Semi Ojeleye

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

College Basketball’s Most Improved Players

Leave a comment

It really shouldn’t be all that much of a shock that Luke Kennard tops the list as the nation’s most improved player.

The 6-foot-6 shooting guard has been the best player on the roster for Duke this season, a team that is ranked in the top five by everyone with a valid a opinion and ranked No. 1 by the savvy forward-thinkers. He’s averaging 20.0 points, 6.1 boards and 3.3 assists and has been Duke’s best player in their four toughest games this season; against Michigan State, Rhode Island, Kansas and Florida, Kennard is averaging 23.8 points.

What’s surprising about Kennard’s season isn’t that he became an effective college basketball player – he was a McDonald’s All-American, he averaged 11.8 points last season, and he scored more points in high school than a guy named LeBron James – but that he’s been able to dominate like this on a team that has a chance to win a national title. That’s how good he’s been for Duke this season. Playing without Jayson Tatum for seven games, with a banged-up Grayson Allen and without Harry Giles III, Kennard’s has made Duke look like they could win the ACC and make the Final Four even if they never get back to full health.

He went from being the third-best player on a two-man Duke team as a freshman to this. Who saw that coming?

2. Manu Lecomte, Baylor: Lecomte was a good player at Miami during the 2014-15 season. Not great, but a solid piece for a good team. After sitting out last season at Baylor, he’s managed to play his way into being one of the best point guards in the Big 12 and one of the biggest reasons that the Bears are currently sitting in the top five of both polls. Lecomte’s averaging 13.9 points this year, and although his scoring has been somewhat inconsistent, he’s played well in Baylor’s big games. But the truly notable improvement has been in his ability to create offense for his teammates. Lecomte is averaging 5.3 assists after averaging 1.8 assists as a sophomore with Miami, and that playmaking was the biggest question mark that Baylor had entering the season.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

3. Semi Ojeleye, SMU: Ojeleye is a former four-star recruit that played a season and a half at Duke, so it’s not like this is a guy that never had any ability. We just never saw it featured at the college level, and now that we have, he’s proven to be worth the hype he had in high school. Having taken advantage of a season-and-a-half as a redshirt, he’s averaging 17.8 points and 7.6 boards on the year while, as a 6-foot-7 forward with elite athleticism, is shooting 41.5 percent from three. The Mustangs are still trying to find their footing after the Larry Brown fiasco this summer, but Ojeleye has turned into a really good piece to build around and one of the best players in the AAC.

4. Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame: Colson is generously listed at 6-foot-6, he isn’t an elite athlete and he’s a power forward, a front court weapon who does most of his damage in the low- and mid-post. And yet, he’s turned into the best player on Notre Dame and, along with Matt Farrell (who is much-improved in his own right), is the biggest reason the Irish appear to me much better than we expected. He’s averaging team-highs of 16.5 points and 10.8 boards this season and, at the least, deserves a mention in all-american consideration. Is anyone more underrated than Mike Brey when it comes to developing talent in his program?

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 10: Bonzie Colson #35 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish attempts a shot as Donte DiVincenzo #10 of the Villanova Wildcats defends during the first half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Villanova defeated Notre Dame 74-66. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Bonzie Colson (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

5. Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: Saint Mary’s has found their next great Australian, and that’s Landale. He was super-efficient in limited minutes as a sophomore, but the 6-foot-11 Landale has been playing at like all-american this season for the Gaels. He’s averaging 18.4 points and 8.5 boards while shooting 67.4 percent from the floor as the anchor in Randy Bennett’s offensive attack.

6. Kyron Cartwright, Providence: Ed Cooley has always centered his offensive attack around his point guard. That’s just how he likes to play. Whether it’s Kris Dunn or Bryce Cotton or Vincent Council, Cooley’s has always demanded that his point guards carry a heavy load. The biggest question we had with the Friars this season was who would take on that role this year. Well, we have an answer now: It’s Kyron Cartwright, a player that few outside of the Big East diehards would have heard of entering the season. Cartwright is averaging just 8.8 points on the year, but he’s fifth in the country posting 7.7 assists per night, an incredibly important number for the better-than-we-thought Friars because of the lack of weapons this team has offensively. The fact that he’s doing so while averaging significantly fewer turnovers than Kris Dunn did as a starter is notable as well.

7. John Collins, Wake Forest: Before the season, who would have predicted that Collins would develop into the best player on Demon Deacons? Playing just 24 minutes a game, Collins is posting 18.0 points and 10.7 boards and has already collected six double-doubles on the season, including five in his last five games.

8. Tacko Fall, UCF: The 7-foot-6 Fall is so much more than just a super-tall dude that found his way onto a basketball court. He’s averaging 13.8 points, a nation’s-best 13.1 boards and 2.6 blocks in just 28 minutes a night. He’s running the floor, he’s scoring on post touches and he’s doing it all while staying out of foul trouble, which can be an issue for someone his size. The next step? Improve on that 34.1 percent free throw shooting before Hack-a-Tacko becomes a thing.

9. Kyle Washington, Cincinnati: Washington is another guy who took advantage of a redshirt year and a new environment. After struggling to find minutes in his two seasons at N.C. State, Washington has turned into the best player for the Bearcats, averaging 16.1 points and 8.0 boards for Mick Cronin’s club, who appear to be the favorite in the AAC and are ranked in the top 25.

10. Obi Enechionya, Temple: Enechionya has developed into a real life NBA prospect. He’s turned into Temple’s go-to guy, averaging 18.6 points on the season, but what makes him such an intriguing player is a unique aspect of his skill-set: At 6-foot-10, he’s shooting 49.2 percent from three (while attempting more than six per game) and blocking 2.9 shots a night. No player has averaged three made threes per game and 2.9 blocks per game in a season since 1993, which is as far back as I can find data.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Isaiah Briscoe #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball up court against the Hofstra Pride in the first half of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at Barclays Center on December 11, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Isaiah Briscoe  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

TEN MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • 11. Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky: Briscoe has been terrific this season for Kentucky, but it’s hard to rank him in the top ten of this list when the single-biggest flaw in his game – his perimeter shooting – hasn’t gotten much better.
  • 12. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Evans has developed into one of the best point guards in the country, but it’s tough to figure out where to rank him because we saw this coming before he got injured at the end of last season.
  • 13. Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech: The bright spot in what will likely be a long Georgia Tech season, Lammers is averaging 15.8 points, 10.8 boards and 4.6 blocks, which leads the country. He averaged 3.6 points and 4.0 boards as a sophomore last year.
  • 14. Khyri Thomas, Creighton: We knew how good Mo Watson Jr. and Marcus Foster would be. I don’t think many expected Thomas to average 13.3 points, shoot 53.3 percent from three and develop into Creighton’s best perimeter defender.
  • 15. Esa Ahmad and Nathan Adrian, West Virginia: The biggest reason that West Virginia hasn’t taken a step back with what they lost last year? Ahmad and Adrian are playing at a borderline all-Big 12 level.
  • 16. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: Thornwell has turned into one of the best non-Kentucky players in the SEC this season. Check this line: 18.7 points, 6.7 boards, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.3 blocks, 48.3 percent on threes. Now he just has to get back from suspension.
  • 17. JaCorey Williams, MTSU: It’s tough to know just how much of this is opportunity and the level he’s playing at, but Williams has gone from averaging 4.5 points at Arkansas to averaging 19.0 points for one of the nation’s most dangerous mid-majors.
  • 18. Kyle Kuzma, Utah: We expected Kuzma to take a step forward this season, and while his scoring numbers aren’t quite as high as I thought they would be, his averages of 15.8 points, 10.3 boards and 3.3 assists for a young Utah team are impressive.
  • 19. Reid Travis, Stanford: Travis came off of injury to be the best player for Stanford this season, averaging 17.7 points and 9.4 boards.
  • 20. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Swanigan has played his way into all-american consideration, but he’d be higher on this list if his turnover issues hadn’t popped up of late. He has 13 giveaways in his last two games.

Report: Former Duke forward transferring to SMU

Leave a comment

According to a report, Larry Brown’s SMU program has added a second ACC transfer in as many years.

Semi Ojeleye, who didn’t see many minutes during his time at Duke, has decided to transfer to SMU according to Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com. Ojeleye, who was named National Player of the Year by Parade Magazine as a high school senior, will be eligible to play in games in December 2015 and he joins guard Ben Emelogu (Virginia Tech) as players who have made the move from ACC programs to SMU during Brown’s tenure.

Ojeleye played in just 23 games during his time at Duke, averaging 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 6.2 minutes per contest. This season Ojeleye played a season-high 19 minutes in the Blue Devils’ season-opening win over Presbyterian, and he scored seven points in a win over Fairfield.

Ojeleye adds depth to what should be a solid front court in 2015-16, even with the eventual losses of seniors Cannen Cunningham, Yanick Moreira and Justin Martin. Ben Moore will be a junior and Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert will both be seniors, with Tolbert having one year of eligibility after transferring in from Texas Tech.

Tolbert is sitting out the 2014-15 season per NCAA transfer rules.

One suitor for Duke transfer hopes to land him despite not having an available scholarship

3 Comments

When it was announced earlier this week that forward Semi Ojeleye would be leaving the Duke program, it was expected that the former Parade National Player of the Year would be pursued by many high-level programs. Among those that have reached out thus far are Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Wichita State.

According to Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star Bruce Weber’s program has been working hard to land Ojeleye, but the Big 12 program has a problem: they’re out of scholarships. MoKan Elite head coach Matt Suther discussed the ongoing process with Robinett on Friday.

“It’s just phone call after phone call after phone call,” Suther said. “It’s a good thing he has all this interest. He and his family are going through the process of dwindling the list down to what schools they want to go visit. They kind of approached it wide open. In a lot of cases when a kid transfers they have a new school in mind.

“That wasn’t the case here. He has listened to schools that recruited him the first time and schools that did not.”

As it stands Kansas State had three openings, with Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams being seniors and guard Jack Karapetyan making the decision to transfer just before the start of the season, but all three scholarships have been accounted for in the Class of 2015 recruiting haul.

With Ojeleye and his family being wide open in the process, it will be interesting to see which school emerges in the weeks before the start of classes in January. And while Kansas State is reported to be interested in landing the talented forward, so are other schools that don’t have the additional concern of freeing up a scholarship for Ojeleye.

Sophomore forward Semi Ojeleye to transfer from Duke

3 Comments

While it’s easy to assume that highly regarded high school recruits will earn significant playing time at the college program of their choice, things don’t always work out that way. Forward Semi Ojeleye arrived at Duke in 2013 as a Parade All-American, but thanks to the talent at Mike Krzyzewski’s disposal the sophomore found playing time difficult to come by.

After playing an average of 10.5 minutes per game this season, Ojeleye has decided to transfer. Duke announced the news via a press release Sunday afternoon. Ojeleye played in six of Duke’s eight games, averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, and for his career the 6-foot-8 forward from Ottawa, Kansas played an average of 6.2 minutes per contest.

“We want to thank Semi and his family for their commitment to the Duke program for the last year and a half,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in the release. “He has been an excellent student and a great representative of our school and basketball program. He has been granted a full release and we definitely wish him the best.”

Ojeleye’s chances of earning a significant increase in minutes next season were likely slim, as five-star signee Chase Jeter will join the Duke front court rotation and Rice transfer Sean Obi will be eligible as well. Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee are both juniors, so they’ll be back as well.

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 5 Duke Blue Devils

Leave a comment

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 30-6, 14-4 ACC (2nd); Lost to Louisville in the Elite 8

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (34th season at Duke: 884-238 overall, 350-153 ACC)

Key Losses: Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly

Newcomers: Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye

Projected Lineup

G: Quinn Cook, Jr.
G: Rasheed Sulaimon, So.
F: Rodney Hood, So.
F: Jabari Parker, Fr.
C: Amile Jefferson, So.
Bench: Marshall Plumlee, So.; Josh Hairston, Sr.; Matt Jones, Fr.; Semi Ojeleye, Fr.; Andre Dawkins, Sr.; Alex Murphy, So.; Tyler Thornton, So.

They’ll be good because …: The Blue Devils just have so many talented perimeter weapons on their roster this year, including three guys that could eventually be lottery picks in the NBA Draft. We’ll start with the obvious: a consensus top three recruit in Jabari Parker, a 6-foot-8 do-it-all wing that will team up with Rodney Hood, a Mississippi State transfer and another 6-foot-8 do-it-all wing, to give Coach K arguably the best pair of forwards in the country. Throw in sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon, the underrated Quinn Cook at the point and Matt Jones, Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton off the bench, and it is going to be tough to earn minutes in the Blue Devil’s back court.

What makes this team the most dangerous is that Parker and Hood are big enough that they can essentially play with five perimeter players this season, creating all kinds of different mismatches. Can you imagine opposing centers trying to stay with Parker or Hood 20 feet from the basket? It’s a terrifying thought, really. With the amount of perimeter shooting and offensive firepower that the Blue Devils have, don’t be surprised to see them spread the floor, get up and down the court, and score a lot of point this season.

source:
Jabari Parker (AP) and Rodney Hood (GoDuke.com)

But they might disappoint because …: Duke really doesn’t have any size at all this season. Amile Jefferson got the start in the middle in the Blue Devil’s first exhibition game of the season over the weekend, and he is naturally a wing that’s slender and stands all of 6-foot-7. Marshall Plumlee is a seven-footer with a ton of athleticism, but does he have the strength to hold his own in the paint in the toughest league in the country? Josh Hairston has been a solid role player for three years for Duke, but he’s really not much more than that. Semi Ojeleye can soar, but he’s still undersized as a front court player.

The reason that Duke is dangerous this season is that they can create mismatches on the offensive end of the floor, but what happens when they play talented teams that have forwards that can defend on the perimeter? What happens when they have to try and stop a Julius Randle or a Mitch McGary in the paint? Will Duke be able to keep teams off of the offensive glass? Will those mismatches be worth the risk of getting Parker or Hood in foul trouble?

Outlook: Duke is in a weird spot this season, as they might end up being better than they were a season ago despite losing their top three scorers from that team. The influx of talent they get this season with Parker and Hood will help keep them afloat, but the fact that Coach K didn’t bring in a big body from the recruiting trail is a bit concerning.

That said, Duke will be quite a bit of fun to watch this season if everything goes according to plan. Their smaller lineups will be a nightmare for teams with a more traditional roster makeup to try and matchup with, and the fact that they’ll be playing an open, uptempo style that should include plenty of three balls won’t hurt, either. Throw in the new physicality rules, and Duke is going to be a team that will score a lot of points this year. They should enter the season as the ACC favorites.

POSTERIZED: Duke’s Semi Ojeleye throws down insane one-handed dunk at practice (VIDEO)

1 Comment

Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are the two most talked about newcomers to the Duke program this season, and rightfully so. But during this preseason, freshman forward Semi Ojeleye is doing everything to remind the Cameron Crazies that he was a four-start prospect coming out of Ottawa High (Kan.).

Last week at Duke’s midnight madness, the 6-foot-7 forward won the the team’s dunk contest. However, his best dunk so far was saved for Thursday’s practice. During a 5-on-5 drill, Tyler Thornton lobbed a half-court pass to Ojeleye on the baseline. He skied to reach the pass, completing the alley-oop with a vicious one-handed slam.

Two days later, Ojeleye tallied three points and six boards in 11 minutes of action in Duke’s 103-67 preseason win over Bowie State.