Player of the Week
Nick Rakocevic, USC
After suffering a painful, four-game losing streak, the Trojans needed someone to step up and Rakocevic did just that. The 6’11 junior put up 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds on 8-14 shooting in USC’s huge bounce-back win on December 21st over Southern Utah 91-49. Rakocevic was also disruptive on the defensive end as he’s been doing so all season averaging over two blocks per contest. The junior from Chicago blocked two shots and also recorded a steal against the Thunderbirds.
So far this season, Rakocevic has averaged 15.1 points per game on 50 percent shooting to go along with those two blocks per game. If USC can improve its outside shooting, maybe the Trojans can use Rakocevic’ consistent presence down low to string together some wins heading into 2019.
Bobby Hurley, Arizona State Head Coach
The former Duke Blue Devil and current head coach of the Sun Devils just took down the number one ranked Kansas team in dramatic fashion, 80-76. ASU began the season unranked and it seems the Sun Devils took it as a bit of an insult and have played with a chip on their shoulders all year. Saying this victory over Kansas was a team effort would be an understatement.
Five of ASU’s eight players that saw minutes scored in double figures. The scoring for the Sun Devils was actually led by Rob Edwards with 15 who came off the bench. The Jayhawks were defeated by being denied from the three point line as Hurley’s disciplined defense only allowed 25 percent shooting from downtown. At 9-2, Bobby Hurley and this red-hot Arizona State team appear to be the most dangerous in the Pac-12 after taking down the Jayhawks.
The Cougars suffered back to back losses Saturday and Sunday after being one of the hot teams in the Pac-12 last week. Just when things were clicking, San Diego beat the Cougars by seven and the next night New Mexico State snuck away with one 75-72. Robert Franks and CJ Elleby were the catalysts for Washington State in the San Diego game, per usual, but the rest of the team couldn’t provide enough to secure the win down the stretch. Franks and Elleby also had four turnovers each. When the Cougars face New Mexico State, Franks was held to only seven points. With no one other than Elleby or Carter Skaggs stepping up, it wasn’t surprising WSU couldn’t finish the job.
Top 5 Under the radar defenders in the Pac-12 not named Nick Rakocevic
1. Kylor Kelley, Oregon State
The 7-footer has established himself has a top shot blocker in the Pac-12 averaging over four blocks per game, which just sounds ridiculous. In a 25 point win over Pepperdine on December, Kelley had a near triple double with blocks. He scored 10 points to go along with nine rebounds and nine blocks. Any opponent is going to think twice before going near the basket with this young man protecting the rim the way he has been. He kept it up in a close, three point loss to Kent State on December 21st with another nine rebounds and five more convincing blocks to go with.
2. Hameir Wright, Washington
This 6’9 sophomore from New York can help his team immensely on the defensive end if he is not getting a lot of shots on the offensive end. In just 21 minutes of action in a win over Sacramento State on December 21st, Wright was able to pull down seven rebounds and block five shots. Wright is averaging 1.9 blocks per contest and should remain an instrumental part of this Washington Husky defense. If he can incorporate more offense into his game, this young man can become a dangerous two way player with size and versatility in the Pac-12 conference.
3. Jonah Mathews, USC
In a huge bounceback win over Southern Utah, the junior guard from Santa Monica helped the Trojans on both ends of the floor. In addition to his 14 points on 4-5 shooting from downtown, Mathews also recorded three steals for his team and he did it all in just 21 minutes of play. At 6’3, this junior is physical and gets after it on the defensive end averaging 1.3 steals per game as well as 3.5 rebounds per game. This USC team need Mathews to keep having strong performances like this in which he does a little bit of everything if they want to stay over .500.
4. Kenny Wooten, Oregon
The Ducks really needed someone to help fill the shoes of the injured Bol Bol defensively and that is what Kenny Wooten has done. Although Wooten did not do a whole lot on the offensive end and the Ducks suffered its first loss in five games against Baylor on the road, he still made an impact on the game defensively. Wooten did an exceptional job of protecting the rim with four blocks to go with four rebounds. The 6’9 sophomore is going to have to get more looks on offense to really see where he is offensively. In the only game this season where he shot the ball at least 10 times, he shot 9-12 against Omaha.
5. Romello White, Arizona State
Though a collective, team effort was required to take down number one ranked Kansas, White deserves immense credit for his efforts on both ends of the floor in the Saturday matchup. In addition to his 11 points and five rebounds, the 6’8 235 lb. sophomore recorded two key blocks that could have made the difference in this pivotal game. White was a huge part of the defensive effort that held the Jayhawks to only 25 percent from three point range.