Man Among Boys
Player of the Week (Games 11/8 - 11/17)
Julius Randle - Kentucky
Randle's combination of size, athleticism and skill set is almost unguardable. He's been arguably the most impressive freshman thus far and that's saying something with the way that Duke's Jabari Parker has played. The game seems to come so easy to Randle who has posted double doubles in every game for the Wildcats so far this season. He shook off a shaky first half and took over in the second half of the Michigan State game at the Champion's Classic and almost single-handedly brought his team back.
Coach Cal realized during that game that Randle is much more effective lining up on the right block instead of the left. He's a south paw so being able to get to the middle from that side using his left hand allows him to finish once he gets to the rim. Randle looks like a man among boys out there whether he's posting up on the block or facing up and attacking the basket off the dribble. He's shooting more than 10 free throws per contest so far and it is hard to imagine that number coming down much after seeing how aggressive he is on that end of the floor.
The biggest knock thus far is that at times he gets ahead of himself and turns the ball over. He had eight against the Spartans, most of them in the first half, that really helped dig that hole that the team couldn't quite climb out of. With his ability, Randle doesn't need to force anything or try to make the highlight reel play every time he touches the ball. The sooner he figures that out and allows the game to come to him for a full 40 minutes, the better off he'll be. But at this point there's very little to complain about or critique when it comes to Randle.
Casey Prather - Florida
Head Coach Billy Donovan knew the potential that Prather had as a top 100 recruit coming out of high school back in 2010. What Donovan didn't know was that it would take all four years to develop and harness that potential. After the past three years of battling injuries and inconsistent play, Prather looks to have turned the corner. With the Gators riddled by injuries and suspensions, Prather has taken over as the team's go-to scorer and leader on the court along with Patric Young.
Casey's jump shot is improved and should continue to improve as his confidence continues to score but it is his willingness to attack the basket more this season that has him playing the best basketball of his career. Some of it has to do with his current mind set but the majority of Prather's new found success is because Billy Donovan and the team need him to score and aren't loaded full of shot taking guards that seemed to be the team's calling card over the last few seasons. Prather's an athletic, bouncy forward with a lot of skill. It seems odd to describe a senior as someone who still has upside and hasn't hit his ceiling but that's exactly what Prather has. He hasn't yet reached his full potential and with ample opportunities being thrown his way early in the season, he's taking full advantage of them and climbing his way up draft boards.
Johnny OBryant III - LSU
Color me as one of the people that was surprised, yet pleased with O'Bryant's decision to come back to school for his junior year. I figured he would try and parlay his late season success and string of double doubles into a draft selection. He ended up making the right choice in coming back to school and through the team's first two games, he's been a beast on both ends of the floor. He seems to want to keep his double double string intact early on as he's notched two of them in the team's first two games. At 6'9 he's got good size for the PF position which is where he projects at the next level and has a wide wing span on top of that. He still doesn't shoot the ball at a high enough percentage for a post player and still takes too many jump shots but he's a great rebounder and an improving shot blocker and defender.
The Tigers were one of my surprise teams coming into the season with a roster full of talented players that can hang with any team in the league not named Kentucky. With O'Bryant playing as well as he has early on, this team will turn some heads once they hit their stride and into league play.
Patric Young - Florida
On the flip side of what teammate Casey Prather is doing, Young is a guy who seems to have taken a step back early on during his senior year. Young was touted as a potential one and one prospect coming into college but just hasn't been able to develop any type of offensive game. He's got an NBA ready body and is an above average rebounder and defender on the block but he lacks any type of polish on his offensive game. His range on his jump shot leaves a lot to be desired and he really doesn't have a go-to move in the post. His numbers are down across the board from last year to this year and on a team where they have needed scoring for the first few weeks, it is a bit concerning that Young hasn't asserted himself more on the offensive end.
While there likely will still be a spot for him on an NBA roster simply because of his size, rebounding ability and defense, Young has gone from a can't miss type of prospect that was a potential lotto pick to a borderline draft pick guy who will likely have to fight for a guaranteed contract his first few years in the league. It is still early and things can turn around rather quickly in this game but for a guy who has regressed each of the last two years, time might be running out on him to recapture the hype he was receiving nationally in his freshman season.
Top 5 Seniors
Patric Young - Florida
As mentioned above, Young is a guy who has never really reached his full potential and is still searching for any type of consistent offensive game outside of dunks and put backs but he's still very talented and is one of the top seniors in the conference if only for his defense and rebounding capabilities.
Jordan McRae - Tennessee
McRae is a guy that doesn't get a lot of love from most people. Part of that is because he plays for Tennessee, a team that has underperformed the last few seasons after being extremely relevant during the Bruce Pearl years, and part of that is because he's not flashy and doesn't make the SC Top 10 on a regular basis. He was a top 50 player coming out of high school and has done nothing but improve over his four years at Tennessee. Therein lies part of the problem as most scouts look past guys like McRae that take the full four years to develop. It's a flawed system and guys like McRae who can do a little bit of everything are punished for it. He's currently projected as a mid to late second round pick.
Casey Prather - Florida
Prather might not have made this list a few weeks ago but with his superb play early on, he's vaulted himself into the conversation. He's got some things that NBA scouts would love. He's got decent size for the wing position, is athletic and can score in a few different ways. He has the tools to be a solid defender as well but he still hasn't taken that step. He needs to work on his ball handling skills and consistency on his jump shot but he will get a chance at the next level if he keeps playing like he has early on. He's currently projected as a mid to late second round pick.
Marshall Henderson - Ole Miss
If you're an Ole Miss fan then you love Henderson. If you're a fan of anyone else then his antics and personality probably rubs you like sandpaper. He's had his troubles off the court for sure but on the court there's no doubt that Henderson can make plays and help his team win. He's a classic chucker and can shoot his teams out of games just as easily as he can shoot them back in but he brings energy every single night and is always a threat to get hot from deep and bury a team. He's as important of a player to a team as you'll find in the SEC this season. As he goes so will Ole Miss. He's currently projected to go undrafted.
Jeronne Maymon - Tennessee
Maymon doesn't have any real pro prospects but that doesn't mean he's not still a solid college player. He's a bit undersized for his position standing around 6'8 but probably a little shorter than that and he doesn't necessarily do anything great. He's a good rebounder and has a few decent post moves along with a wide body like his front court mate Jarnell Stokes but he doesn't have elite athleticism or length. He's not effective outside of the paint and can't do much off the dribble. Still, he's a good player and will be huge in Tennessee's fight to get back to the NCAA Tournament this season.
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