Player of the Week

Kelly Oubre – Kansas

The evolution of Kelly Oubre hasn’t been without it’s bumps in the road, but as the freshman swingman has elevated game during Big 12 play, his growth has been really fun to watch. This past week, Kelly scored in double figures in three straight games which was capped by a 19 point outburst in one of this week’s Big Monday games versus fellow Big 12 heavyweight, Oklahoma.

Against the Sooners, Kelly used his elite positional length and athleticism to wreak havoc on the defensive end, and was hauling in rebounds at a terrific rate for a perimeter player. Oubre also put on a show with the ball in his hands. The 6’7’’ wing went for 19 points, and was absolutely critical down the stretch as the Jayhawks went cold in the second half. Oubre took control in the final three minutes, and executed a few key drives, including a coast to coast layup that helped clinched the victory for the Jayhawks. During the week, Kelly averaged 14.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and two steals per contest on 45% shooting from the field, as Kansas picked up two top 25 wins, and dropped a tough game to Iowa State on the road. Now scoring in double figures in 7 of his past 9 games, which includes two double doubles, Oubre seems to be hitting his stride. In addition, he hasn’t failed to tally at least two steals in a game since Big 12 play kicked off. Kelly Oubre’s transformation from the talented kid playing garbage minutes at the beginning of the year, to the fiery defender diving on the ground and hitting shots down the stretch has been a sight to see. If he maintains or even raises his play from here, Kansas could be a much more dangerous team than many were predicting before conference play began.

Who’s Hot

Monte Morris – Iowa State

Monte Morris has been the poster boy for taking care of the ball over the past year and a half, but lately he’s been flirting with triple doubles on a regular basis to boot. Last Wednesday Morris went for 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists in a tough road loss against Baylor. Needing a bounce back win, Monte lead Iowa State past then ranked #9 Kansas and found a way to top his lofty numbers from earlier in the week. The 6’2’’ point dished out 10 assists to go with 11 points, and 7 rebounds. Not to mention he chipped in 3 steals, and his tempo pushing control, constantly beat the Jayhawks in transition and pushing the ball off makes. On the week Morris averaged 11 points, 7 rebounds, 9.5 assists, and a typical Monte Morris 4.75 assist to turnover ratio. The Cyclones have cemented themselves as one of the best teams in the conference, and Morris’ ability to take care of the basketball and get his teammates involved is a huge reason behind their success.

Buddy Hield- Oklahoma

Since exploding for 31 points January 10th against Kansas State, Buddy Hield has not looked back. Oklahoma’s star Junior has averaged 26.25 points per game over his past 4 contests, and that even includes an unheard of 10-10 from the field outing in a win against in state rival Oklahoma State. The Sooners have been really struggling lately, and Buddy has been doing his best to keep the Sooners in games. An intense competitor, he’s also been playing disruptive defense, and hauling in 5.75 rebounds per game during this same span. With the Sooners dropping 3 of their last 4 conference games, Hield and company need to stop the free fall, but as they displayed in the 2nd half versus Kansas they have the talent to beat anyone in the conference. In their next game, they face Baylor on the road, so their schedule doesn’t let up right away, but with Buddy on the roll he’s on, the Sooners are still a very dangerous team.

Who’s Not

Michael Cobbins – Oklahoma State

While being one of the conference’s best rim protectors at only 6’8’’, Michael Cobbins has seen his production drop considerably this past week as he struggled against Kansas and Oklahoma. Fouling out early in the week versus the Jayhawks, Cobbins failed to gain any real momentum due to foul trouble. He finished with just 2 rebounds and 6 points. The following Saturday Michael also found himself in foul trouble, and actually failed to haul in a rebound against the Sooners. The Cowboy’s second leading rebounder on the season (5.6 per game) only mustered 1 rebound per game last week.

Norense Odiase – Texas Tech

Texas Tech’s freshman bruiser, Norense Odiase came out of the gate hot as a freshman for the Red Raiders, but the young big man has hit the freshman wall. Struggling to adjust to the bigger players, and more frequent games of the Big 12, Odiase went just 2-12 from the field this past week as TTU lost two games versus K-State and TCU. Normally a solid player on the glass, Norense only averaged 4 rebounds per game in that same span. No one really expects this young Red Raider squad to tear up the Big 12, but early in the year he dropped 15 and 7 rebounds head to head against Cinmeon Bowers in a win over Auburn. The potential is there, Norense just needs to work past his slump to gain some momentum during the Big 12 season.

Top 5 Sophomore Prospects

1. Isaiah Taylor – Texas

After a sensational three game span to start the season, Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist after being knocked to the ground in a dunk attempt versus Iowa. His first few games back in action have been a little rough, but he still brings some intriguing tools to the table as far as NBA teams are concerned.

First, Taylor is extremely fast, and amazingly in control while doing his best water bug impression on the hardwood. This speed makes him an effective defender, and a nightmare in transition. In addition, he’s got a real feel for the point guard position and has that pick and roll and drive and kick foundation that could be adapted pretty easily to the NBA game. Isaiah isn’t a good shooter, but did show signs of improvement before his injury. This will be a part of his game that he’ll need to continue to work on, as well as adding some more muscle to his slight frame. All in all, Taylor has an elite NBA trait, his speed, and enough in place to give him first round potential. Had he not gotten injured I would have considered a near lock to declare in 2015, but depending on how the rest of his season plays out, he could be back for the 2015-16 season.

2. Wayne Selden – Kansas

Although Wayne Selden hasn’t really become the offensive threat many envisioned him becoming out of high school, he still has an incredible frame and great size for an NBA shooting guard. At 6’5’’, 230 pounds, and sporting a 6’10’’ wingspan, he’s emerged as a  good NCAA defender, who’s physically capable of making the jump to the next level.

Wayne is also a good ball handler, and passer who at times even runs the point guard spot for Kansas on his way to dishing out a respectable 3.2 assists per game. He’s a good shooter off the dribble, and although not a great spot up shooter, he has improved from his freshman campaign. Selden isn’t ready to make the jump to the pros this year, but continued refinement on his pretty broad offensive foundation still makes him a player to keep an eye on due to his frame and solid athleticism.  

3. Monte Morris – Iowa State

Iowa State’s record setting point guard, Monte Morris, may not have the size or high profile high school recognition many NBA prospects possess, but his ability to push the tempo, and care for the basketball are traits that can translate to the next level.

Weighing in at around 170 pounds, Morris will need to continue to build strength and add weight to adjust to the more muscle bound guards of the next level, but at 6’2’’ he’s a solid height for an NBA point guard. Unlike many 6’2’’ guards, he’s actually a pure point, which won’t leave him playing the shooting guard spot at the next level, and expected to guard 6’6’’ NBA wings. Morris is most likely a 4 year player, but I feel with continued work on his jump shot and in the weight room, he can be a legitimate late 1st or early 2nd round prospect by his senior season. Pure points are kind of a rare breed these days, and Monte is a unique player in today’s collegiate landscape.

4. Marcus Foster – Kansas State

Kansas State’s dynamic guard, Marcus Foster may not fit the mold of an NBA point guard, but his long range marksmanship, ball handling and athletic ability could very well find him an NBA roster spot as an offensive spark plug used to drop points in a reserve role.

Standing just 6’2.5’’ in shoes, but weighing in at a powerful 213 pounds and possessing a 6’5’’ wingspan, Foster is very undersized NBA shooting guard, but pretty big for an NBA point. The problem? Foster has not shown the progress many thought he’d make as a distributer in between his freshman and sophomore seasons. In fact Foster’s assists per game have dropped from 2.5 to 2.0 which plummets his assist to turnover ratio to a pedestrian 0.9. He is still and electrifying player when hot, and has the one on one ability to create shots for himself, which can come in handy in the more iso heavy NBA landscape. The NBA is full of shot happy combo guards, and Marcus Foster has the ability to find himself in that role. If he were to ever improve his point guard skills, he could help his stock, and most likely he’ll wait at least one or two more years before putting his name in the draft.

5. Devin Williams – West Virginia

There’s no doubt that Devin Williams has an NBA body, and his physical presence is the catalyst behind his pro potential. Standing at 6’8.5’’ in shoes, possessing a 6’11’’ wingspan and weighing in at a chiseled 255 pounds, he is a pretty decent size for an NBA power forward.

Already with 5 double doubles under his belt, Williams is a very good rebounder which is evident by him hauling in 7.7 rebounds per contest in only 22.9 minutes per game. Cleaning the glass is his strongest area at the moment, as he is a bit of a project on offense. His footwork is sub par at the moment, and his offensive feel needs a lot of work as well. His shooting touch isn’t great, but he’s made a noticeable improvement at the free throw stripe since last year, and has the foundation for a face up game. Devin has a ways to go before being considered a draft pick, but with two more years in Morgantown, he could be a good option for a bruiser in the 2nd round.

Honorable Mention

Brannen Greene – Kansas

A player who is currently 6th on my list of Sophomores, but has the potential to shoot up past others on this list is Kansas’ sharp shooter Brannen Greene. At 6’7’’, and possessing a pure jumper and seemingly unlimited range, he has very good positional size, and an NBA ready trait in his shooting. Although not playing as big of a team role as the players listed above him, he’s come up huge in games this year when he catches fire. Greene still has work to do on his ball handling, and continued work in the weight room would help him across the board, including his defense, which is hit and miss at this point in his development. Still, a sweet shot like Brannen has could have some real appeal for an NBA team when his career in Lawrence comes to a close.

Follow David Ray on Twitter @DR_NBADraft