Hungry Like the Wolf
Player of the Week
Cam Oliver, F, Sophomore, Nevada Wolfpack
Malik Pope’s season struggles so far for San Diego State have dampened the mood in the Mountain West Conference after he was supposed to have a breakout season. It has been another Mountain West player that has picked up the slack and is having his own breakout season. Cameron Oliver of Nevada is playing exceptionally well and has the Wolfpack at 9-2 and in first in the Mountain West. Last season as a freshman, he had a strong freshman season averaging 13.4 points per game, 50.8 percent from the field and an impressive 9.1 rebounds. This season he is playing even better. He has averages of 16.2 points per game, 3.2 blocks per game and is shooting 48 percent from the field and from three. His 24 of 50 three point shooting confirms that his outside shot is no fluke. Along with his great scoring touch, he is a commander on the boards and on defense. A freakish athlete, he has eight games with at least three blocks, and three with five blocks. He has been in double figures in points every game but one, while leading the team in rebounding. In the past week, he led Nevada to two hard-fought victories against UC Irvine and Washington, a Huskie team that is led by soon to be top 5 pick Markelle Fultz. Cam scored 18 points in both games and had three blocks in both as well, with one game having nine rebounds. Oliver has been an extremely versatile and explosive player in the country so far. He is showing off his athleticism in non-conference play, making the conference games so much more interesting. Oliver was one of the mid major players to watch coming into this season and he is not disappointing or failing to show why he was so highly touted. He will certainly be watched when he starts playing other Mountain West squads, including matchups with last year’s conference champ San Diego State and Malik Pope. Don’t expect his play to waver anytime soon. If he keeps playing this well, Cam may need to change his nickname to "GoPro".
Semi Ojeleye, F, Junior, SMU Mustangs
Ojeleye made this list back in November as a “Who’s Hot” player and he has not showed signs of slowing down. This season he is averaging 17.6 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game and is shooting 47 percent from the field. Ojeleye could be called a “feast of famine” kind of guy; he puts up a lot of shots on average and he usually either makes a lot of them or misses a lot of them. It is this mentality that has his team playing so well, sitting at 8-3 and near the top of the talented American Athletic Conference. In the last week or two, he has games scoring 23 and 16 points, including a quality win over TCU, who leads the Big 12 conference. He makes more than he misses usually and is leading his Mustang team. The former Duke transfer is making a name for himself in his conference and should continue his torrid pace.
Jordan Washington, F, Senior, Iona Gaels
Jordan Washington is a player here who could easily be the player of the week based on his play. Washington is a player who transferred to Iona after two years of great basketball at junior college. Last season with the Gaels, he played nicely averaging 14.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. This season he has grown to be one of the best players in the MAAC Conference, averaging 17.9 points per game and shooting a blistering 61.5 percent from the floor. Every game, he asserts himself on the boards by cleaning up his usual of six, seven, eight or more a night. He is leading his Iona squad to a 7-3 record and on Monmouth’s tail for first place in the conference. In the last week, he scored 30 and 27 points in respective games that ended up as wins and exploded to begin conference play. He is quickly becoming one of the most dominant big men, let alone overall players, in the MAAC and should have his Iona Gael team thoroughly in the hunt for the conference this season.
Rhode Island Rams
The Rams got off to a great start this season and had high hopes. E.C. Matthews was returning after missing nearly all last season with injury. The team had other promising players in Hassan Martin and Jared Terrell. They Rams were ranked for a couple weeks early on. What has happened to them recently? They have lost three of their last four games, all on the road. In fact, they haven’t won a true road game (non-tournament neutral location) yet this season at 6-4. Earlier in the season, Matthews was balling and leading, but then he took a slump of sorts. Terrell and Martin picked up the slack to keep the team playing well. What is interesting is that finally Matthews has been playing back to his normal self in the last week and the other two are still playing well, but the team has fallen with the losses. When the three of them are fully healthy, they are deadly and can give any team a run for their money. The Rams need to find a way to win road games and then they will climb back into the Atlantic 10 leaders and back into the ranked conversation.
Top Mid Major Players (so far)
5. Jared Brownridge, G, Senior, Santa Clara Broncos
Brownridge is one of the least known players in the country because he plays in the shadow of Gonzaga and his team is not playing that well. Make no mistake, he can ball harder than most and should be talked about as a player of the year candidate. He averages 17.6 points per game, takes a lot of shots each game, and really has a nose for scoring the rock. Just this season, he has 10 games of double figure points, four of them over 20 points and two of them with at least 32 points. At any point, he can light it up from deep, as he already has 31 three-pointers this season. The senior from Illinois is leading his team by example and scoring the ball at will.
4. Nigel Williams Goss, G, Junior, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Any of the top Gonzaga players could really be in this spot, as they are all very deserving of the role for their team’s fantastic start. Williams-Goss gets the nod because he is the recognized leader of the team and one of their best guards and all around players. He averages just 13.4 points per game, but also dishes out 4.7 assists per game and snatches 5 rebounds per game. His versatility on all facets of the game and his leadership of an 10-0 team give him a spot here.
3. Semi Ojeleye, F, Junior, SMU Mustangs
As I explained, Ojeleye is making a huge impact this season on his team, in his conference and on the country. The transfer from Duke came into this season expected to be one of their best players and boy has he not disappointed. From the stats explained above and his overall level of play, he is turning heads his way and leading a Mustang team that can beat some of the best out there.
2. Cam Oliver, F, Sophomore, Nevada Wolfpack
Due to what was said about him above, but especially because he has been this consistent all year long and keeping his Wolfpack team relevant and competitive. Oliver is an athletic presence defensively and on the boards and the fact that he has been so efficient knocking down the three ball makes him a valuable asset.
1. Alec Peters, F, Senior, Valparaiso Crusaders
If Peters doesn’t win player of the year, he should certainly be a nominee for the award and given serious consideration. Even though he doesn’t play in a top conference against top opponents, he has been so consistently good for the Crusaders for the last four years and has not wavered. This season he is almost averaging a double-double, with 25.3 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game and has recorded four double-doubles. Probably his most amazing stat is that he has failed to score less than 20 points in every single game this season (10 games). He is versatile enough to score inside and knock down an outside jumper, making him a nightmare to cover. Peters has been making a name for himself the last three years at Valparaiso and has only been getting better. Hands down the best player that no one is talking about enough.