Jacorey Williams

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.

Two players in Arkansas forgery case plead not guilty

Leave a comment

Two of three players involved in the Arkansas forgery case pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of first-degree forgery, according to a report from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Arkansas point guard Anton Beard and recent Middle Tennessee transfer Jacorey Williams were arraigned in Washington County Circuit Court. Beard was charged with three counts of first-degree forgery while Williams was charged with one count.

In Arkansas, first-degree forgery is a Class B felony and carries sentencing of five to 20 years in prison, a $15,000 fine, or both.

The other Arkansas player arrested in July, Dustin Thomas, has an arraignment scheduled for next week. Thomas and Beard remain suspended from the Arkansas basketball program while Williams was dismissed and moved on the Middle Tennessee.

The trio is accused of using counterfeit money at multiple Fayetteville businesses while using the counterfeit money to purchase good and exchange for real bills.

Former Arkansas forward joins Middle Tennessee State program

Leave a comment

Just over a month ago forward Jacorey Williams was one of three Arkansas players (Anton Beard and Dustin Thomas being the others) arrested on charges of first degree suspicion of forgery in relation to their alleged use of counterfeit money. That case was Williams’ latest misstep away from the court, one that eventually led to Arkansas dismissing him from the program.

Thursday the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal reported that Williams has joined the Middle Tennessee State basketball program. This report comes a couple days after the move was first discussed by multiple outlets, with head coach Kermit Davis providing the paper with a comment on the additions of Williams and junior college transfer Aldonis Foote to the team.

“We trust our culture and structure will benefit both of these young men to be successful on and off the court,” Davis said. “We have done our due diligence in this process and look forward to Jacorey having a very productive red-shirt year.

“Jacorey loved his time at Arkansas, but is looking forward to playing closer to his home of Birmingham next season.”

The 6-foot-8 Williams will have one season of eligibility remaining after he sits out the 2015-16 campaign, and it should be noted that the legal case that led to his dismissal from the Arkansas program has yet to be resolved. The arrignment hearings for Williams, Beard and Thomas, which were originally scheduled for August 24, were postponed until September 2.

Williams averaged 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for the Razorbacks last season.

Arkansas dismisses one of three players accused of forgery

Leave a comment
source:
Anton Beard, Dustin Thomas and Jacorey Williams (Washington County Jail)

Arkansas announced on Wednesday that Jacorey Williams has been dismissed from the program stemming from a series of incidents this offseason.

Williams was one of three players that was arrested and charged with forgery stemming from a series of incidents where the players were alleged to have been caught using counterfeit money. He was also linked to a pair of assaults that happened two weeks apart. He is accused of assaulting his girlfriend and, 13 days later, knocking out the bouncer that tried to separate the two of them as retaliation.

Williams has not been arrested for either assault.

“Members of our program carry a responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the expectations we have established for our student-athletes both on and off the court,” head coach Mike Anderson said.

“We wish him the best as he pursues his future away from Razorback Basketball.”

Williams averaged 4.8 points off the bench as a junior.

The next question for Anderson will be the status of sophomore Anton Beard and junior Dustin Thomas. According to the police report stemming from the counterfeit arrest, Beard was not only caught using fake $20 bills, but he also asked for change for six fake $50 dollar bills and three fake $100 dollar bills. Thomas was only charged with using fake $20 dollar bills.

Beard and Thomas remain suspended indefinitely from the program.

Arkansas forward Jacorey Williams linked to pair of alleged assaults

Leave a comment

Arkansas forward Jacorey Williams, who was arrested last week along with two other teammates, is now being linked to two alleged assaults, one involving his girlfriend.

Eric Bolin, of the Arkansas News Bureau reported on Tuesday evening that Williams was named by a witness as the assailant on a July 18 incident that left bouncer Bryan Jones unconscious outside the Lit Lounge club in Fayetteville. Jones told police he believes this was retaliation for the first alleged assault incident back on July 5, involving Williams’ girlfriend Essence Singelton.

Singleton had reportedly approached Williams about money he owed her. The confrontation allegedly ended with the 6-foot-8 Williams grabbing Singleton by the arm and forcing her to the ground.

From the Arkansas News Bureau:

Jones, who told police he saw the event, said Singleton reached out a hand and put it on Williams’ chest “as if she was trying to get his attention,” the report stated. Jones said he saw Williams swing his arm at Singleton “as if in a gesture to get her away from him.”

When Williams’ arm struck Singleton, it knocked her to the ground, and Jones stepped in between the two and pushed Williams back. The officer took photos of scrapes to Singleton’s hands and knees.

On July 22, Williams was arrested along with fellow Razorbacks Anton Beard and Dustin Thomas. The trio was each charged with one count of forgery after they were caught on surveillance cameras attempting to use counterfeit bills.

Williams averaged 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for Arkansas this past season.

POSTERIZED: Arkansas forward Jacorey Williams throws down on Utah Valley defender (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

We’ve already seen one strong Dunk of the Year candidate from Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant today but Arkansas junior forward Jacorey Williams put forth a solid showing of his own against Utah Valley.