With the first FIBA Basketball World Cup (formerly the FIBA World Championships) set to tip off next weekend in Spain, most of the attention has been focused on the many professional players who will be participating. And rightfully so, when considering the fact that the rosters of favorites such as the United States, Spain and Argentina are loaded with NBA players.
But the event will also feature five college basketball players who will be on campuses in 2014-15, with New Zealand’s roster having two of those five players. One of those two, Nebraska sophomore guard Tai Webster, even played a key role in New Zealand’s surprising 102-96 win over Serbia on Sunday, as he scored 21 points. Professional veterans Kirk Penney (you may remember him being on Wisconsin’s 2000 Final Four team) and Mike Vukona led the way offensively, scoring 29 and 22 points respectively.
The experience of playing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup is an incredibly valuable one for the college players, as they get to sharpen their skills and compete against the best players in the world ahead of the upcoming season. And for Webster, who averaged 3.9 points and 2.0 assists per game as a freshman at Nebraska, a good tournament would provide the springboard needed to put together a solid sophomore campaign.
Joining Webster on the New Zealand national team is forward Isaac Fotu, who in his two seasons at Hawaii has emerged as one of the best front court players in the Big West. Fotu averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last year, earning first team All-Big West honors as a result. And with leading scorer and rebounder Christian Standhardinger out of eligibility, Fotu stands to receive even more attention from opponents in 2014-15.
The other three current collegians participating in the FIBA Basketball World Cup are SMU senior forward Yanick Moreira (Angola; 6.0, 3.9), Kansas freshman guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Ukraine) and Ohio senior forward Maurice Ndour (Senegal; 14.1, 6.9). As a junior at Ohio, Ndour earned second team All-MAC honors.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.