In the first meeting of the season between No. 11 Utah and UCLA the Bruins played one of their worst games of the season, scoring 15 points in the first half and shooting 28.8% from the field in the 71-39 defeat. With the Runnin’ Utes tied with No. 6 Arizona in the loss column atop the Pac-12 standings, a win in Los Angeles would have allowed them to keep pace with the Wildcats.
After taking a three-point lead into the locker room UCLA opened the second half on a 12-0 run that gave them the working margin they needed to pick up their first win over a ranked opponent this season. Bryce Alford added 14 points and seven assists and fellow guard Isaac Hamilton, who shot 2-for-24 in the three games prior to Thursday, scored 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the field.
And while the return of Tony Parker, who missed both games in Oregon last week due to back issues, certainly helped UCLA so did the play of freshman center Thomas Welsh.
Welsh, who averaged 6.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in losses to Oregon State and Oregon, finished with seven points, two rebounds and two assists against Utah, holding his own against the Runnin’ Utes’ front court. Yet while UCLA’s improved play certainly can’t be overlooked, just as problematic for Utah was their own performance on both ends of the floor.
Utah shot 48.9% from the field but was far too reliant on the perimeter shot, as 22 of their 47 field goal attempts were three-pointers. Utah made just seven of those shots, and the settling for perimeter looks (due in part to the matchup zone employed by UCLA with Kevon Looney at the top of it) resulted in the visitors not taking full advantage of the opportunities inside of the arc and also losing the turnover battle.
Utah turned the ball over 14 times, with UCLA converting those mistakes into 18 points, and they also allowed 34 points in the paint. While a UCLA team desperate for a win buckled down, the effort that Utah has played with for most of the season wasn’t present Thursday night and it cost them.
“They wanted it more. There were numerous things we did poorly,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said after the game. “You can start with our scheme and not executing. Our personnel match ups and efforts just weren’t there. Some nights you can get away with one of those things but not all three in the same game like tonight.
“We didn’t deserve to win. They were the aggressor. Their zone screwed us up some and we didn’t do enough to put ourselves in a position to win. It’s time for everyone to look at themselves and find ways to improve.”
Brandon Taylor helped keep Utah afloat with 14 points and five assists, with Delon Wright scoring a team-high 15 while also grabbing six rebounds. But Thursday’s defeat can serve as a valuable learning experience for the Runnin’ Utes moving forward. Their role within the conference has changed, as Utah’s gone from a program looking to make its mark within the Pac-12 to a team with hopes of making a run deep into March.
With that comes the transition from “hunter” to “hunted,” a process that can at times be difficult for teams to navigate. Utah’s done a good job of this for most of the season, but they let their effort slip Thursday night and the result was their second conference loss of the season.
Player of the Year Power Rankings: A familiar face on top, but a few surprises behind him
Every Tuesday, we will be providing you with a breakdown of the top ten candidates for National Player of the Year. You can read through the older posts here.
1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Frank the Tank has played like it early on this season, averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 boards, 2.8 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.3 steals while shooting 44.4 percent from three. All of those numbers are career-highs, and while much of it can be attributed to the fact that Wisconsin has yet to really play quality competition, the fact of the matter is that you can see the improvement in Kaminsky if you watch him play. Could he make this play last season?:
2. LaDontae Henton, Providence: Buckets got buckets over the weekend, scoring 62 points as he led the Friars to a title in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. He went for a career-high 38 points in the title game against Notre Dame. I’m not sure how long Henton will remain at the top of this list, but through a week-and-a-half of the season, there haven’t been many players better than him.
3. Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Rodriguez scored 20 points in the final 6:47 — including making five threes — in a come-from-behind win at Florida. He also led the Hurricanes to a win in the Charleston Classic, but whatever. Do you realize how difficult this shot is?!?:
4. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: What’s made Okafor so good this season won’t show up in the box score. He’s averaging 15.8 points and 8.0 boards and is just 11-for-30 from the floor in his last two games. He’s not an elite shotblocker and he’s not an elite rebounder, either, but his presence in the post offensively opens up everything for Duke on the offensive end of the floor. I’ll dive into this more later in the year, but the easy way to explain it is that the myriad of talented guards and wings on the Blue Devils roster are going to get easy looks from three and opportunities to attack close-outs all season long as defenses worry about the behemoth on the block.
5. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: I know that Notre Dame lost to Providence on Sunday afternoon, but that was hardly Grant’s fault. In the last 12 minutes of that game, he was responsible for creating all 25 of Notre Dame’s points. He had 12 of his own while handing out four assists, three of which led to threes, as well as setting up Zach Auguste for the two free throws he hit. He’s averaging 18.4 points and 7.2 assists this season, but more importantly, Notre Dame has their closer back.
6. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: He’s slowed down since that monster opening night performance against Minnesota, but Louisville hasn’t played anyone since then. Does Harrell really need to be a factor when they’re winning games 87-26?
7. Georges Niang, Iowa State: Through three games, Niang is averaging 22.7 points, 8.7 boards and 3.7 assists. And he struggled in the 23-point win over Georgia State.
8. Norman Powell, UCLA: Powell spent his first three seasons at UCLA getting overshadowed by more talented teammates. That isn’t happening this season, as he’s averaging 21.3 points.
9. Jonathan Holmes, Texas: We’ve written quite a bit about Holmes over the last couple of days, from how he has used the ‘Chaminade Crew‘ to change the culture surrounding the Texas program and how important his size at the small forward spot is to Texas this season. He averaged 20.0 points and 9.0 boards in wins over Iowa and Cal.
10. Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert hasn’t shot the ball all that well yet this season, but he’s averaging 16.3 points, 7.0 boards and 5.0 assists for the Wolverines through four games. He’s been their best player.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Quinn Cook (Duke), A.J. English (Iona), Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Stefan Nastic (Stanford), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Shannon Scott (Ohio State), Joseph Young (Oregon)
2014-2015 Season Preview: Caris LeVert, Ron Baker highlight best off-guards in college hoops
The off guard spot is a loaded position this season, but the top of the class has gotten there in unique ways. The top two players at the position were considered mid-major recruits. The third and fourth best off guards are both from Texas but weren’t considered good enough for the best programs in that state. No. 5 redshirted his first season in college. No. 6 spent two years on a Mormon mission. No. 9 plays at a mid-major program, while No. 10 spent two seasons playing for Houston.
There’s a moral to that story, but I think you can figure it out.
1. Caris LeVert, Michigan: It’s amazing how far Caris LeVert has come since high school. A lanky, 6-foot-6 mid-major prospect, LeVert was committed to Ohio until John Groce took the Illinois job. As a junior in college, he’s a first-team all-american and the best off guard in the country. LeVert will replace some of the scoring Michigan lost with Nik Stauskas going pro as he excels in the kind of pick-and-roll actions that John Beilein gets his stars in.
2. Ron Baker, Wichita State: Another guy that was considered a mid-major recruit coming out of high school, Baker had to more or less convince the Shocker staff to take the chance on him as a walk-on. I’d say it worked out well. Baker was a huge part of their run to the 2013 Final Four, was a star on the team than started last season 35-0 and now has a chance to play his way into the NBA Draft’s first round.
3. Terran Petteway, Nebraska: Petteway is one of the nation’s most entertaining players to watch. He’s a big-time scorer for the Huskers, but he’s not exactly the most efficient player. He takes a lot of tough shots, but when he gets into a rhythm, he also makes a lot of those tough shots. You don’t want to restrict his aggressiveness, but with some improved shot selection we could be looking at the Big Ten Player of the Year.
4. Marcus Foster, Kansas State: Foster was a revelation last season, averaging 15.5 points as a freshman despite being completely overlooked coming out of high school. He’ll play with the ball in his hands a bit more this season and looked more explosive this summer when I saw him work out. With all the talent on Kansas and Texas, Foster could end up being the Big 12 Player of the Year.
5. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: The nation’s most underrated guard, Brogdon is one of the best all-around perimeter players in the country. He defends, he rebounds, he play the point if need be, he hits threes. He’s also as consistent as anyone in the ACC, as he scored double-figures in every game in league play and every game after the New Year except for one.
6. Tyler Haws, BYU: There isn’t a better guard in the country at running off of screens than Haws, who finished last season shooting 40.4% from three while averaging 23.2 points. With Matt Carlino gone and Eric Mika on his mission, there’s a chance that Haws could end up leading the nation in scoring as a senior.
7. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: Hield was one of the most improved players in the country as a sophomore, becoming a guard that averaged 16.5 points and shot 38.6% from three in Lon Kruger’s uptempo offense. Also a terrific defender, don’t expect Hield’s development to slow down now.
8. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky: I had my doubts about ranking Harrison this high, as he was a 35.6% three-point shooter that made a name for himself by hitting three big threes in the 2014 NCAA tournament. But after seeing the way he played during Kentucky’s trip to the Bahamas this summer, Harrison looks primed for a big year as he looked to be in better shape and with an improved pull-up game.
9. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: There may not be a better shooter in the country than 6-foot-5 R.J. Hunter. The son of GSU’s head coach, Hunter is joined by Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware in what is one of the most talented back courts in the country. He needs to get stronger and better defensively, but Hunter could be looking at an NBA career by the time he’s done in Atlanta.
10. Joe Young, Oregon: Young had a very good season for the Ducks as a junior before opting to return to school. As a senior, Oregon likely won’t win a ton of games, but expect big numbers from Young as the Ducks will have limited options offensively.
11. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV: One of the most slept-on freshmen this season. Vaughn is a big, athletic guard that can really score. UNLV likes to run, and there will be a lot of shots available. Expect big numbers.
12. Norman Powell, UCLA: Powell struggled to become known playing alongside UCLA’s talented wings the last two seasons. He’ll be needed to play a leadership role on a talented-but-young Bruin sqaud.
13. Wayne Selden, Kansas: Selden struggled with a knee issue last season that limited his explosiveness. If he can stay healthy throughout the season, you’ll see why the powerful off-guard has a chance to be a lottery pick.
14. E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island: Matthews won’t get as much national attention as some of the other guys on this list, but the lefty combo-guard will be one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 this season.
15. Zak Irvin, Michigan: Irvin proved that he is a talented and athletic jump-shooter last season while dealing with bouts of streakiness. He’s not the next Nik Stauskas, not with LeVert and Derrick Walton on the roster, but he’ll be a piece stretching the floor for John Beilein.
16. Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke: Sulaimon has a lot to prove after a disappointing sophomore season that saw him lose playing time to less-talented backups. Duke needs him to be a big-time perimeter scorer to compliment Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor.
17. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: DSR has a chance to end up being the Player of the Year in the Big East this season. He averaged 17.6 points as a sophomore and will have a bigger role offensively with Markel Starks gone.
18. Michael Frazier, Florida: Frazier is one of the best shooters in the country, but he wasn’t more than just a shooter last season. Florida will have a lot of new faces, and Frazier will need to take on a more expanded role.
19. D.J. Newbill, Penn State: He won’t get much attention playing for Penn State, but Newbill is one of the best scoring guards in the Big Ten.
20. Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss: Marshall Henderson got all of the attention last season, but it was Summers (17.3 points, 3.8 assists) who was the team’s best player.
ALSO CONSIDERED: Gary Bell (Gonzaga), Jabari Bird (Cal), James Blackmon (Indiana), Kellen Dunham (Butler), A.J. English (Iona), Daniel Hamilton (UConn), DaVonte Lacy (Washington State), Rodney Purvis (UConn), D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), RayVonte Rice (Illinois), Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall)
Last year, Frank Kaminsky entered the season as a no-name stiff that diehard Big Ten fans knew about. He ended the season as one of the nation’s most improved players and set himself up to be a preseason All-American as a senior. He was the epitome of a Breakout Star.
Here are 25 guys that are in a position to make that kind of an improvement this season.
THE TOP TEN
1. Terry Rozier, Louisville: Rozier was probably the best NBA prospect on Louisville’s roster last season, but playing as a freshman behind an All-American and the reigning JuCo Player of the Year will make it tough to grab minutes. Well, Russ Smith off to the NBA now, meaning that the opportunity is there for Rozier to shine. Expect the 6-foot-2 combo-guard to put together an all-ACC caliber season as the most talented member of Rick Pitino’s back court.
2. Monte Morris, Iowa State: Morris played behind — and, eventually, alongside, as he started the last 15 games — All-American Deandre Kane as a freshman, so his production was somewhat limited. What’s tantalizing, however, is that long with the 6.8 points he averaged and 40.6 percent he shot from three, Morris averaged 3.7 assists to just 0.8 turnovers. After the start of league play, he had 103 assists and just 18 turnovers, including a seven game stretch with 46 assists and four turnovers. He’ll be the ignition for Fred Hoiberg’s high-powered offense this season.
3. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: I’m torn on how I feel about Hollis-Jefferson as a breakout star. On the one hand, he’s a sensational athlete with the physical tools and intangibles — he defends, he plays hard, he’s aggressive — that make him a favorite of coaches, fans and media alike. And he spent the offseason improving the one weakness in his game: his jumper. But with Stanley Johnson and Kadeem Allen entering the program, and Brandon Ashley healthy, I’m afraid he’ll be relegated to being a role player for Sean Miller, limiting his numbers. Regardless, there aren’t five wing forwards in the country better than him.
4. Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina: Meeks was an inconsistent as any player in the country as a freshman. He’d have games where he played like a lottery pick with three games where he was completely ineffective sandwiched between them. He spent the offseason getting in shape, losing a ton of weight to the point that he’s now throwing down windmill dunks. He’ll be UNC’s low-post anchor this year.
5. Norman Powell, UCLA: Powell has spent the last two seasons as one of the west coast’s best-kept secrets, as he was stuck playing behind now-NBA players like Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine on UCLA’s perimeter. With a back court that is now quite young and inexperienced, Powell will take over the leadership role. If he’s not a first-team all-Pac 12 performer, it will be a disappointment.
6. Zak Irvin, Michigan: Irvin averaged 6.7 points and shot 42.5 percent from three (on 3.9 attempts per game) as a freshman despite playing just over 15 minutes a night. Irvin shouldn’t be expected to make the same kind of jump that Nik Stauskas did as a sophomore, as he’s not the same kind of playmaker off the bounce. But he’s a lethal shooter and will score a lot of points keeping defenses honest and creating space for Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert.
7. Deonte Burton, Marquette: Burton has all the makings of a breakout star. He was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school that played limited minutes (12.6 mpg) but was quite productive (6.9 ppg) during that playing time. He’s in a situation, with new head coach Steve Wojociechowski desperate for players with scoring pop, where his defensive liabilities can be overlooked and he’ll get plenty of shots. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t averaged 15 points as a sophomore.
8. Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s: Jordan posted solid numbers as a freshman — 9.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.0 apg — but didn’t play his best basketball until the final month and a half of the season, when head coach Steve Lavin started allowing him more freedom offensively.
9. Kasey Hill, Florida: A top ten recruit in the class of 2013, Hill struggled with ankle injuries and a shaky perimeter jumper, not to mention being stuck behind All-American Scottie Wilbekin on a veteran-laden team as a freshman. He’ll be Billy Donovan’s lead guard this season, and will be expected to produce like it.
10. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Wiltjer was a top 25 recruit in high school, but he was never in good enough shape — or good enough defensively — to see significant time during his two seasons at Kentucky. All he’s done since is spend two offseasons and a full school year redshirting with the same staff that transformed Kelly Olynyk into a lottery pick. He’s the perfect four-man for a team with Kevin Pangos and Przemek Karnowski, at least offensively.
TEN MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON
11. Damian Jones, Vanderbilt: Jones didn’t get much attention as a freshman because he played for Vandy, but he averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 boards for the ‘Dores.
12. Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State: Iwundu had promising moments as a freshman and should emerge as Kansas State’s secondary-option on the perimeter as a sophomore.
13. Austin Nichols, Memphis: Nichols averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 boards for the Tigers as a freshman when the team was built around four senior guards. They’ll rely entirely on their front court this year.
14. Anthony Gill, Virginia: Playing for Virginia is always going to limit offensive statistics, but the junior was the best big man in March for the ‘Hoos.
15. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: It’s hard to put either Dekker or Hayes on a breakout player list, as Dekker was hardly a secret last year and Hayes will be a role player in a loaded front court. But Dekker’s grown, both in height and as a player, and Hayes is good enough to start for all but about 20 teams this year. Both are much more improved than their stats will show.
16. Rodney Purvis, UConn: Purvis was a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2012, but averaged just 8.5 points in his first season at N.C. State. He transferred and sat out last season at UConn. Their perimeter is loaded again, but Purvis should be the No. 2 option to Ryan Boatright.
17. BeeJay Anya, N.C. State: Like Kennedy Meeks, Anya was a highly-recruited big-boned big man that had promising moments as a freshman and lost a ton of weight during the offseason. His wingspan is 7-foot-9.
18. Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington: Williams-Goss is low on this list because he averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 boards and 4.4 assists as a freshman. But he’s on this list because I think he has a shot to become an All-American as a sophomore.
19. Keith Frazier, SMU: The former McDonald’s All-American averaged 5.4 points in just over 15 minutes. With no Emmanuel Mudiay this season, the Mustangs will need another source of back court scoring pop.
20. ShawnDre’ Jones, Richmond: As a freshman, the 5-foot-10 Jones put up impressive numbers when his playing time increased after an injury to Cedric Lindsay.
HONORABLE MENTION: Troy Williams (Indiana), Wayne Selden (Kansas), Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame), Kendrick Nunn (Illinois), Nick King (Memphis)
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2014-2015 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day. We continue our Top 25 countdown with the No. 24 UCLA Bruins.
Newcomers: Isaac Hamilton, Kevon Looney, Thomas Welsh, Gyorgy Goloman
– G: Bryce Alford, So.
– G: Norman Powell, Sr.
– G: Isaac Hamilton, So.
– F: Kevon Looney, Fr.
– C: Tony Parker, Jr.
– Bench: Wanaah Bail, So.; Thomas Welsh, Fr.; Noah Allen, So.; Gyorgy Goloman, Fr.
They’ll be good because …: There certainly isn’t a shortage of talent on UCLA’s roster. It starts with senior guard Norman Powell, one of just two upperclassmen in Steve Alford’s rotation this season. Powell has spent the past two seasons stuck behind NBA wings on the UCLA depth chart: Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Zach LaVine, even Kyle Anderson. This will be his season to lead, and while he may not be as good as some of those guys that played in front of him, he doesn’t necessarily need to be.
Isaac Hamilton, a wing, was a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2013 before being forced to sit out last season after UTEP refused to release him from his letter of intent. Kevon Looney is a five-star recruit in the Class of 2014 and should join junior Tony Parker in anchoring UCLA’s big, deep front line. They’ll be joined up front by four-star big man Thomas Welsh as well as sophomore Wanaah Bail, who should finally be healthy this season, although their front line’s versatility took a hit when Jonah Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier that will have to sit out this season.
UCLA lost three first round draft picks with a combined seven seasons of eligibility remaining, yet they may end up having just as much talent on their roster this season. That’s how it should be in Westwood.
But they might disappoint because …: While the Bruins have quite a bit of talent on their roster, there is an awful lot of youth and inexperience on there as well. Powell and Parker, a junior, are the only two upperclassmen that will see significant minutes. Four sophomores will likely end up in the rotation as well, but just one of them — point guard Bryce Alford, Steve’s son — played major minutes a season ago. Hamilton sat out, Bail was injured and wing Noah Allen played in just 11 games. Alford, the coach, is going to have his work cut out for him this season.
The other question mark is Alford, the point guard. He had a promising freshman campaign, averaging 8.0 points and 2.8 assists, but he was more of a sparkplug off the bench than he was a guy counted on to run a team and facilitate an offense full time. He was supposed to battle Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus for the starting role, but Octeus was denied admission into UCLA, meaning that Alford will be sharing ball-handling duties with … off-guard Hamilton? How the sophomore handles the role will be a major determinant in how good the Bruins end up being.
Outlook: Arizona is the favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. There really isn’t even much of an argument to be had there, but what will be interesting to see is how the rest of the conference plays out as there are four or five teams that can lay claim to the title “second best in the Pac-12”. UCLA is one of those teams.
If everything breaks right — Powell becomes an all-league player, Looney and Hamilton live up to their five-star rankings, Alford makes a seamless transition to full-time point guard — than the Bruins are probably closer to being a top 15 team than they are the No. 24 team in the country. But there are a lot of things that can go wrong during the year, which is why I wouldn’t be totally shocked if the Bruins ended up being an NIT team this season.
Like I said earlier, Steve Alford is going to have a lot of work to do this season.
LONG BEACH, California — The 2014 version of adidas Nations is behind us now, but with CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips both in attendance, they decided to break down some of the college counselors by going over a list of superlatives for the week. Be sure to look out for high school superlatives as well as brief recaps of every college counselor in attendance later this week on College Basketball Talk.
Norman Powell (UCLA): Of the college players at the camp Arizona’s Stanley Johnson would likely be the highest draft pick if there were a draft today, and that will likely be the case in June as well. But the honor of best performer at adidas Nations goes to Powell, who was consistent on both ends of the floor throughout the weekend. The rising senior was aggressive offensively without being reckless, and if he can carry over that level of play into the season that bodes well for Steve Alford’s Bruins. (RJ)
Terran Petteway (Nebraska): Since Louisville guard Terry Rozier had some inconsistent performances down the stretch, I’ll go with Petteway, who had an impressive week at adidas Nations by knocking in perimeter jumpers, attacking the basket and defending hard at the other end. He’s one of the college counselors who stared NBA veteran Arron Afflalo in the eye and didn’t flinch. After a big year in the Big Ten last season, Petteway looks like he’ll once again be one of the league’s best players this coming season. (SP)
WANTED TO SEE MORE FROM:
Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin): Kaminsky is considered by many to be the top face-up big man in college basketball, and based upon the way he played as a junior that’s a fair label to give him. But the perimeter shots weren’t falling in Long Beach, and what was even more concerning was the lack of consistency on the boards. He’ll play better during the season, but it would have been nice to see him do more in front of the NBA scouts in attendance. (RJ)
Zak Irvin (Michigan): Since Raphielle picked Kaminsky and Louisiana Lafayette’s Shawn Long only played two days of the camp, I’ll go with Michigan sophomore wing Zak Irvin, who didn’t appear to be much better than when I last saw him in Indianapolis during the Sweet 16/Elite Eight weekend. Irvin can still perform as a catch-and-shoot player, but after losing Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, Irvin needs to step up this season and do more off-the-bounce. That didn’t happen at adidas Nations. Irvin struggled with two-dribble pull-ups and was stripped multiple times while trying to drive to the basket. Still plenty of time before November, but Irvin doesn’t look much better than last season. (SP)
Tony Parker (UCLA): In all honesty I didn’t expect much from Parker, based largely upon his inconsistent play during his first two seasons at UCLA. However Parker held his own, working hard on the glass and converting many of the opportunities he was able to find around the basket. The question for Parker: can he provide UCLA with consistent minutes throughout the season? Even with the talented trio joining the UCLA front court (Jonah Bolden, Kevon Looney and Thomas Welsh), the Bruins are going to need something from Parker this season. (RJ)
BeeJay Anya (N.C. State): There were stories of Anya’s weight loss since the end of last season, but he clearly looks like a player who has redefined his game heading into his sophomore season. Since Anya has lost so much weight, he’s getting up and down the floor much better, getting better lift off of the ground and also making hustle plays that he would never try to make before. The improved lift and mobility means Anya was more confident as a low-post scorer and his tremendous wingspan also makes him a difference as a weakside shot blocker. I like this version of BeeJay Anya much better and I’m sure N.C. State fans will agree with me. (SP)
BEST NBA DRAFT PROSPECT:
Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Simply put, the incoming freshman is a grown man. He was aggressive in driving to the basket, finishing above the rim on multiple occasions, and he knocked down his perimeter shots at a solid clip as well. And Johnson held his own against Arron Afflalo on Saturday night when the Denver Nuggets guard joined the scrimmages. (RJ)
Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Not to piggyback off the same player as my colleague, but Johnson was really good this week and has improved his body even more since entering college this summer. Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier are both good NBA Draft prospects as well at this current juncture, but with Johnson’s size, athleticism, skill and tenacious work ethic, he’s the frontrunner of the group that played at adidas Nations this week. There’s a reason Tracy McGrady and Afflalo went at Johnson the most and it’s because they respected his ability to give them a fair fight as an incoming college freshman. (SP)