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Player of the Week

Georges Niang - Iowa State

Georges NiangGeorges NiangFor the first time in the Hoiberg era, Iowa State has strung together two consecutive road wins during conference play. Leading the charge for the Cyclones is junior forward, Georges Niang. As well balanced as always, Niang was a box score filler as Iowa State knocked off Oklahoma State and Texas on the road this week.

Averaging 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game during this stretch, his poise and broad range of contributions were key in attaining this recent success away from Hilton Coliseum. Niang has been hitting three pointers at career high clip this season (.405%), and this week he connected on his long range attempts at an even higher 50% mark. As we are rapidly approaching the post season, Iowa State is firing on all cylinders, and Georges' play this past week was crucial in recent surge of the Cyclones.

Who’s Hot

Kendal Yancy - Texas

After a steady start to the season, Texas’ sophomore guard, Kendal Yancy, has recently been producing at a level that reminds us all of his ESPN Top 100 recruiting rank in 2013. Yancy torched Iowa State for 29 points Saturday night, including a 6-9 outburst from beyond the three point arc, which makes three double digit scoring outputs in his last four games. Just a few days before, he went for 14 point points and 6 rebounds in a road loss to Oklahoma. Yancy’s weekly averages were 21.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game and 2 assists per game on 48% shooting from the field. Kendal and company have some work to do in order to solidify a tournament birth for the Longhorns, but having another scorer riding a hot streak is a positive variable for Texas.

Perry Ellis - Kansas

Kansas has recently had trouble closing out on the road, but their most seasoned starter, Perry Ellis, has been doing his best to keep the Jayhawks scoring column headed upward. The 6'8'' Junior, has been scoring 19.6 points per game over Kansas' last 5 games, and he's done so on 59% shooting from the field, and 100% (3-3) from beyond the arc. Ellis has been a terror on the block, and really using his experience and array of both face up and back to the basket moves to get the most of opposing teams. He's also chipped in 7.2 rebounds per game during this span, as well as a steal per contest. The Jayhawks will continue to need Perry's scoring output and experience as the regular season comes to a close, as Kansas has now dropped to half game lead in the Big 12 standings, and faces Texas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma to round out the conference season.

Who’s Not

Buddy Heild - Oklahoma

Oklahoma has been winning lately, but their star wing Buddy Hield has recently been cold from the field. A deadly long range marksman, and dynamic offensive option, Buddy has mustered just 7-29 shooting in the Sooners' past two victories. Scoring just 10 points per game in this span, and even failing to earn a trip to the charity stripe in a win against Texas Tech, Hield has not looked like his normal self. Like all shooters, cold patches are expected, but with Oklahoma contending for the regular season crown, and facing both Iowa State and Kansas in their last 3 games, Buddy's offensive contribution will most likely need to expand if OU hopes to make a final charge to the top of the Big 12 standings.

Top 5 Under the Radar Freshmen

As usual, the Big 12 is packed full of high level recruits. Many of these blue chippers are poised for a one and one exodus from college basketball, but these 5 players are names to keep an eye on going into next year and beyond. Most likely 3 or 4 year players, these freshmen have more work to do on their games, but still have next level appeal if they continue to build on solid freshmen seasons.

1. Johnathan Motley - Baylor

What he’s shown

After taking a redshirt season in 2013-14, Johnathan Motley made his freshman debut this year, and quickly earned a spot in the starting lineup for Baylor. At 6’9’’, 230 pounds, and reportedly sporting a 7’3.5’’ wingspan and 9’1.5’’ standing reach, he has the physical tools to play the power forward spot at the next level. Motley has quickly established himself as a tough player to shoot over (1.5 bpg), and although his offensive game is still coming along, he’ll occasionally showcase his soft shooting touch, range, and execute advanced post moves that will raise an eyebrow. This kind of foundation gives him some real appeal as a stretch 4, with some defensive upside if he continues to hone his accuracy and shot selection. He’s already a 64% free throw shooter, and by the time he’s ready to test the draft waters, it’s not a far stretch to predict he’ll be over 70% from the charity stripe.

What he needs to work on

Motley gained 20 pounds of muscle during his redshirt season, which has vastly helped him battle the bruisers of the Big 12, but you can tell he’s still getting used to his new physique. Continued physical maturity, and adjustment will come naturally, and will most likely aid in his athleticism. At the moment, he’s mobile, but not particularly explosive or powerful. Motley struggles to finish through contact, which is evident by his 40% field goal percentage. More reps are key with Johnathan as well. He can do some things on the block, such as fade aways, hooks and has solid footwork, but becoming more comfortable and experienced in these situations is what will make him a real low post and face up threat.

2. Zach Smith - Texas Tech

What he’s shown

The most intriguing element of Zach Smith is his elite athleticism. Reports have surfaced of Smith possessing a 45 inch vertical leap, and if you take a minute on youtube to check out his dunking ability, it doesn’t seem like an embellished number. Smith is also more than a dunker. He’s earned Tubby Smith’s trust as Texas Tech’s go to defensive player, often given the task of handling the opposing team’s best forward. Blocking 1.5 shots per game, and showing the ability to guard on the perimeter make him an intriguing prospect defensively. Smith also has a good feel for the game, and has shown the ability to execute heady passes, especially in the high post. Zach has really hit his stride lately in Big 12 play. Over his last 6 games, the 6’8’’ forward has averaged 8.6 points per game on 66% shooting from the field and 60% from 3 point range. He’s also chipped in 4.8 rpg 2.3 apg 1.5 bpg and 1 spg in that same span.

What he needs to work on

Smith has a good foundation, but he needs polish and more experience. At 6’8’’ and weighing in at 210 pounds, he is going to have to make the transition to the 3 spot in the NBA. Defensively, I don’t think this will be an issue, but although Smith has shown a good basketball IQ, and some budding ball handling and outside shooting ability, he needs many reps to get his offensive game to NBA standards. Smith doesn’t need too much more weight, but added strength would make his athleticism that much more scary. A young kid, he doesn’t dunk through players yet, but continued maturity and strength will make Zach a highlight waiting to happen.

3. Devonte Graham - Kansas

Late bloomer, Devonte Graham went from an Appalachian State commit, to playing major minutes for Kansas in the span of a year, and he seems to be a player on the upward swing. Both a true point guard, and a player with a great jump shot, Graham can both guide an offense and set up teammates, as well as knock down shots. Devonte shoots 41% from the 3 point line, and has a 2.15 assist to turnover ratio as a college freshman. From an NBA standpoint, Graham also has the handle, and ability to create separation needed to both work in the drive and kick game and get shots for himself. A willing defender, Graham will give up some size in the NBA, but has long arms, lateral quickness, but more importantly the mindset to commit on the defensive end.

What he needs to work on

Despite being a good shooter, both spotting up and off the dribble, Devonte struggles from the free throw line. He shoots just 70% from the charity stripe, and for a guard prospect, this clip is on the low end. Although he’s 6’2’’, which is pretty solid for an NBA point, Graham is thin, and will need to see serious strength gains in order to hang with older, and more physically imposing guards. Of all the prospects on this list, Devonte is the most polished, but he still needs more reps. What he can do for a top 10 team at such a young age, and at a position where he handles the ball frequently is impressive, but just continued polish and adding to his skill set paired with experience will probably do him the most good.

4. Isaiah Manderson - Texas Tech

What he’s shown

The first thing Isaiah Manderson has shown is his size. He stands 6’10’’ tall, and is listed at 235 pounds, although I feel he’s probably a little heavier. Manderson is more chiseled than your average college freshman, and he’s willing to throw around his weight down on the block. Not overly athletic, Isaiah still moves well for a player his size, and he’s a strong finisher ( 73.9% at the rim according to hoop-math.com ). He also possesses soft hands, and has shown surprising touch around the rim this season. Because of his frame, he’s not an easy guy to move defensively. Although not a high flier or a real shot blocker, Isaiah can stand his ground, and make buckets close to the rim tough to come by. He recently started his first game and tallied 13 points 8 rebounds and 2 assists against Oklahoma, and earlier in the season he racked up 10 quick points against the burly front line of Texas.

What he needs to work on

Isaiah needs serious work on his post footwork. He is still a tad robotic when operating down low, and more reps and a higher comfort level will help towards smoothing out his low block fluidity. In addition, his shot is a ways away, and although his main offensive potential is in the paint, a steady jump hook and being able to knock down free throws are important components to being a modern center. Manderson is also a true center, and he’ll need to continue to work on his strength, especially since he’s not particularly tall for an NBA five man. He also needs to work on his defense away from the hoop. Not every defensive assignment is going to stay in the paint. Gaining a higher comfort level guarding face up big men will be a necessity in the NBA.

5. Khadeem Lattin - Oklahoma

What he’s shown

Standing at 6’9’’ tall and sporting a massive 7’2’’ wingspan, Oklahoma forward, Khadeem Lattin has worked his way into the regular rotation for Oklahoma’s veteran squad. Lattin’s length and athletic ability has made him a presence guarding the rim, and he’s blocking .9 shots per game in just 11.5 minutes per contest (3.13 per 40 minutes). Khadeem also runs the floor very well, has very good athleticism for a 6’9’’ player, and has the potential to develop into a very good pick and roll defender, as well as a player who is capable of contesting and block shots in the NBA.

What he needs to work on

Lattin is very thin at 200 pounds, and continued work on his frame at Oklahoma will be key in making the transition to the NBA. Khadeem is also a very raw offensive player, who struggles from the free throw line. A player who will never really be looked at for his offensive prowess, any development will help his cause, and make him more appealing to pro teams. Foul trouble is something Khadeem also struggles with, but a 19 year old shot blocker struggling with fouls is more the norm, and not a red flag. Playing smarter when contesting shots is just something he needs to continue to polish.

Follow David Ray on Twitter @DR_NBADraft

RealtreeByGod
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Oh, come on. How does Juwan

Oh, come on. How does Juwan Staten not get a mention? In wins over Kansas, @ Okie State, and Texas averaged 16 points & 5 assists. Shot 47% from the field, 90% from the line, and hit a game-winning layup against KU.

tom ford
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Halesalex14
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