.
“I just followed my heart. Went with the schools I liked the most and who I have the best relationships with. Thear were the schools I could see myself playing for,” Vanderbilt told NBCSports.com.
Regarded as the No. 13 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national rankings, Vanderbilt is currently recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot.
Vanderbilt will see a doctor in three-to-four weeks as he’s currently in a boot to help his foot heal.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has previously expressed a desire to coach a game at the legendary Palestra in Philadelphia and it appears he’ll get his chance in a Big Ten game this season.
According to a report from Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, Penn State will use the Palestra as its home gym for the Jan. 7, 2017 Big Ten game against Michigan State. It is the only time the two teams are scheduled to play during Big Ten season and Penn’s home gym will offer a unique setting for the game.
Since the capacity of the Palestra is 8,722, it should make for a fun atmosphere for both programs since this will be a game both fan bases will likely want to attend.
With Nittany Lions head coach Pat Chambers making Philadelphia a major recruiting priority for his program, a game like this in Philadelphia makes sense while Michigan State has always been open to playing games in unique settings such as aircraft carriers.
The Palestra has been a college basketball mainstay since it was built in 1927 as it hosts all Penn home games and, in the past, hosted a lot of Big 5 Philadelphia college games between La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova.
Overall, a fun idea that should make for an interesting experience for both programs. It’s not often that a team will change its home venue for a conference game, but it could be the start of something we see other schools look to do.