Player of the Week
Devin Carter, G, Senior, Arkansas State Red Wolves
Carter is a senior from Illinois who has done great things for the Red Wolves pushing them to a 9-4 record, just two games behind the Sun Belt Conference lead. The 6-foot-4 lefty wing is putting up almost identical numbers as last season. He is averaging 17.3 points per game and is one of the most prolific three-point shooters in college basketball, averaging 8.84 three points shots a game. He also makes a lot of those threes, averaging 40% in his second straight high volume season. He also has been playing some of his best ball over the last two weeks, scoring over 20 in four of the five games and one game going for 33. The team seems to go as he goes. In Arkansas State’s losses, he has shot the ball poorly but in their nine wins, he has shot the ball very well and led his team. In one of his best games of the year, he led Arkansas State to an away game victory over the Georgetown Hoyas early in the season. He scored 25 points and shot 3-6 from three and 10-15 from the field. Just last week, he made an astounding 10-19 three-point attempts. Carter certainly can be streaky, but when he is on he is deadly. He has Arkansas State playing well right now and could make them a difficult out come tournament time.
Mike Daum. F, Sophomore, South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Daum is a 6’9”, 245 pound forward for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, and is having a very productive season despite his team struggling at 7-7. On the year, he is averaging 22.1 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game and has impressive stats of 52 field goal percentage and 91.1 free throw percentage. He has been dominant all season long, especially with his prolific scoring. He has 14 of 15 games in double figures in points, four double-double games in points and rebounds, 10 games with 20+ points and three of them with 30+ points. His scoring can be deadly and he does it somewhat differently than other players. He does not more than six-nine field goals a game, but he loves to get to the charity stripe and cash in with free throws, which he excels at. He has seven games this season with perfect free throw percentages, even games going 16-16 and 13-13. The big, physical player makes contact and draws fouls at a high level. In the last two weeks, he has the Jackrabbits at 3-0 and he has played his best basketball. In his last three games, he has averaged 26.3 points and eight field goal makes a game, including a season high 39 point and 11 rebound effort in an overtime win over Murray State. Like many players that make this blog, he is one of the best, underrated players in the country, especially because he isn’t on the best team. Even though Daum has been consistently good all season, he has been lights-out in the last two weeks especially and has put the Jackrabbits back at .500 and in the thick of the Summit League standings. The kid just knows how to puts points on the board.
DeWayne Russell, G, Senior, Grand Canyon Antelopes
Russell has been a scoring machine for the Antelopes this season as he is averaging 25.2 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 4.9 assists per game. Russell has led his squad to an 8-5 record and at third in the Western Athletic Conference. What Russell does so well is he finds ways to score without settling for outside jumpers. He doesn’t shoot a lot of threes a game, but still makes 7, 8, 9+ field goals a game and knocks in a nice chunk of free throws. In his last week, he has led his team to three straight wins and has scores of 22, 27 and 31 points in those games (the last game he made 6-of-8 three pointers and he went 13-13 in free throws in the 27-point game). Even in some of the losses his team has had this year, he has shown up and played his best basketball. Earlier this year against the top-ten ranked team Louisville, he poured in 42 points off 14 made field goals and 11-16 free throws in a loss to the Cardinals. Russell has the competitive fire in him and will play his best basketball against just about any team Grand Canyon plays. He has a nose for scoring and enjoys competition. The senior will try to get his team playing their best ball as the season hits the mid-way point and conference play.
Marc Eddy Norelia, F, Senior, Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
It’s been quite a disappointing season for Norelia so far. Last season, Norelia led the Eagles and was largely responsible for their post season berth and single victory in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 17.1 points per game and shot a nice 54 percent from the field. This season began with Norelia missing the first four games with injury, which the Eagles went 1-3 in. He then returned for the next seven games but never played well and had other problems. He got mixed minutes in games, some with 20+ and others with less than 10. He never got his scoring going, only going in double figures twice and a high of 13. His stats were not mind blowing and he could not bring back his play from last season. What has especially hurt his season start is that he has now missed the last three games with “personal problems”. Even though FGCU is at 9-5 on the season and tied for first in the Atlantic Sun Conference, they will need Norelia’s previous strong play and leadership if they have any chance of making the big dance, let alone winning a game again.
Top 5 Mid Major Freshman
5. Bryce Aiken, G, Harvard Crimson
Aiken plays on a mediocre Ivy League school and only averages 12.4 points per game. So how can he make this list? He has one of the best free throw shooters in all of college basketball. He shoots 94.1 percent from the line, only missing two free throws all year having six games perfect from there. He leads all freshman in free throw percentage and is ninth in the nation. He does have a scoring touch and can top 20 points like he did in his last game at Houston.
4. Luwane Pipkins, G, Massachusetts Minutemen
Pipkins has been a great spark to the Minutemen this season in keeping them well in the hunt as an Atlantic 10 season contender. He averages 12.3 points per game but his biggest impact comes on the defensive side. He averages 3.3 steals per game, which leads all college freshman and is number four in all of college basketball. He has games this year with seven and eight steals and is a menace playing the ball.
3. Oscar Frayer, F, Grand Canyon Antelopes
Another Antelope gets on the list and while Frayer doesn’t have as big an impact as DeWayne Russell, he has played a big part and will be important going forward. He averages 9.6 points per game and though the rest of his stats are not stellar right now. What he does have is potential, potential to be a great scorer and facilitator like Russell. He has a couple games this year of scoring in the upper teens of points and shooting a high percentage. With his size and athleticism, he is an interesting player to keep an eye on going forward.
2. Michael Weathers, G, Miami (OH) Redhawks
Weathers is a freshman guard who loves to do it all: score, pass, rebound. He averages 19.5 points per game, 5 rebounds per game and 4.8 assists per game. He loves to fill up the stat sheet every night, always scoring upwards in the 20’s or 30’s in points and getting his healthy share of board and dimes. He is one of the most complete freshman and guards in college basketball and a true facilitator floor general.
1. Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga Bulldogs
It’s hard not to put one of the best young big men who plays on one of the best college basketball teams first on this list. Collins was one of the best young players out of high school last year, one of the top players out of Nevada and he chose to play under Mark Few and the Zags. The 7’0” Collins comes off the bench right now, but still averages 17.1 minutes per game. He scores 10.9 points per game and has an incredibly efficient 73.8 field goal percentage, including a 21 point, 9-9 field goal shooting game against South Dakota on Wednesday. Collins has all the intangibles to be an elite college basketball player in the coming years and is already fitting right in with an excellent Gonzaga Bulldog squad. He also will be heavily considered for the NBA with his size/strength and ability to stretch the floor. Collins could easily be making this list in the weeks to come by becoming one of the best freshman in the country.