Player of the Week
Kris Dunn – Providence (G. So., 6-3, 205, New London, Ct.)
Dunn has been playing at an elite level as of late. After missing the majority of his first two years with the Friars due to numerous injuries, the former Top 30 recruit is finally showing why Providence head coach Ed Cooley considered him such a prized recruit coming out of high school. The sophomore has missed just one game so far this season due to a high ankle sprain. Other than that, he’s made starts in 12 of the team’s first 13 games. In the Friar’s last two wins over Massachusetts and Miami (FL), the 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.5 points on 65 percent shooting, including 50 percent from deep, 5.0 rebounds, 12.0 assists and 4.0 steals. He notched double-doubles in both victories. He now has three double-doubles this season and in his career.
Against Massachusetts, Dunn finished with 16 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and tied his career-high with five steals. His assists and steals totals were both team highs. Two nights later, he went for 15 points, a team-high 13 assists, and three rebounds against Miami. He scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half. Dunn used his long, wiry and athletic frame to force turnovers in the passing lanes and spark the Friars’ transition game. He came up with a game-high three steals against the Hurricanes.
LaDontae Henton – Providence (F, Sr., 6-6, 215, Lansing, Mich.)
Nicknamed “Superman,” senior forward LaDontae Henton has lived up to that billing this season. He has helped the Friars compensate for the lost of Bryce Cotton, who exhausted his eligibility, and Josh Fortune, who transferred to Colorado in July. This week it was much of the same, as he averaged 26.0 points on 56 percent shooting from the field, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.5 steals in the team’s two wins over Massachusetts and Miami. He led his team in scoring in both games with 27 and 25 points, respectively. Both were game-highs as well. At 6-foot-6, Henton was too much for Miami’s undersized perimeter players. He was in a great rhythm on offense, duplicating his 10-for-19 shooting performance against Massachusetts. The senior scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half.
Chris Obekpa – No. 17 St. John’s (F, Jr., 6-10, 240, Makurdi, Nigeria)
The 6-foot-10 center had a dominant showing in the Johnnies 66-49 victory over Long Beach St. Even with an unpolished and raw offensive game, Obekpa managed to pick up his fourth double-figures scoring game of the season, netting 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. The most impressive aspect of his performance came on the defensive end, which is why he’s considered a top NBA prospect in the Big East despite his limitations on offense (speaking of offensive limitations; he did hit a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper in the second half). The junior center grabbed eight rebounds and blocked six shots. Whether it was on a rotation or on a post-up by an opposing big, Obekpa was a man on a mission when it came to protecting the rim. St. John’s game plan was to run Long Beach State’s perimeter players off the three-point line and into the paint. That turned out to be a smart move on the behalf of head coach Steve Lavin, as Obekpa was a major reason why the 49ers shot just 32 percent in the game and could not get clean looks at the rim.
Jayvaughn Pinkston – No. 7 Villanova (F, Sr., 6-7, 235, Brooklyn, Ny.)
Pinkston turned in his best all-around performance of the season in Villanova’s 82-77 overtime win over Syracuse. He scored a game-high 25 points on 9-for-19 shooting. He added a game-high 10 rebounds, three steals, a team-high two blocks, and one assist. After the Wildcats trailed for more than 39 minutes of regulation, Pinkston tied the game at 69 on a layup with 4.2 seconds left to force overtime. The game-tying bucket was set up by a Pinkston steal, after teammate Josh Hart hit a three-pointer to cut Syracuse’ lead to 69-67 with 10.8 seconds remaining. In overtime, the senior came up with a clutch basket and a big block that helped the Wildcats maintain their lead with 15 seconds left. Against N.J.I.T., Pinkston had totals of 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks. He scored most of his points on 10-for-12 shooting from the free throw line.
Duane Wilson – Marquette (G, Fr., 6-2, 185, Milwaukee, Wi.)
Wilson had a few bad games for the Golden Eagles this week. The freshman was virtually non-existent on the offensive side of the ball in Marquette’s wins over Alabama A&M and North Dakota. He shot just 2-for-7 for eight points against the Bulldogs and 1-for-8 for three points against UND. He hasn’t made a three-point shot in his last four games. As a result of his poor play as of late, his minutes have decreased in the last two games in favor of more playing time for sophomore guard JaJuan Johnson. His minutes have decreased from 29.5 over the first nine games of the season, to just 19.0 over the last two.
Kelan Martin – Butler (F, Fr., 6-6, 215, Louisville, Ky.)
After two games in which he shot 50 percent from the field, Martin has shot just 36 percent in his previous two outings, including going 0-for-7 from the three-point line. Martin is a physical forward who usually bullies his way to the basket for easy buckets, but he’s been working on polishing his outside game. Close to 43 percent of his shot attempts come from the three-point line, but he’s shooting just 27 percent from that distance. As the first or second option off the bench on a nightly basis, Martin needs to develop more consistency on offense and make a greater impact in other areas of the game.
Top Five Junior Performers
1. Kellen Dunham – Butler (G, Jr., 6-6, 185, Pendleton, Ind.)
Season Averages: 16.8 PTS, 2.6 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.0 BLK, 0.8 STL
Dunham has played extremely well at point guard for the Butler Bulldogs this season. His 16.8 points per game average is good for the third most in the Big East. The junior is shooting 45 percent from the field, including 43 percent from the three-point line, which ranks eighth in the conference. If there’s one thing that he consistently does well, then that would be shooting the basketball. He’s almost Ray Allen-esque in the way he’s always in the motion. He’s constantly cutting to the basket and running off screens to put himself in position to score and set up for open shots from the perimeter. The Indiana native has not scored less than 11 points in any game this season. His highest scoring outing came against Chattanooga on Nov. 18, when he scored 26 points on 7-for-12 shooting. He also went 10-for-12 from the charity stripe.
2. Sterling Gibbs – Seton Hall (G, Jr., 6-2, 185, Scotch Plains, N.J.)
Season Averages: 15.4 PTS, 1.4 REB, 3.2 AST, 0.0 BLK, 1.3 STL
Known more as a scorer than a distributor, Gibbs is the fourth leading scorer in the conference with an average of 15.4 points per game. He leads Seton Hall in scoring, is second in assists, and is tied for second in steals. The junior went off for 40 points earlier in the season against Illinois State. He shot 10-for-14 from the floor, 7-for-9 from the beyond the arc and 13-for-13 from the free throw line. His 40 points were the most by any player in the Big East in a single game this season. Gibbs is a tough and hard-nosed player, who’s becoming better at getting his teammates involved. His court vision has improved, and he passes the ball well in the open court, often putting the ball in the right guys’ hands for a score. He looks more comfortable running the team than ever before.
3. Myke Henry – DePaul (F, Jr., 6-6, 226, Chicago, Ill.)
Season Averages: 14.8 PTS, 5.7 REB, 1.3 AST, 0.9 BLK, 1.5 STL
In his first season in a Blue Demons uniform since transferring from Illinois in 2013, Henry has displayed the kind of ability that no one saw while he was with the Fighting Illini. After averaging just 3.2 points in 10.6 minutes as a freshman at Illinois, Henry has increased his scoring average to 14.8 point per game in 28.0 minutes. The versatile forward is a prototypical wing player who possesses great athletic ability, long arms and explosiveness. He ranks fifth in the conference in scoring, and his 5.7 rebounds per game ranks second on the Blue Demons. Henry recorded a double-double in a loss to Lehigh, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He scored a career-high 29 points in a win against Stanford in the following game.
4. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera – Georgetown (G, Jr., 6-3, 214, Indianapolis, Ind.)
Season Averages: 13.3 PTS, 4.5 REB, 3.8 AST, 0.0 BLK, 1.2 STL
The All-Big East First Team selection has been streaky shooting the ball this season, but still finds ways to score when his team needs him to. Smith-Rivera is shooting just 38 percent from the floor and 27 percent from three. Despite that, he leads the Hoyas and ranks ninth in the Big East in scoring with 13.3 points per game. His 3.8 assists and 1.2 steals leads Georgetown as well. Although his overall shooting numbers are underwhelming, he’s been able to do most of his scoring damage by getting to the free throw line and cashing in while he’s there. On the season, he’s shooting 92 percent from the charity stripe, and has shot less than 100 percent at the line just one time this season. As long as he continues to get to the free throw line, he’ll develop a more consistent shooting rhythm at some point.
5. Chris Obekpa – St. John’s (F, Jr., 6-10, 240, Makurdi, Nigeria)
Season Averages: 7.9 PTS, 8.8 REBS, 0.4 AST, 3.7 BLK, 0.9 STL
Obekpa is a defensive force and is among the conference leaders in rebounds. A combination of physical attributes and rim-protecting abilities has allowed him to average a conference-leading 3.7 block shots per game. That does not even tell the full story, being as though the number of shots that he alters at the rim during a game is even greater. He can improve as a low-post defender, but for someone his size, he excels at defending on the perimeter due to his lateral quickness and long arms. This makes him an effective pick-and-roll defender. Obekpa has had four double digit rebounding outings this season. His season high in rebounds was 16 in a win over Syracuse. His offensive game is not what he’s known for, but he has managed to make 44 percent of his shots off offensive rebounds, cuts, and as a pick and roll finisher.
Roosevelt Jones – Butler (F, Jr., 6-4, 227, O Fallon, Ill.)
Season Averages: 10.5 PTS, 5.5 REB, 4.4 AST, 0.8 BLK, 1.0 STL
The junior forward is a powerful driver who bulldozes his way through contact to score at the rim. His 5.5 rebounding average is second on the team, and he ranks fourth in the Big East in assists. His best game so far this season came against Kennesaw St., when he scored 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, while adding seven rebounds and seven assists.
Tyler Harris – Providence (F, Jr., 6-9, 223, Dix Hill, Ny.)
Season Averages: 12.2 PTS, 5.0 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.2 BLK, 0.9 STL
The younger brother of Orlando Magic small forward Tobias Harris, remains one of the most intriguing prospects in the Big East. Harris is a key piece in the Friars rotation. He’s continuing to develop as shooter and has shown flashes of being able to get the rim on a more consistent basis. He’s third on the team in scoring and assist, and fourth in rebounding.