Player of the Week
Melvin Ejim - Iowa State
The Iowa State Cyclones remain the Big 12’s only undefeated team, and Melvin Ejim’s performance Saturday is a major reason why their record remains unblemished. Finding themselves down 18 points to Northern Iowa, Ejim scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half and overtime, including hitting back to back three pointers in OT to help put the game away for his team. Melvin filled the stat card with 22 points 7 rebounds 3 assists and 2 steals Saturday, and more importantly came up huge down the stretch for Iowa State. In his two games this week he dropped 18 ppg and 8.5 rpg in a drubbing of Auburn and an exciting victory over NIU.
Kenny Chery - Baylor
When Baylor knocked off #3 Kentucky on Friday, it was Kenny Chery coming up big down the stretch as the Bears’ leader. Chery finished with 18 points and 5 assists, and he was a major catalyst behind a 15-5 run that brought Baylor back from 9 down to taking the lead with six minutes left. Kenny’s jumper starter the run and he hit two free throws to give Baylor a lead that they never gave up. The win over Kentucky was Chery’s only game this week, but on the year he’s averaging 11.6 ppg 4.9 apg as Baylor jumps into the top 25 this week.
Dustin Houge - Iowa State
The Big 12’s leading rebounder, Dustin Houge, has been keeping up a torrent pace on the glass (10.4 rpg), but also showing nice range and displaying some offense as well. He enjoyed his best offensive stretch this season going for 17 and 22 in two games this week on 70% shooting from inside the arch and 50% from beyond. After playing two years at Indian Hills Junior College, Houge, is making his presence felt in the Big 12. This week he averaged 19.5 ppg and 15 rpg for the conference leading Iowa State Cyclones.
Tarik Black - Kansas
If there’s one player in the conference that has struggled with the new foul rules, it’s Kansas’ power forward Tarik Black. A productive big man for three years, in Memphis, Black’s struggles with fouls have literally kept him off the court for most of this season. Saturday’s loss at Colorado was a perfect example. Tarik, a starter, picked up 3 fouls in the first three minutes and ended up sitting the rest of the game. A shocking stat is that Tarik Black fouls at a rate of 10.5 fouls per 40 minutes. Black is a beacon of experience for a young team, but he needs to adjust to these new rules or he’ll continue to spend the rest of the season on the bench.
Top 5 Sophomores
Lead by Marcus Smart, here are look at my top 5 sophomores in the Big 12 thus far.. Also, why I left out one particular player who’s on many 2014 draft boards.
1. Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State
There’s probably no real surprise Marcus Smart, one of the most prolific players in the NCAA, tops the list of conference sophomores, but this is not the same Marcus Smart we saw a season ago. Since finishing a great freshman year, Smart rubbed his shoulders with pros at the Team USA Mini-Camp drawing praise from Kevin Durant, and the the biggest thing it looks like he picked up was a more accurate shooting from downtown. Smart has improved his long range clip from 29% last season, to 35% this year. Through Marcus’ first 9 games he’s averaging 19.7 ppg 4.9 rpg 3.9 apg 2.9 spg and looks to be very much in the top 5 conversation again this year, in a much stronger draft.
2. Perry Ellis - Kansas
After playing a limited role as a freshman, Perry Ellis is showcasing that ability that drew him praise as a high school player, but was put in the back of many people’s minds during his quiet freshman year. Ellis drew major praise at the Adidas Nations camp last summer. His efficient mid range game, paired with his “old man game” style post arsenal make him very formidable in the half court. Perry is currently averaging 14.5 ppg 6.8 rpg and shooting 60% from two and 79% from the line in the process. Perry will need to work on his perimeter defense in his time left in Lawrence, as he projects as a bit of tweener at the next level, but after seeing such a jump in his game since last year, I think he’s up to the challenge.
3. Buddy Hield - Oklahoma
Oklahoma shooting guard, Buddy Hield has accomplished something very impressive this year. He's managed to increase his scoring average from 7.8 ppg to 16.4 ppg while only playing 3.7 more minutes per game. Hield is currently sitting at 16.4 ppg 4.6 rpg and 1.6 spg on the season as he’s established himself, along with Cameron Clark, as the second part of Oklahoma’s 1-2 scoring punch. It was clear, even as a freshman playing a supporting role, that Buddy had some nice potential as a scorer and wing defender. He’s good with the ball in his hands and has enough iso game to get a bucket when his team is in a pinch. With continued work on his outside game and another year or two in school, Hield could find himself in draft conversations before his time in OU is over.
4. Eron Harris - West Virginia
My top ranked Sophomore, Marcus Smart, is currently leading the conference in scoring, but it’s another super soph that’s currently chasing him. That man is Eron Harris. Pacing the Mountaineers with 18.9 ppg, and already torching #10 ranked Wisconsin for 27 points last week, Harris has started his 2nd year on fire. Shooting 51% from 3 point range and not just on limited attempts, he’s doing it while averaging 5.7 long range shots per game. As a 6’3’’ shooting guard, Harris will need to continue his hot shooting and work on his point skills for a couple more years to make the jump to the next level, but shooing translates, and Eron can shoot.
5. Georges Niang - Iowa State
Nerlens Noel’s former high school teammate, Georges Niang, made a name for himself last year by having a nice freshman campaign in Ames. Niang’s productivity as a 6’7’’ stretch center, yes, that is his position, has continued into his second season. He’s taken more of a role in distributing the ball in the high post as well, tallying 4 apg in his first seven games. Georges has already had two games with 10+ points 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists. He isn’t very athletic, nor has the size to play his position at the next level, but if he continues to add new elements to his game and improve on what he does, he might end up getting some looks after his senior season.
But what about Isaiah Austin? I’m sorry, but I’m grading Austin on a curve. Yes, a 7 footer averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds per game for a 9-1 team and a player with 1st round buzz after his freshman year, should be on the list. By name and potential alone, he could get scooped up in the 2nd round in June, but this list is to discuss the top sophomores in the conference, and I don’t feel Austin is playing to that level yet.