Player of the Week
Quinn Cook, Duke
The best player on the Blue Devils is freshman Jahlil Okafor. The best defender is freshman Justise Winslow, and the best playmaker is freshman Tyus Jones. With youth comes excitement, and subsequently, a lot of national attention is directed toward the rookie trio. The team elder, senior Quinn Cook, is often overlooked as a result. His recent play, however, demands of attention of its own. In two games this week, Cook is averaging 26.5 points on 61.3% shooting, including 9/18 from behind the arc. Earlier in the season a lot was made of Jones becoming the primary ball-handler and Cook sliding over to play the two. Playing off-the-ball has allowed Quinn to capitalize on his outstanding shooting ability, as he’s making nearly three triples per game at a 41.5% clip this season. In addition to being the most prolific shooter on the team, he also provides Duke with some much-needed experience in the starting lineup. Cook leads the team in minutes played per game, averaging 36.0 this season, and over his last five games, he’s played every possible minute with the exception of one (209 out of a total of 210). The increase in minutes played shows how much trust coach Mike Krzyzewski has in him, as well as the importance of his role. If he can keep up this level of play, Duke is going to be incredibly difficult for any team in the nation (let alone the ACC) to defeat.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
Alright, this will be a first on this blog. Xavier Rathan-Mayes was "hot" this week, but only for about four-and-a-half minutes. During that very, very small time period though, he was absolutely scorching, NBA-Jam-burn-the-net, Klay Thompson-reminiscent, blistering red-hot. With about 4:38 left in Florida State’s game against Miami, the Seminoles were down by 18 and Rathan-Mayes had a total of five points to his credit. By the time the game was over, the Seminoles had only lost by four, and Rathan-Mayes had scored a total of 35 points. That’s 30 points in 4:38. That pace translated to a full game would have put him at about 259 points per 40 minutes (math is fun). The freshman made six threes and eight free-throws down the stretch, nearly willing his team to a comeback victory single-handedly (he would have if the Hurricanes didn’t make 14 of their 16 free throws down the stretch). While this was an absolute freak performance, Rathan-Mayes has slowly been establishing himself as an emerging scorer all year. With Aaron Thomas dismissed from the team, Xavier has been their top scorer on the season, averaging 14.4 points per game. He’s still only a freshman, so there will be plenty of time for him to grow into his potential as an elite scorer over the next few years.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
I am so sick of writing about Mr. Hanlan. Someone needs to tell this dude to slow down and let a few of the other players in the ACC get some attention. This week against Pittsburgh, he exploded for a season high of 39 points, making 10 of his 20 shot attempts from the floor (5/12 from outside) and all 14 of his free-throws. This has been Hanlan’s fourth 30+ point, 50%+ shooting performance in his last six games, though all six games were losses for the Eagles. Now, you can’t blame Olivier for looking for his own shot in these circumstances. Outside of Aaron Brown (the only other player averaging more than 8 ppg), the team features no consistent offensive threats, and that’s not because they haven’t had any opportunities. Hanlan seemed far more inclined to be a distributor earlier in the season. It wasn’t until midway through conference play that he (or the coaching staff) figured that the more he shot, the better off the team would be. With only three games left in the season, it’s far too late for Boston College to turn their season around now. Hanlan is only a junior and is likely to return next season. Since Brown won’t be back, the Eagles better hope that their recruiting class can provide their star with some assistance. Otherwise, Hanlan is likely to continue what he’s doing now; scoring at an absurd rate with very few wins to show for it.
James Robinson, Pittsburgh
The Panthers are a team that is build around ball-movement and unselfishness. Before Jamel Artis broke out, that was a problem, as the team didn’t have a reliable go-to scorer. Now, it’s okay for their role-players to step back and only look to score when it’s comfortable for them. Starting point guard, James Robinson, is one of those players. He’s an excellent facilitator, averaging 5.2 assists to only 1.7 turnovers per game on the season, but hasn’t been able to contribute much lately in the scoring column whatsoever. Over his last three games, Robinson is averaging 3.0 points on 18.2% shooting. When he’s on, he can be a shooting threat, both from mid-range and behind the arc. If he can offer at least that kind of contribution over the next couple weeks, it would give the Panthers another scoring option; one that could easily be the difference in a tight game. Conversely, if teams know they can sag off of him on defense, it will make things much harder on the few reliable scoring threats the Panthers have.
Top 5 NBA Prospects in the ACC (Revisited)
1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke – Okafor’s considered the top NBA prospect in all of college basketball and he has a case for National Player of the Year. You can understand the collective gasp when he injured his ankle against North Carolina. Jahlil ended up missing a game because of it, though he surely comforted folks with his 30-point performance against Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Okafor figures to be a offensive force at the next level with his advanced scoring ability in the post. That, combined with his work-ethic and poise, will give him every chance to become an NBA all-star.
2. Justise Winslow, Duke – Unlike his aforementioned freshman teammate, Winslow does not have the classic profile of a future all-star. What makes him so appealing from an NBA perspective, is that he’ll be a great teammate no matter what situation he’s put in. He’s one of the best individual defenders in the ACC, an unselfish passer, and an improving spot-up shooter (38% from deep). At the moment, Winslow is a safe bet to land in the lottery. Players like Kelly Oubre and Mario Hezonja offer different things than Justise, but they’ll all be in the same conversation as far as draft position goes.
3. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville – Harrell already has two things that every NBA team covets: energy and toughness. I have no doubt that even now, Montrezl would be an asset coming off the bench at the next level. Considering his rebounding (9.4 rpg) and athleticism, I could see his floor matching a Trevor Booker or JJ Hickson, though there’s a good amount of upside remaining. His offense continues to show signs of improvement, including a more refined mid-range jumper. If he continues to polish his all-around game, Harrell could make an excellent starter.
4. Terry Rozier, Louisville – Rozier has the classic profile of a scoring point guard. He’s aggressive getting to the rim, using his dynamic handle and explosive quickness to get in the paint and draw contact (5.0 free-throw attempts per game). He’s a good shooter as well, if a bit inconsistent (34% on the season). Now that Chris Jones has been dismissed from the team, Rozier will get the opportunity to address the biggest question teams are likely to have about his NBA potential: His ability to run the point.
5. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame – There’s a lot to like about Grant from an NBA perspective. He’s got NBA bloodlines (son of Harvey Grant and nephew of Horace Grant), is a gifted playmaker (leading the ACC, averaging 6.6 assists to only 2.0 turnovers), and has terrific size for his position (listed at 6’5" and over 200 lbs). There’s quite a bit of competition around the late-lottery/mid-first round as far as point guard prospects go, but Grant could be the standout of the group.