Player of the Year
Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
This young man is the leading scorer for the top team in the NCAA. That alone says a lot about him as a player. His scoring is very efficient for someone who can score from just about anywhere on the court. When the Zags find themselves in trouble, as they did in their Conference tourney match up with BYU, Kispert is the player they call on for scoring to bail them out. his 3-point shooting is elite.
This season, Kispert shot 54.4 percent from the field 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. Since there are three other players on his team scoring in doubles figures, he doesn’t have to deal with the pressure of carrying the team, he can just play his game and the team succeeds because of it. Kispert is this year’s top senior and also the draft’s top shooter. he has made a solid claim for being a lottery pick in the 2021 draft.
(Runner Up) Player of the Year
Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky
Coming off a terrible knee injury last year, the 6’11 junior out of Nigeria bounced back showing surprising mobility and athleticism. Despite falling short of the NCAA tourney, he had a superb season stuffing the stat sheet on both ends of the floor for the Hilltoppers. Bassey has made an improvement in scoring production per game in each of his three seasons at Western Kentucky. In under 30 minutes played per game, his stat line is outstanding. 17.6 points per game on 61 percent shooting, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.1 blocked shots per game. An 18-6 overall record for the Hilltoppers is in large part because of the consistency of Bassey’s production on both sides of the basketball.
This young man will run the floor and perform in transition basketball as well as the halfcourt offense in the post. He will protect the rim. Bassey is an efficient, valuable player for his team on both ends of the court and that should continue at the next level. If he can improve range and consistency on his jumpshot, he will add yet another weapon to his repertoire. While Bassey’s skill set and game fits the NBA from a few decades ago much better than today’s game, his improvement in mobility and range helps his cause. Look for bassey to find a spot in the late first to early second round on draft night.
Freshman of the Year
Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
Suggs has been the engine of the impressive Gonzaga squad all season long. The 6’4 freshman averaged 14.3 points per contest on 51 percent shooting from the floor to go with 5.5 boards and 4.5 assists per game.
Suggs did just about everything outside of selling popcorn, for his team in a win over BYU. The Minnesota native poured in 23 points, five assists, five boards, a steal and a blocked shot. Suggs averaged two steals per game in his one season at Gonzaga which in and of itself is impressive and says a lot about his heart on the defensive side of things. One aspect of his game that could use improvement is efficiency with outside shooting. Suggs shot 35 percent on the season from beyond the arc but there are a lot of games where he didn’t make one three or sometimes even attempt one. Improving his outside shooting consistency would add a whole new dimension to his already impressive offensive game.
Coach of the Year
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Coach Few and the Zags have had a sensational season thus far. With a 26-0 overall record, you have to ask yourself, how? This is a well coached team that is disciplined on both ends of the court. They don’t get too high or too low and it shows in their flawless record.
There are four Zags averaging double figures this season. We already discussed Jalen Suggs impact and potential. Corey Kispert is actually the teams’ leading scorer with an efficient 19.2 points per game on 54 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from deep. Drew Timme is the other forward on the squad who opponents have a hard time matching up with. Joel Ayayi also provides a spark at the guard position on both offense and defense. It will be super exciting to see how Coach Few and this poised Gonzaga team respond when push comes to shove in the NCAA tournament.
Taevion Kinsey, Marshall
The 6’5 junior made a jump from his freshman year production to sophomore year, and an even more significant jump in his junior year. Kinsey averaged just under 20 points per game this season for the Thundering Herd with 19.5 on 41 percent shooting from beyond the arc and an efficient 53 percent from the field.
Kinsey is an exceptional shooting guard who has a clean stroke and can create plays in a number of ways. He can handle the ball and set teammates up as well as get to his own spots whether its a pullup jumper or a drive to the basket. This young man is taking much better care of the basketball this year compared to his sophomore year where he averaged three turnovers per game. This season it is below two turnovers per game which means he is clearly more careful and smart with the basketball. A 15-7 overall record is a testament to how productive Kinsey has been this year. He is a very tough player to defend, and there is room for him to become a stronger defender and ultimately more of a two way player.
Top G-League (Ignite) Prospects
1. Jalen Green
Mr. Green has been quite the talk in recent weeks with his performances in G-league games for the Ignite. He’s demonstrated he’s an athletic scoring machine who can adjust based on what the defense is giving him, going either right or left and finishing with either hand. He’s 6’5 with nearly a 6’8 wingspan and dangerous in the open court. Green can really unlock more to his game than we have seen if he can improve his jumper and be more efficient with it. If he’s gonna pull up for jumpers in transition off the dribble, he has to make that shot at a higher percentage.
Kuminga is exactly what a lot of NBA scouts turn their heads at, a 6’8 athletic forward with versatility to be placed in more than one position. Another member of the Ignite, Kuminga has posted a number of double double performances this season and has shown just how many things he can do. Of course at his size and natural ability, Kuminga is a solid player but if he works on his outside shot to where he can consistently hit the open three, he can potentially become an elite forward. At only 18 years old, he has plenty of room to grow.
3. Daishen Nix
Yet another member of the Ignite, Nix is a 6’4 dual threat of a point guard. He takes what the defense gives him rather making premeditated decisions. Superb ball handler with tremendous court vision. While he isn’t the most athletic guard, he does finish around the basket well thanks to his size as well as craftiness and soft touch. He is able to hit the deep three without hesitating as well. Nix should fit right in with a squad who needs a complete point guard. If he can improve his conditioning and body tone, he could enhance his quickness and mobility at the next level.
4. Isaiah Todd
Todd is a 6’10 power forward who’s able to post up in the halfcourt as well as face up and create his own shot. He has shown he is able to step back on the perimeter and hit jumpers as well. He’s able to finish through contact around the rim and has a soft touch. While his jumper is a strength, he shouldn’t settle for it too often as his post game is effective. Maybe the most intriguing development out of todd was how engaged he was on the defensive end. he was arguable the best defensive player of the four “experimental’ kids. A valuable facet of his game is that he can start the offense off a defensive rebound and or run the floor in transition. He has potential to be an elite versatile defender but needs to work on footwork and staying in front of the smaller quick players. Todd showed better than expected consistency and focus and will oprobably find himself taken in the second round on draft night.