Tag: Damian Jones

Ty Wallace (AP Photo)

The top 15 most improved players in college basketball

Ty Wallace (AP Photo)

 MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

Ty Wallace, Cal: I’m firmly entrenched on the Ty Wallace bandwagon, having said repeatedly that there is no player in the country as underrated as Cal’s star point guard. Look at this stat line: 19.3 points, 8.8 boards, 4.2 assists and 46.9 percent shooting from three.

Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson’s emergence into Virginia’s leading scorer has been the biggest surprise of the season for me. Always known as a great athlete and teammate, Anderson is now averaging 15.1 points and shooting 60.0 percent from three. He’s not a go-to guy, but he’s been Tony Bennett’s most valuable weapon thus far.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein is starting to live up to his potential this season, becoming the nation’s most versatile defender while anchoring on college basketball’s best defense. A 7-foot-1 center, he can switch ball-screens and has been tasked with stopping an opponent’s best wing scorer at times this season.

source: Getty Images
Robert Upshaw (Getty Images)

Robert Upshaw, Washington: Washington’s emergence as a top three team in the Pac-12 can almost entirely be credited to Upshaw, who has become the nation’s premiere shot-blocking presence. He’s averaging 4.6 blocks in just 20 minutes and has completely changed the way that Washington is able to defend. I’d argue he’s one of the ten most valuable players in the country right now.

Christian Wood, UNLV: Wood is playing like a first round draft pick, averaging 13.9 points, 9.6 boards and 3.0 blocks for the Rebels. He had 24 points and 10 boards in UNLV’s win over No. 3 Arizona on Tuesday night.

Terry Rozier, Louisville: Rozier has done much of what was expected of him this season. His scoring is up to 16.5 points from 7.0 as a freshman, and while he’s not shooting quite as well from the perimeter this season, his percentages are up overhaul and he’s turned into one of the nation’s best, and most important, secondary options.

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: Someone had to become a scorer for Syracuse this season, and thus far in the year it’s been the senior big man that’s done it. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 8.7 boards, a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating season for the Orange.

Zach Auguste, Notre Dame: Auguste has always had the potential to be a big-time scorer in the paint for the Irish, and he’s finally reaching it this year. Auguste’s averaging 14.8 points through the first month, although it will be interesting to see what happens when the Irish start to play some tougher competition.

Levi Randolph, Alabama: Randolph has become a go-to guy for Alabama as a senior, as he’s now posting some impressive numbers: 16.5 points, 4.9 boards and 3.1 assists for the 8-3 Tide.

Dylan Ennis, Villanova: Who saw this coming from Ennis? He’s Villanova’s leading scorer, their most dangerous three-point shooter and one of the best defenders on the roster.

Stefan Nastic, Stanford: With so much of Stanford’s front line graduating, Nastic’s role has been dramatically increased this year, and it’s paying off. Nastic is averaging 14.5 points and has become one of the better low-post scorers on the west coast.

Justin Moss, Buffalo: As a sophomore, Moss averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 boards playing behind Javon McCrea. As a junior, those numbers have bumped up to 17.3 points and 10.2 boards. Oh, and he did this.

Malcolm Hill, Illinois: Hill started a handful of games as a freshman, but as a sophomore he’s moved into a major role for John Groce. His scoring has bumped up to 12.8 points this year, as the Illini look like they could contend for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Damian Jones, Vanderbilt: Jones has developed into the star we expected him to be as a sophomore, averaging 16.5 points and 7.1 boards.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: The Spartans have been a disappointment through the season’s first month, but Valentine has been terrific. These numbers are nothing to joke about: 14.5 points, 5.5 boards, 4.3 assists, 50.0 percent from three.

Vanderbilt’s rebuilding process to rely heavily on underclasmen

Kevin Stallings
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Over the last two seasons Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings has dealt with a significant amount of turnover within his program. There have been transfers, dismissals and even a player returning to his native Germany to begin his professional career. Those changes have resulted in the Commodores fielding one of the youngest rosters in the SEC, with five freshmen joining the program and their leading returning scorer being sophomore Damian Jones.

During the team’s media day Wednesday Stallings discussed the state of his program, with much of the conversation focused on the newcomers and how they’ve begun their careers at Vanderbilt. In a story written by Adam Sparks of The Tennessean, Stallings spoke about the freshmen in relation to players who have left the program before their eligibility expired in recent years.

“I guess I wouldn’t be able to answer that question without being derogatory to the people that have been here,” Stallings said. “We’ve got guys that will do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it, and they’re going to try their best to do what we as coaches want. I think for that reason, the future is really bright for this group of guys because our entire team is that way.

“I haven’t had to worry about something on the weekend, haven’t had to worry about anything in the classroom, haven’t had to worry about anything in the dorm, and it’s a pretty fun job when the biggest thing I have to worry about is trying to get them better on defense. That’s where we’re at, and that’s where we’re going to stay.”

The five freshmen in the Vanderbilt program aren’t lacking for talent either, with Wade Baldwin IV and Shelton Mitchell leading the quintet. They’ll certainly take their lumps, and with that being the case veterans such as Jones and senior James Siakam will need to do their part to help the freshmen get acclimated to Division I basketball.

After two seasons of instability in Nashville, the hope is that this group of underclassmen can help place Vanderbilt back on solid ground. Based upon Stallings’ words at media day, it seems as if they’re off to a decent start. The key now is to ensure that this remains the case once the season begins.

POSTERIZED: Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones has a serious vertical (VIDEOS)

Damian Jones
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Vanderbilt has been one of the most surprising teams in the SEC this season, battling through a series of personnel issues to climb to 5-4 in conference play with a win over Tennessee.

The highlight of the win?

Damian Jones, one of the more underrated freshman in the conference, throwing down this powerful alley-oop.