By Matt Misichko
Player of the Week
Gary Harris, Michigan State
As the first of potentially many POTW awards for Mr. Harris, the sophomore shooting guard displayed on the national stage why he stands a good chance to transition from last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year to this year’s Big Ten Player of the Year. Harris started the 2013 campaign by filling the stat sheet, finished 7/15 from the floor with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.
But what really made Harris deserving of POTW honors was how he set the tone early on in the mega matchup between #2 Michigan State and #1 Kentucky. Harris was extremely active on the defensive end during Kentucky’s first 4 possessions. He brought heavy ball pressure on Kentucky’s young guards and was properly positioned off the ball to deflect passes or outright intercept a feed, leading to numbers on offense for the Spartans. Tom Izzo’s focus so far this year has been on his team getting out in the open floor and finding high percentage shots at the rim in transition. Harris exemplified that the best way to get easy baskets wreaking havoc and causing perimeter turnovers on the defensive end.
Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
Even if you never saw Rice play during his days at Drake, there’s an immediate thought that pops in your mind when you see him play in person: “That’s a Big Ten Guard.” The 6’4”, 235-pound redshirt junior has the body to withstand the physical beating of an entire Big Ten basketball, an essential and strength (no pun intended) that other Big Ten guards lack.
He’s got a great all-around game, and most of his attacks to the rim are predicated on his physical style. But don’t let Rice’s stocky frame fool you. He’s got above-average athletic ability, and it was on full display in the closing minutes of the Fighting Illini’s win over Valparaiso. With 76 total minutes played so far this year, Rice is 18/34 from the field, 14/15 from the free throw line and has hauled in 19 rebounds.
Caris LeVert, Michigan
It doesn’t matter that only 2 games have been played: who would have thought someone other than Nik Stauskas would be leading the Wolverines in 3-point field goal percentage and 3-point field goals made. Lavert is 7/10 so far on the year from deep, while Stauskas is 6/9. So why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because Nik Stauskas is the best 3-point shooter in the Big Ten and may be one the best shooters in Big Ten history. Watch the link below and then give LeVert a round of applause for holding the distinction of “Michigan’s best 3-point shooter” before Stauskas takes it away from him next game.
You true basketball junkies understand just how unbelievable that video is.
Malik Smith, Minnesota
The Florida International transfer has had a rough start during his time with the Gophers. Albeit very early, Smith was averaging 33.1 minutes last year with FIU. Likely due to a considerable upgrade in talent of players around him, Smith is averaging just 16.5 minutes this year, going 3-12 from the field, 3-11 from behind the arc and not providing much of a defensive presence or other basketball value right now.
Tai Webster, Nebraska
In the earliest moments of the season, Webster has already experienced the growing pains of transitioning from high school basketball to the collegiate ranks. 4/17 from the 3-point range and 5 turnovers are examples of a freshman guard just trying to do too much. Webster must start playing within his limits. But, going 8/16 from the free throw line is never an excuse. That’s all mental toughness, and Webster must improve in this area to continue developing early in the season.
Top 5 Players Who Will Put Their Team on Their Backs
1. Tim Frazier, Penn State
If you don’t know by now, Tim Frazier is far and away the best player on Penn State’s team. Frazier played 39 minutes in a win against Wagner, scoring 25 points and going 12/17 from charity stripe. He’s the undisputed leader on this team who teammates look to for encouragement and vocal instructions.
2. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Jeremy Hollowell for Jordan Hulls. Troy Williams for Victor Oladipo. Will Sheehey for Christian Watford. Noah Vonleh for Cody Zeller. To some extent, Ferrell has to be thinking “Where the heck did all those playmakers from last year go?” Although Vonleh is super talented and Sheehey showed relentless effort for the Hoosiers to beat LIU Brooklyn, Ferrell will be the guy who will have to make plays with the shot clock winding down during conference play. He’s got the ballhandling ability to get in the paint and the strength to either score or skip a pass across the court to an open shooter.
3. Drew Crawford, Northwestern
It would not be surprise to see Crawford lead the Wildcats in every major statistical category. His biggest challenge will be that any opponent’s scouting report will know Crawford is the guy who will get the ball in his hands with under 4 minutes to play. Crawford will have to pull out all the stops for Northwestern to succeed in tight conference games. A big part of his game must be outsizing defending guards by crashing the offensive glass. He’s very solid from the perimeter, but any team will run him off the line. Incorporating a post game will help both the Wildcats in their diversity on the offensive end and add another element to Crawford’s game.
4. Andre Hollins, Minnesota
Teams naturally look to their point guard for intangibles like leadership and composure. Andre Hollins will need to do that and much more for Minnesota during the 2013 year. Personally, Hollins needs to become a 60-40 guard on offense – he must become more selfish and focus 60% of his time on creating his own shot within the offense. The remaining 40% should be used to put his teammates in opportunistic positions from his attention to detail on passing and orchestrating everyone’s role during set plays. Hollins is above-average from deep and is skilled enough handling the ball for opponents to respect his drive to the hoop. Either way, Hollins sometimes will need to continually be the Gophers’ go-to guy.
5. Shavon Shields, Nebraska
Shields seems to be the go-to guy in Lincoln for now, as Ray Gallegos was suspended for the first 2 games of the season. He can straight up fill it, scoring 28 points on 813 shooting against Florida Gulf Coast and following it up with 13 points on 6/9 shooting in a win against Western Illinois. There’s nothing wrong with the sophomore becoming the guy to rally the troops and find ways to sneak a win. The best way to do that is putting the ball in the hoop, especially during crunch time. Look for Shields to be the player with his ball in his hands in the waning seconds during Big Ten conference play.
Caris Levert will be really good this yr. He looks like a completely new player having grown a couple of inches and putting on 20+ lbs over the summer.
He also brings a lot to the table. He was already a good defender with his length and lateral quickness. He can handle, make plays, run the point in a pinch (at 6'7) and push the ball in transition. If the improvement in his outside jumper is for real (which I imagine it is since he and Stauskas were work out partners in the off-season) then look out. Levert has a lot going for him as a prospect. He just has to keep getting his weight up which he's shown he has the work ethic to do.
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