A Star is Born in the Northwest

Player of the Week

Dejounte Murray - Washington

Dejounte MurrayDejounte MurrayMurray is quickly becoming one of the top freshmen prospects in the country. With a streetball handle and tremendous quickness off the dribble, he's a handful to contain one on one. His outside shot remains a work in progress, but Murray is a prospect to track, as his upside is substantial.

The Huskies had a great opening to Pac-12 play, winning both of their games in truly thrilling fashion. The freshman guard is a huge reason why the Huskies have had such a positive start. In the first game of the week against UCLA, Murray was average. However, against USC, Murray took over and was the driving force in the Huskies came back. The USC game obviously changed with the Julian Jacobs injury, but more on that later. The freshman guard scored 29 points on 11 of 22 shooting while chipping in five boards, two assists and three steals. Murray scored 19 of his points in the second half and helped the Huskies erase a 20 point deficit.

Dejounte [D-Jon-tee] is certainly a very intriguing player. The freshman is long, lanky and can drive to the rim as well as anybody. He does have some work to do defensively, but what freshman doesn't? Murray has shows steady improvement in all aspects and is finding more ways to score, regardless of what Washington leading scoer Andrew Andrews does from night to night. Murray is averaging six boards and four assists a game, while also chipping in almost two steals. If the freshman works on his three-point shot and starts to make them consistently, he can become a terrific player. Look for he and Markelle Fultz to make up the most exciting backcourt in the country next season.

Who’s Hot

Julian Jacobs - USC

The 6-foot-4 junior, Jacobs is a really fun player to watch due to his elite level leaping ability and tendency to finish drives off with highlight funks. He can spread the floor, drive by anybody and usually finds the open man. Not only is Jacobs great with the ball, but when Jordan Mclaughlin is handling the rock Jacobs as free reign to move and jump through the roof for an alley oop. As they proved against Arizona, winning in quadruple OT, USC is for real, the team is shooting threes at a better rate and even plays some defense.

Ivan Rabb - California

Even though California lost to Oregon, I have to keep Rabb on the list. The freshman forward is really the only player on the Golden Bear’s roster that is consistently playing well. Some scouts thought he would need some time acclimating to college play, but that has not been the case. Rabb was great against Utah and Jakob Poeltl, scoring 19 points with 10 boards shooting 7-for-11. Against Oregon, Rabb struggled getting into foul trouble, showing he is still learning to play defense at the college level. Rabb is a monster in the paint. He doesn't block that many shots, but boy can he rebound. The freshman seems to be everywhere in the box, especially in offense. Rabb scores many of his points on simple put backs, but he still has to be in the right place and have the hustle and ability to grab those offensive boards. The next step for Rabb will be working on recovering when helping on defense.

My Top 5 Nicknames in the Pac-12

5. The Unsung Hero - Chris Boucher - Oregon

Boucher is the glue guy for a really good team, without getting the press he deserves. Boucher is the Duck’s only rim protecter, and he also knocks down the 3 ball. The junior forward probably isn’t NBA material but he is a difference maker for the Ducks. Boucher is a cat in the paint, seemingly everywhere when a shot goes up. Lacking much body strength, it's surprising that the he is able to rebound and block three shots a game. On a team that plays at a breakneck pace, it’s extremely hard to be the lone shot blocker. Kudos to Boucher for doing all the dirty work, without the noteriety.

4. The Bricklayer - Brandon Taylor - Utah

Okay this one is kind of mean, but I just can’t resist. Hey, at least Taylor played well against Cal. But seriously, this team can be so much better if the senior guard actually played within himself and stopped forcing so many shots. Taylor is still shooting 37 percent from the field with a 25 percent three point percentage. It would be fine if Taylor wasn’t one of the primary ball-handlers for the Utes, but he is. It's come to the point that every time he shoots, it seems to be a bad shot (especially when people are in his face) but he has never been this bad of a three point shooter before. Just last year, Taylor shot 43% from three. But Taylor no longer has Delon Wright to take of all the pressure from him. I’m rooting for the senior guard to turn it around.

3. The One-Man Band - Gary Payton II - Oregon St.

Sorry Beaver fans, but it seems that Oregon St. is again just that, a one-man band. I cannot understand why there isn't more buzz surrounding Payton II going to the NBA. The senior guard is a monster in almost every facet of the game. He is an incredible defender, a willing passer, a really strong rebounder and has the ability to score. Not only is he great on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, but Payton II is a standout athlete, in addition. I understand that his three-point shooting isn't great, but I’m positive he can improve. Even if he doesn't, his father wasn't a great three-point shooter either and he turned out okay.

2. The Wall - Jakob Poeltl - Utah

The sophomore forward has been a beast all year, shooting a great percentage and playing some great defense. In the past I have been hard on Poeltl for his slow feet, but he seems to have improved this year. The sophomore forward alters everything near the rim, this cannot be overstated. Opponents just change their shot knowing that Poeltl is right in front of them, about to block their jump-shot. Poeltl is like a shorter Roy Hibbert, with better touch on offense. The sophomore gets this nickname simply by being the best rim protector in the Pac-12.

1. The Gunner - Bryce Alford - UCLA

There is only one answer for this question in the entire nation, Alford taking “the gunner” title in a landslide. Seriously I would put the junior guard against any other player in the NCAA when describing a gunner. Dude has got onions the size of Canada. A typical Alford performance would see him shooting 6 of 17 with a couple of bad turnovers, a couple of assists and the game winning shot. The confidence in this man is truly something to watch. The games against both Washington and Arizona were stereotypical Alford games. The guard shoots 5 for 21 in Washington and sends the game into overtime, then double overtime with some awesome three point shots. Against Arizona, in basically a must win for UCLA, Alford turns in his best game of the season, shooting 9-18 for 25 points six assists four rebounds zero turnovers and the fading three-point shot for the game winner. The gunner is the player almost everyone hates, even his own fans, yet he constantly hits game winning shots. Never change Bryce Alford, never change.

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