Player of the Week
Willie Cauley Stein - Kentucky
Cauley-Stein got off to a slow start this season and found himself playing second fiddle to the "freshman" on Kentucky's roster. After taking over the center spot full time for the departed Nerlens Noel, Cauley was supposed to be that next athletic rim protector for the Wildcats. But after struggling early on trying to find his way with this new look Kentucky team, Cauley has begun to click on all cylinders. He's scored in double figures in each of his last four games and has recorded at least four blocks in each of his last three including a career high nine against Providence on Sunday. Cauley-Stein was a beast among men in the post for much of the night against the Friars. The stat sheet only said nine blocks but he was responsible for altering many more shots than that and was a large reason why Providence became a little jump shot happy in the second half. Cauley-Stein still lacks a go-to post move and is still extremely raw on the offensive end. He doesn't get a lot of post touches and relies on alley-oops, put backs and transition buckets to get his points and that trend will likely continue with the play of his frontcourt mate Julius Randle. Where Cauley can really solidify his draft stock with continued dominance on the glass and as a rim protector and he's definitely stepping up and doing both of those things for the Wildcats up to this point. Becoming a reliable offensive player could take time however.
Jordan McRae - Tennessee
For what he's been able to accomplish the last few seasons, there probably isn't a more underrated player in the SEC than McRae. He's been the Vols leader and best player for the last three plus seasons and gets very little credit. He's got good length, athleticism and speed but doesn't have "elite" level status in any one of those categories nor is he a flashy player. He's a senior that has stayed in college all four years which hurts his draft stock but he's improved in each of those four years and has become a more well rounded player.
McRae can score in a variety of ways. He's a good slasher and has a scorer's mentality. He's become a very reliable shooter, especially from deep. He's a very effective scorer even if his field goal percentage doesn't show that because he has to take a lot of "hero shots" and because he has been, at times, the only person on the floor that can create for himself. He has a quick first step which allows him to get to the rim and use that step to get his defenders on their heels and pull up from mid-range. He's some Jamaal Franklin in him. He's currently projected as a mid second round pick.
Alex Poythress - Kentucky
Seeing Poythress on the bench in critical end of game situations has become a trend. It happened last season as Kentucky limped to their worst season under Coach Calipari. Whereas last season, Cal had very little talent behind the small forward from Tennessee, this year he is being overshadowed and outplayed by the freshman that have taken over this team. To think some scouts had him rated as a one and done top 3 pick in November of last year.
Poythress has the physical tools to be one of the best and most versatile players in this draft but he can't seem to put it all together on the court. He's big and strong and can cause matchup problems on both ends of the floor but he has the tendency to take bad shots, not run the offense and get lost on defense. He's got great hops and is an unbelievable finisher when he gets the opportunity. It almost seems as if he's sleepwalking through games at times and if you've ever watched a Kentucky game, that is something that Coach Cal just won't put up with. Coach Cal has his players on a short leash and won't hesitate to take them out and sit them on the bench if they aren't giving 110%. Poythress has found his way into Cal's dog house again this season and has seen his minutes and production drop because of it.
Florida Gator Depth
If Monday night's loss to the Huskies of UConn wasn't bad enough, it is looking like the Gators could be without Rutgers transfer Eli Carter for the rest of the season as he looks to get a medical red shirt and come back 100% healthy next season. On top of that senior guard Scottie Wilbekin suffered a high ankle sprain in the loss to UConn and is now out indefinitely. Add both of those bits of recent news to the Kasey Hill injury, the Dillon Graham injury, the DeVon Walker injury, the Chris Walker ineligibility and the Damontre Harris suspension and the once ridiculously deep Gators will be down to a handful of scholarship players for their upcoming games against Kansas and Memphis. While the team should be competitive even without all of those guys suited up, teams just aren't equipped to lose that kind of fire power and still win games. On the bright side, most of those guys are expected back before SEC play starts in January.
Top 5 Juniors
1. Jordan Clarkson - Missouri
After putting up some big numbers at Tulsa his first two season, Clarkson has transitioned nicely into the much tougher SEC. He's scoring at an unbelievable rate and has made most Tiger fans forget that they lost Phil Pressey early to the Draft after last season. Clarkson is a big point guard which scouts love. He isn't a great shooter from deep which is something that he'll need to work on as the season progresses but he can get to the rim at will and finish through contact. As a point guard he will have to learn how to get others involved a little more as his assist rate isn't what you would want out of your lead guard. Scouts have raved about him early on this season and arguably no one has seen their stock rise more in the past month. He's currently projected as a late lottery pick in this year's draft.
2. Jarnell Stokes - Tennessee
Stokes is a guy that really hasn't helped his draft stock during his time in college. He's got a wide body and he's a really strong player but he's undersized from a height standpoint and doesn't have great instincts on offense. He gets most of his points from muscling his way around in the paint and getting fouled at a high rate. He doesn't have great touch on his jump shot so he is limited offensively. He's not a great athlete but he uses his body well in traffic and is a very good rebounder for his size. He's reached his potential as a player and likely won't increase his draft stock that much this season but there's always room in the league for guys who can rebound and defend in the post. He's currently projected as an early second round pick in the 2015 Draft.
3. Jabari Brown - Missouri
Brown, who has had to step into a more prominent scoring role this season has quickly become one of the SEC's best shooters. After nailing three's at a 37% clip last season, Brown has upped that to almost 45% this season and has seen his scoring increase by over eight points per game because of it. He still needs to develop a more well rounded offensive game and use his big frame to get to the rim and draw some contact. He's started to become that player this season and has developed chemistry with Jordan Clarkson alongside him. They are forming one of the better back courts in the nation. He is currently projected as a late second round pick in the 2015 Draft, but figures to move up if continues to play this well.
4. Johnny OBryant - LSU
O'Bryant has continued to build upon what he started last season. He's dropped a lot of weight and become a much more assertive player on the offensive end these last two years. He's got great size and is a relentless rebounder. His game has developed nicely and now he's much more that just a physical specimen. He's underrated as an athlete and while he's not anywhere near an elite athlete, he has some hops. He can run the floor pretty well for a big man and has come a long way in just a short time. He's really improved on his awareness in the post and has become an effective passer for a big man. While a bit of a tweener for the next level since he has more of a center game in a power forward body, he's currently projected as an early second round pick for the 2015 Draft.
5. Jarvis Summers - Ole Miss
Summers, much like anyone who plays college basketball in the state of Mississippi not named Marshall Henderson, doesn't get a lot of air time but he has quietly become one of the better guards in the SEC. Summers is averaging over 15 points per game on the season and has really taken over for the departed veteran scorers Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. He's shooting a high percentage from the floor as well as from deep and has really become a solid number two scoring option and more efficient I might add for Head Coach Andy Kennedy. Summers is a combo guard that likely won't get drafted but it can't be overlooked what he has done for the Rebels this season.
Follow Clayton on Twitter @CroweClayton
Elfrid Payton definitely deserves to be a Top 5 junior
Hence the lack of inclusion on Clayton's list of top SEC juniors.
I disagree on your take on Jarnell Stokes. He's improved his body, dropping weight, becoming more agile. He's also improved his touch from the stripe which is important for a player draws as much contact as he does. It also bodes well for him eventually developing a mid-range jumper. I also think his instincts are really good too. He knows how to do his work early, carve out space and he's impossible to move on the block or if he gets early rebounding position. He's also shown good flashes of being able to handle doubles, being patient with his touches which is something hes always had. I also think he's a underrated athlete in terms of 2nd and 3rd jumps and he has very good, nimble feet for a guy his size. He looks like an offensive lineman and he's got the feet of one too.