Player of the Week
Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Logging major clock this week, including 44 minutes in Michigan’s overtime win against Florida State, Stauskas scored 70 total points over 3 games in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament. He hobbled for the last 10 minutes of Michigan’s loss to Charlotte, displaying great toughness battling through a visibly painful ankle injury.
Stauskas shot 51% from the field in the tournament and hit 8 three-pointers. He’s helped pick up the scoring slack for slow starts by Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. But even though every advanced scouting report will mandate that Stauskas receive no room to fire, he’s is starting to show that he’s not solely a scoring threat. A lot of his value won’t be seen in a box score. He put on some major weight during the offseason (particularly in his arm and shoulder muscles) and can become a playmaker when sets break down. He is an above-average ball handler which has helped when freshman Derrick Walton Jr. The advancement in Stauskas’ game will allow for a more balanced attack once McGary and Robinson III start producing at their capable levels.
DJ Newbill, Penn State
In his last 2 games, Newbill has been one rebound shy of posting a double-double, and for playing guard, that is quite impressive. Penn State lacks the size and strength in their frontcourt and relies on players like Newbill to clean up the glass. Newbill is 9th in the Big Ten averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, and he’s arguably leading the conference in rebounding for a true shooting guard. He’s becoming a good compliment and second option to Tim Frazier. Newbill’s 53 points, 23 rebounds, 13 assists and 3 Penn State wins, albeit against inferior opponents, is worth noting.
Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin
On Wednesday, it wasn’t a pretty shooting performance for Jackson against West Virginia: 1-9 from the field and 0-3 from beyond the arc to finish with 6 points. But the junior point guard made up for it by grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists en route to Wisconsin winning the Cancun Challenge championship game. Jackson helped the Badgers respond every time West Virginia tried to take the lead. Jackson was also vital in the semifinal win against St. Louis, where he went 7-10 from the free throw line and scored 10 points in the final 3 minutes of the game. His ability to score adds another layer to an already potent and precise offense.
Hanner Mosquera Parea, Indiana
When Noah Vonleh played just 10 minutes against Connecticut due to foul trouble, Hoosier fans were hoping to see something resembling adequate frontcourt production off the bench. Parea was not able to contribute that when his team desperately needed him, not registering a shot attempt and only playing 8 minutes in the game. What’s more concerning is not his lack of productivity but how little faith Tom Crean seems to have in him – in his last 4 games, Parea has played the following amount of minutes: 10, 8, 6, 8. For a player that many had very, very high expectations for, Parea so far has been a disappointment. Many contend that he is still a very raw athlete and is still learning the game. But something has to give soon, or else the Hoosiers will have a gaping hole if and when Vonleh gets into foul trouble or incurs an injury.
Joey King, Minnesota
King had a woeful week shooting, going 7-26 from the field. He’s playing significant enough minutes where he must contribute by scoring because he rarely provides other value in other categories. Minnesota’s toughest test this year was their game Monday against Syracuse. King fouled out in 25 minutes and scored 9 points. That game is one that will be most similar to Big Ten conference play, so there is some cause for concern about King’s production.
Top 5 Stuffers
It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s just not Thanksgiving without stuffing on the dinner table just like how it’s not a Big Ten conference slugfest without Ed Hightower or Ted Valentine working the game. So who are the best shot-blocking stuffers in the conference?
1. AJ Hammons, Purdue
Hammons finished 2nd in the Big Ten last year with 67 blocks and had 17 more blocks than 3rd place. His long arms make up for his lack of jumping ability, which means he rarely gets off his feet and out of position when he attempts to block a shot. Hammons is quite good at using both of his hands to get a piece on an attempted jumper or layup.
2. Amir Williams, Ohio State
In terms of a shot-blocking style, Williams is definitely more of an athletic big man than Hammons. He’s slimmer and really gets off the floor to contest attempts. The types of blocks that Williams is capable of are huge momentum changers and are likely to be seen on SportsCenter’s Top 10. He finished 3rd in the Big Ten last year with 50 blocks. Look for a number north of 60 for Williams this year, who already has 11 blocks in just 5 games.
3. Nnanna Egwu, Illinois
Egwu’s blocking style is that of a true rim protector. He’s a great help side defender and will come over and above other Illinois defenders to deny shots around the rim. He won’t get many blocks out of the post, but does a wonderful job hustling to be in proper defensive position to allow his 6’11”, 250-pound frame. Although he is the 3rd best shot blocker in the conference, look for Egwu’s numbers to be the same or possibly lower than last year. He must stay out of foul trouble, as he is the only Illini with legitimate collegiate experience at center. Egwu can’t be trying to swat shots because his presence on the court is vital.
4. Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Payne is a man’s man who exemplifies brute strength. He sets the tone with his blocks on how things will operate in the paint. Usually, it doesn’t bode well for the opponent. There will be 2 or 3 instances this year where Payne will send the basketball into the stands. He’s a mean shot blocker and does a tremendous job of controlling his body in the air to avoid contact and cleanly hit the ball.
5. Elliott Eliason, Minnesota
Eliason’s style is most similar to that of Hammons. He is a thick 240 pounds and is not blessed with a great vertical. What Eliason does really well is anticipate post moves and locating other offensive players in order to block a shot early in a player’s release. He had 37 blocks all of last season; he already has 22 so far this year, including 7 against Wofford earlier in the year. Eliason currently leads the Big Ten in blocks, and will likely stay near the leaderboard in the category because his minutes have doubled compared to last year.