Willie Cauley Stein 7-0 240 C Kentucky Jr.
If you had to choose an MVP of the nation’s #1 ranked team to this point in the season, it would undoubtedly be Willie Cauley-Stein. Not only is he their leading scorer, he has been their most versatile defender of what is looking like the country’s top defense. His shot blocking numbers may be down, though he has also been fouling less and getting the assignment of anyone Kentucky is hoping to shut down.
Cauley-Stein has also become much more dangerous on offense without the ball, improved his FT shooting and has shown growth as a rebounder. If he keeps this up, he will be a lottery lock and possibly even a top 10 selection. The strides one hoped from Cauley-Stein last season have finally materialized during his junior year.
Myles Turner 6-11 240 C Texas Fr.
He has been pretty high on our list and was mentioned in the first Stock Watch, however after his most recent game, we wanted to highlight an aspect of Turner’s game that makes him incredibly intriguing. He went for 26 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocks in only 23 minutes in a blowout over Lipscomb. While one may not be blown away by the opponent, he also went 7-7 from the free throw stripe and is 38-43 (88.4%) from the line this season.
Turner is also leading the nation in PER and has shown a promising post game as well. His shot-blocking prowess is well known and he can be a force as a rim protector. He has yet to crack double figure scoring against a high major opponent, which is something to monitor, but he has shown a lot of promising aspects one looks for in a post player at the next level.
Rakeem Christmas 6-9 250 PF/C Syracuse Sr.
The former top recruit has taken his time to show the production to go along with his athleticism and physical prowess. Syracuse may have struggled as a team this year, though Christmas’ inside presence has been a bright spot. He has been a strong post presence on both ends, which included his hitting a hook shot to seal an Orange win over Louisiana Tech. While he has firmly put himself into NBA draft discussions, it will be interesting to see where he ends up. There are still concerns as to whether he is skilled and tough enough to play in the high post and whether he has the size to play center. Odds are, if he stays close to his current production, some team will take a chance in the mid second round.
Tyrone Wallace 6-5 200 PG/SG California Jr.
Given the opportunity to handle the ball much more often this season, Wallace is showing much more ability as a playmaker. He has improved his outside shooting, is showing promise in the pick and roll while pulling down an impressive 8.7 rpg. He even has enough size to play the 2 guard at the next level, which makes him a great possible choice as a combo. He still needs to work on his ability in the isolation and the other standout is that he is shooting 54.7% FT, which is surprising considering his overall jump shooting and long range percentages. This has been a big coming out party for Wallace so far, with some great work on both ends of the floor.
Justin Anderson 6-6 225 SF Virginia Jr.
The departure of Joe Harris, the Cleveland Cavs 2nd round selection, had many feeling that Virginia could be in for a down season after taking 2014’s ACC crown. Justin Anderson had different ideas. He’s done an excellent job picking up the slack, shooting a blistering 20-34 (58.8%) from three point range. His long range shot is not the only thing that has improved, he looks to be in better condition and has become a menace as a spot up shooter. He is also a terror in transition, plus his length and strong body still make him a very good defender. In a win over Virginia Commonwealth for state bragging rights, Anderson scored a career high 21 points (on 6-7 FG, 6-6 FT) to go with 8 rebounds. So far, he has been at his best in big games and seems like he is on his way to a big conference season.
Amida Brimah 7-0 230 C UConn So.
With expectations very high for Brimah, he still has shown he is a tad raw on the offensive end and lacks fundamentals as far as a rebounder. However, Brimah had a game against Coppin State that absolutely deserves mention and showed what he could become in time. Going 13-13 from the field and 14-16 from the line, he finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks in 28 minutes. He struggled mightily against the girth of Texas and will have his hands full in UConn’s next game against Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. He may need another year at UConn to bulk up and work on his overall basketball IQ, but there is definitely promise in this young center prospect.
Domantas Sabonis 6-10 230 PF Gonzaga Fr.
The son of Hall-of-Famer and basketball legend, Arvydas Sabonis, was a well regarded prospect while playing in Spain and has shown an advanced post skill set with Gonzaga. Coming off of the bench, opponents have been hit by a terror near the basket, with ability to use either hand, with nice up and under moves as well as footwork. He is not the most fleet of foot and is not much of a shot blocker, though he has not lacked effort and again comes with above average awareness. He is shooting 75% FG and 79.5% FT, while putting up 11.5 ppg in only 19.5 mpg. Domantas has done quite a bit to show that the Sabonis name will carry on in the NBA.
James Blackmon 6-3 190 SG Indiana Fr.
The local shooting specialist is currently leading the nations freshmen in scoring to the tune of 19.2 ppg. He is doing this while shooting close to 50% FG, 88% FT and he is making 2.8 three pointers per game at a 46% clip. He has also shown some really nice flashes of athleticism, contributing as a rebounder and throwing down a highlight dunk on Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell. What will likely keep him in school for another year is a need to work on his ability in isolation and making plays for others. Plus, he is a bit small (Seems like Indiana’s listing him at 6-4 is definitely generous) and will need to really work to improve his defensive acumen. He has still lived up to the hype that came with him as Indiana’s top recruit, with a calm demeanor and fearlessness that will likely get him some draft looks in the near future.
Melo Trimble 6-3 190 PG Maryland Fr.
He was a McDonald’s All-American and was expected to have a big role on a team that needed a PG, but Trimble is another player who has surpassed expectations. Showing maturity in his ability to run the pick and roll, he has also been getting to the line at a really high rate, while shooting 89.7% FT. He has been shooting well and is a big reason that Maryland has a surprising 10-1 record. He still is not totally free from freshman mistakes and will likely need to up his assist to turnover ratio before GM’s can fully envision him running their team. His early returns leave one to believe that with an additional year under his belt, that could very well happen.
Marcus Paige 6-1 175 PG North Carolina Jr.
After a standout sophomore season that saw him emerge into a dangerous 2nd half performer, Paige has had a pretty disappointing start to the year from an individual standpoint. Nearly a unanimous pre-season 1st Team All-American, his scoring numbers are down and he is only shooting 34.8% FG. He had used his quickness and shiftiness to be a great shot creator, with this cold shooting streak leading to questions regarding how his size will translate at the next level. As a score first PG, he needs to get back to his efficient ways from the perimeter if he wants to get a spot in the 1st round, or work his way back up into the draft picture in 2015.
Cliff Alexander 6-8 250 PF Kansas Fr.
The #4 player in the RCSI, expectations for the muscular young big man were very high. While he has shown flashes, in particular with his activity as a rebounder, his skill set on offense is fairly limited. He can play above the rim and has a little baby hook he likes to use, but he has been bothered by length and has yet to get into the starting line-up. During KU’s narrow win over Utah, Alexander only scored a single point in 14 minutes. He is a tough player who plays with some good energy, however he needs a lot of work in the post and has done very little in the pick and roll. His physical attributes and athleticism may be enough for him to still enter the draft, but it will be up to him to show more of the qualities teams look for from PF’s at the next level.
Winston Shepard 6-8 210 SF San Diego St. Jr.
NBA Draftee Xavier Thames was an incredible part of SDSU’s offense last year and Shepard was expected to pick up a lot of that burden. So far, his leading the team at scoring at only 10.2 ppg is probably not what Steve Fisher had in mind. The Aztecs offense has really struggled and Shepard has not excelled as a “point forward”. He is averaging only 1.3 assists to 2.9 turnovers per game, struggling at running the pick-and-roll. Do not let his 4-9 three point shooting fool you, he has also struggled as a jump shooter overall. Shepard certainly has some ability and is still a nice perimeter defender; he just needs to show some more offensive ability in order to secure a draft spot.
Justise Winslow 6-6 225 SF Duke Fr.
The son of former Phi Slamma Jamma alumnus and NBA player, Ricky Winslow, came out of the gates blazing for Duke. He showed remarkable energy, explosive athleticism (highlighted by his leaping over Stanford’s Chasson Randle on a blocked shot) and versatility to affect the game in nearly every facet. His first five games had some seeing him as the top wing prospect in the draft, while the past four games have kind of tempered expectations. Winslow’s offensive game is still a work in progress on offense; he moves well without the ball and has trouble creating off of the bounce. He needs to develop some go-to moves to establish as a top-flight wing prospect. What he has shown is that he will be a very nice glue guy and his intangibles should still make some team fall in love with him.