On Wednesday, former junior college standout Jameel McKay announced he would transfer from Marquette after less than half a semester and enroll at Iowa State.
This should surprise no one. Not the transfer after not even playing a game for (presumably) no off-the-court issues, that’s just weird. But the fact that McKay has decided to defect to Ames, where transfers seem to flock like a successful Island of Misfit Toys. Since Fred Hoiberg took over the Cyclones prior to the 2010-11 season, the program has had 13 different JuCo or four-year school transfers.
The Mayor has successfully parlayed a mix of freshman and transfers into two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, but can this continue?
In defense of Hoiberg, he’s not bringing in players with troubled pasts or chemistry issues. He seeks out players that are looking for a home after leaving a program — let’s focus on four-year players for now — and brings them in to his system. That’s not without a few red flag cases. Korie Lucious was kicked off the team at Michigan State, came to Ames and enjoyed a solid senior season. He also brought in a player like Royce White, an elite talent who still battles severe anxiety disorders, which has hindered his ability to fly on team charters. He catered a bit to White (he rarely, if ever, flew to a game. Driving to the Cyclones NCAA Tournament second round loss to Kentucky in 2012) and got a ton out of him, and White ended up as a first round NBA Draft pick.
Junior college players are seen as plug-and-play guys. Depending on the program and the coach leading it, some schools really use these players, some don’t. Hoiberg is the former, obviously. Since his first season, Hoiberg has had nine JuCo transfers on his roster. Five of them have finished in the top five in scoring for the Cyclones at the end of the season. He gets the most out of the talent that he brings in offensively. Hoiberg doesn’t view junior college players as simply hole-fillers for a season or two. Which is probably why he gets so many good ones. Two JuCo Top 100 players, Dustin Hogue and K.J. Bluford, committed to the Cyclones prior to this season.
It’s not necessarily a new practice. With the supposed transfer culture going around in college basketball, roster turnover has made it more common to expect a bevy of new players yearly. Before Iowa State, mid-and-low major programs have thrived off bringing in transfers. But not many high major teams, which is what the Cyclones are doing, well.
So, you’ve done what only a few hoopheads do and entered a college basketball fantasy league….Nah, let’s go in another direction.
Every year, there are certain players that do more than most for their teams. Whether it’s scoring, giving quality minutes, assists, reducing turnovers, etc., these guys do it. So you can count on them doing it for whoever you cheer for.
Below at the most valuable players in the nation. Not necessarily the best overall, but the best in terms of delivering on a consistent basis.
Top 5 most valuable players in the nation
1.) Doug McDermott, F, Creighton – This one was incredibly easy. The guy can not only score, but score in different ways. He averaged 23.3 ppg last season and that came shooting 54.5 percent overall and 49 percent from the three point range. Tack on his 87.5 percent from the free throw line and he’s probably the nation’s easiest pick to pour in 20+ a night.
2.) Russ Smith, G, Louisville – This selection is more about how much Smith is going to have the ball this season than his production. Smith was 11th in KenPom in possession percentage (meaning he got the ball a lot per possession) getting the rock on 32 percent of the Cardinals’ possessions. Now as the total scoring threat — and Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva gone — this is his team and it’s his ball.
3.) Travis Bader, F, Oakland – This is a guy that no one talks about if you don’t know a ton about hoops. One of the nation’s top gunners from deep (139-360 from three this season), Bader averaged 22.1 ppg last season, quietly. Je also shot 88.5 percent from the free throw line and got there 202 times last season. Need points fast? It’s all Bader.
4.) Augustine Rubit, F, South Alabama – Rubit played in 30 games last season. He recorded a double-double in 16 of them. In his three seasons in Mobile, he’s clocked a double-double in two of them and missed out on three straight after averaging 9.2 boards as a sophomore. He stuffs the stat sheet.
5.) Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State – When a player passes up a sure-fire ticket to a Top 5 selection in the NBA Draft, there’s no way you can avoid getting him on this list. Smart does everything — 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists — and does it in the biggest games, averaging 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4 assists in seven regular season games against Top 25 opponents last season. He’s only no. 5 because unlike McDermott, Rubit and Bader, he has other NBA talent around him as well (Smith does as well).
1.) Kyle Vinales, G, Central Connecticut State – Vinales flirted with the idea of transferring to a place with a higher profile. After briefly committing to Toledo, Vinales came back and he’ll be better for it. Vinales was among the top players last season playing 38.2 minutes (almost a WHOLE game, people) while averaging 21.6 points. He carries the Blue Devils, who rely heavily on Vinales, and that shouldn’t change this season.
2.) Jerelle Benimon, F, Towson – Like Rubit, he’s another double-double machine. But he gets the sleeper tag because he’s only done it in one season. And did it big. The former Georgetown bench warmer averaged 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds for the Tigers last season and with the program poised to be a CAA contender, he’s gonna get the pub he deserves.
3.) Sim Bhullar, C, New Mexico State – YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH 7-FOOT, 5-INCHES. He shot 62.1 percent from the field and that was as a freshman where he averaged 24.4 minutes and 10.1 points per game. After a whirlwind summer where he enrolled late with Aggies, imagine what he will do with an entire college offseason under his belt?
Freshman to watch (That aren’t the obvious ones)
1.) Jarell Martin, F, LSU – Martin was a top prospect coming out. Then Johnny Jones got the Baton Rouge native to stay home and the national pundits seem to ease up on the hype. But keep an eye on him. He’s got a efficient half-court point guard in Anthony Hickey and a veteran presence in the post in Johnny O’Bryant III to take the heat off him. Because he won’t be the focal point, he could produce a lot.
2.) Sterling Brown, G, SMU – This will be the point guard in a Larry Brown-led offensive scheme. Brown got out on the break with the ball in high school and that’s what Brown will want to do this season. Don’t be surprised of Brown is one of the top assist men in the AAC.
3.) Bobby Portis, F, Arkansas – I got to watch this guy a lot in high school. He’s a 6-10 power forward with a serious work ethic. He has range from 16-18 feet and as long as he gains some weight, can be an all-freshman team player in the SEC.
Locks for production
1.) Javon McCrea, F, Buffalo – He’s been the best player in the MAC for the past two years (yes, he has) on one of the worst teams. The Bulls went 14-20 last season and now under new coach Bobby Hurley, McCrea has an astute basketball mind to learn from. McCrea’s 18 points, 7.9 rebounds were earned as the focal point of every opponent’s defensive plan. And he averaged a career worst….55.7 percent field goal percentage last season.
2.) Jason Brickman, G, LIU-Brooklyn – Make way for the definition of a point guard. Brickman’s assist average has increased by at least one full dime each season, leading the nation last season with 8.5 assists. Most of that was without Julian Boyd, the Blackbirds best player. Boyd recently re-tore his ACL heading into his 6th year, and now Brickman have to do even less to work with.
3.) Briante Weber, G, VCU – You can’t argue with the nation’s best on-ball defender, going by the stats. The junior has averaged at least two steals per game in both his previous seasons and he’s the best defender on the best defensive team in the nation. You have to acknowledge the defense.
1.) Marshall Henderson, G, Ole Miss – This pains me to say, because I love the way Henderson plays. But his 20.1 points per game that led the SEC came on 38.1 percent shooting overall and 35 percent from three. He did this averaging 10.9 threes TAKEN per game. He serves a role. He has serious game. But his numbers are deceiving.
2.) Jahii Carson, G, Arizona State – Carson is a pro, there’s no debating that. But his 18.5 points and 5.1 assists — both solid — came at the other end of averages of 2.5 fouls and 3.5 turnovers per game. He’ll have to clean those up with Evan Gordon no longer in the backcourt this season.
3.) James Michael McAdoo, F, North Carolina – Have to give a hat tip to Kevin Doyle for this one. JMM has time to make up for what has amounted to a sub-par career so far. The junior has averaged 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in 30 minutes per in two seasons, which isn’t bad. But McAdoo was a five-star recruit who was supposed to team with P.J. Hairston to be the heir apparent for Harrison Barnes. What he does while Hairston is out (however long that is) will be critical to his legacy in Chapel Hill.
Every year there’s a different crop of recruits that make their way to Division I campuses. Not the freshman that are hoping to make an impression. Not the four-year school transfers that are looking for a fresh start. These are the ones that may have ended up at their first stop due to extenuating circumstances. These are the junior college transfers.
With most (if not all) of those players on campus by now, we take a look at the top JuCo transfers and what kind of effect they’ll have on their teams’ season.
JuCo Jump Preseason Player of the Year
Yanick Moreira, C, SMU – The 6-11, 220 pounder averaged 18.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a 2.3 blocks for South Plains (Texas) Community College last season and was MVP of the junior college national tournament when South Plains won the NJCAA national title in 2011-12. Larry Brown likes his versatile bigs and the Angola native can work the pivot and step outside the paint to defend and shoot.
All-JuCo Jump Preseason All-American Team
Chris Jones, G, Louisville – Last season’s national JuCo player of the year made his way to Louisville to take the place of the graduated Peyton Siva at point guard. The 6-0 Jones averaged 21.8 points per game last season and led Northwest Florida State College t back-to-back JuCo national title game appearances in his two years with the Raiders.
Chad Frazier, G, UAB – The 6-4 Frazier took awhile to figure out where he wanted to go to school after two years at Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College, committing to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State before settling on the Blazers. But he was a consensus Top 20 JuCo recruit last season and averaged 16 points, five assists and four rebounds for Gulf Coast last season.
Kenny Cherry, G, Baylor – Gone is Pierre Jackson, another former JuCo transfer, and enter 6-1 State Fair Community College guard Kenny Cherry. The Canadian-born guard averaged 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season and shot 41 percent from three-point range. He doesn’t seem to have the small-man explosiveness that Jackson possessed (few do) but he might be the guy to remedy the PG issues the Bears had coming into the season.
Jelan Kendrick, F, UNLV – Here’s a name some still remember, mainly because the 6-6 Atlanta native was at two Division I schools, yet never played a game at either. Kendrick lasted almost a semester at Memphis before being dismissed, then lasted about one year (as a redshirt) at Ole Miss before leaving that program as well. He spent last season at Indian Hill (Iowa) Community College, averaging 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He’ll take the spot left by the transferring Mike Moser.
Yanick Moreira, F, SMU – Per his JuCo P.O.Y. status, Moreira just has the ability to make an impact in a big way. He also will be the focal point of a fresh recruiting class for the Mustangs on a team that expects to contend in the AAC this year.
All-JuCo Jump Underrated Team
Desmond Lee, G, North Carolina State – The New Mexico Junior College product can fill it up, averaging 20.3 points per game at 43.3 percent clip last season. He’ll be asked to team with the likes of Anthony “Cat” Barber and T.J. Warren to be the trio that keeps the Wolfpack at pace with North Carolina and Duke in 2013-14. The 6-4 Lee might also step into some of the point guard responsibilities for the departed Rodney Purvis.
Tre’Vaughn White, G, Duquesne – You have to have the leading scorer in junior college on this list somewhere. White had a great career at Independence (Kan.) Community College, clocking 26.1 points per game. He now heads to Pittsburgh to play for the Dukes, and there’s little doubt the 5-10 guard will be the focal point of the offensive scheme. He’ll help alleviate the loss of second-leading scorer Sean Johnson.
James Kelly, F, Miami – Kelly is one of seemingly a brand new roster for the Hurricanes, who are replacing their Top 6 scorers from last season. You could almost call the 6-7, 250-pound Kelly Reggie Johnson-lite, with his size making him a load in the middle. He averaged a double-double of 17.3 points and 10 rebounds at Owens (Ohio) Community College last season.
Darius Carter, F, Wichita State – Whaddayaknow? Wichita State puts a player on this list. The 6-7 Carter is in the same mold as the graduated Carl Hall, who helped the Shockers to the Final Four last season. The Vincennes (Ind.) University product averaged 15.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot 54.4 percent from the field last season for the Trailblazers. He’s also Maverick Carter’s cousin. Yea, that Maverick Carter.
Joseph Uchebo, C, Pittsburgh – It’s not everyday that one quality seven-footer get replaced by another (near) seven-footer. Steven Adams left for the NBA Draft after one season and that left a massive hole in the middle. Enter Uchebo, a 6-11, 260 pound product of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College who averaged 12.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in 2011-12. The reason he isn’t getting a ton of publicity is because he spent last season nursing a knee injury that got him a medical redshirt. He’ll have three seasons left to play for the Panthers.
Team with most at stake with JuCo players
Illinois State – And it’s really not even close. The Redbirds and coach Dan Muller don’t have a single player on their roster that was there two seasons ago and in total, they’ve got four players from the JucoRecruiting.com Top 100 on their 2013-14 roster in Zach Lofton, Daishon Knight, Bobby Hunter and Mike Middlebrooks. With no seniors on this roster, those four juniors will be looked upon for leadership, even though, like a lot of the players on their roster, this is their first year in an Illinois State uniform.
For the rest of the week, we’ll be picking the players, coaches and teams most likely to do some big things, or, well, bad things for the upcoming season. We’ll start today with four individuals poised for big seasons.
Most Likely to Win National Player of the Year:
Cody Zeller: Easy answer, right? He’s being heralded as the best player in the nation on the best team in the nation. As someone who grew up in southern Indiana watching and reading about all three Zeller brothers, I’m pretty excited to see what Cody is capable of this year. Simply put, he can do it all. With freshman year averages of 15.6 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and a 62 percent field goal percentage, Zeller helped bring an IU team back from the dead into one of the top 10 teams in the nation. He also averaged over a steal and a block each time out. The Hoosiers have a really deep team this year, but I still anticipate Zeller getting more touches this year. Last season he only had 11 games with more than 10 field goal attempts. This is Zeller’s award to lose, as expectations are as high as they’ve been in over 20 years in Bloomington. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan are the two guys that could challenge Zeller the most.
Most Likely to Lead the Nation in Scoring:
Doug McDermott: One of the guys that could possibly give Zeller a run for his money for PoY, McDermott can flat out score. Averaging 22.9 points per game last year for Creighton, good for third in the nation, McDermott did so shooting a staggering 60 percent from the field. Plenty of people shoot 60 percent, but very few of them are also deadly 3-point shooters. The Creighton sharpshooter connected on 49 percent of his three’s last season, making 1.5 a game. Word is he’s improved his shot off the dribble, so the Missouri Valley better be on the lookout now more than ever.
Brady Heslip: With apologies to Indiana’s Jordan Hulls and Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, I just can’t get Heslip’s performance from last year’s NCAA Tournament for Baylor out of my head. In a second-round game against Colorado, he made nine threes and scored 27 points. For the year he made 100 of them. All this kid does is shoot three’s, but why fault him when he makes 44 percent of them? He made 2.6 three’s per contest, and only 0.6 two-point field goals. Something tells me the folks down in Waco don’t mind, though.
Most Likely to Lead the Nation in Rebounding:
Andre Roberson: Fifth in the nation in rebounding last year, I think this Colorado big man has the tools to finish out on top for 2012-13. Last season he averaged 11.1 rebounds per game, grabbing down double figure boards 26 times. He helped Colorado upset UNLV in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, hauling down 16 rebounds to go with 12 points.
Images: Google Images/SI.com
When someone asks you who you like in the Big 12 this season, go ahead and find the Big 12 standings from five years ago, or any year since, and tell them whoever is on top of them, is your team that you think will win. Because that will be Kansas. It’s a tale as old as Hug Hefner. Who still is doing better than all of us.
BIG-12 PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
1.) Kansas – This seems too easy, but I’m not one to look off a sure thing. Withey is back. Travis Releford at the point with Elijah Johnston in the backcourt. Perry Ellis is going to make a name for himself while Bill Self continues to prove he’s an elite coach even though he’s probably the most overlooked coach with a national title, in all of America.
2.) Baylor – It’s really a two-team race in the Big 12. Scott Drew has brought the Bears out of the depths of college basketball and continuously hauls in top recruiting classes. This season, Isaiah Austin will compliment Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip on the perimeter. Look at Duece Bello and A.J. Walton to have better season defensively for a Baylor team that really needs to disrupt passing lanes to stay competitive.
3.) West Virginia – We all keep forgetting that the Mountaineers have made the move to the Big 12. Coach Bob Huggins doesn’t mind. West Virginia has two key transfers eligible this season in LaSalle defector Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten from Dayton. Jabarie Hinds (7.4 ppg, team-leading 108 assists) and Deniz Kilicli (10.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg) return and as long as WVU can make up for the losses of Kevin Jones’ 19.9 ppg and 10.9 rpg and Darryl “Truck” Bryant’s 16.9 ppg — which will probably happen by-committee — they should compete in their first year in the league.
4.) Kansas State – The Wildcats enter the Bruce Weber era with the promise of a team still coached by Frank Martin. I guess that’s a good thing. Jordan Henriquez and Angel Rodriguez return, and what’s more, the leading-scorer Rodney MacGruder’s 15.8 points and 5.2 boards and 50 made three’s return, as does Will Spradling’s 9.3 points and 47 made three’s also makes its way back to Bramlage Coliseum. If the team can get even the gist of Weber’s system early-on, expect fireworks and deep run into March for K-State.
5.) Oklahoma State – How does a team that went 15-18 last season make the Top 5? They return everyone but their leading scorer, at least all the guys that matter. And really, that’s one guy: LeBryan Nash and his 13.3 points per game. Marcus Smart hits Gallagher-Iba Arena and Markel Brown brings his numbers back. Travis Ford has a legitimate NCAA Tournament team on his hands. The only question is depth.
8.) Iowa State
10.) Texas Tech
Pierre Jackson, Baylor – Junior college players in big-time college basketball are normally quick-fix guys. Jackson is one of those exceptions. He averaged 13.8 points and 5.9 assists for the Bears last season and with the addition of Isaiah Austin, the lobs should still be aplenty. He’s quick, defends the perimeter well — leading the team with 68 steals — and has total control of the offense under coach Scott Drew. He’s headed for the Cousy Award.
Jeff Withey, Kansas – Seems like he’s been around forever, right? The talented shot-blocker for the Jayhawks is ready to take leadership with the departure of Thomas Robinson to the NBA. He averaged 9 points, 6.3 boards and had 140 blocks in 2011-12 and this season he’ll need more of the same now that he’s the sole guy in the post. Perry Ellis will take some of the burden off Withey, but it won’t stop him from being a human bruise.
Myck Kabongo, Texas – The sophomore has no choice. Kabongo learned for one season under J’Covan Brown and now school is out — on the court, at least — for the point guard. There isn’t a ton of hype on this team going into the season, so they’ve got that going for them. But that’s because the number of high-profile players is at one: Kabongo. More that likely, this will be it for him as a collegian, because this kid can lead the nation in assists (averaged 5.1 assists per game last season) if he minimizes the turnovers (102 in 2011-12).
LaBryan Nash – He’ll be the top offensive weapon for the Cowboys. He’ll be spelled by Markel Brown and Marcus Smart, but he’s the epicenter of this half-court-centric attack that commands discipline in the post. Nash has it after some freshman season bumps. This will more-than-likely be his final season in Stillwater, so leaving the program with an NCAA Tournament berth will be on his mind. A double-double year isn’t out of the question.
Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech – The bright spot on an otherwise horrible team. Blame Billy Gillispie. Tolbert quietly had a serious season for the Red Raiders in BCG’s lone season, and now he’ll have to do the same under interim coach Chris Walker. He averaged 11.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg for the 8-23 Red Raiders and I expect him to do more now that he’s not being chain-whipped in practice by BCG (KIDDING!). Expect an 18-and-8 year from him, because he has to do it for Texas Tech to even sniff a .500 record.
MOST UNDERVALUED TEAM
Texas – No, this isn’t supposed to be below in the “overrated team” category. Rick Barnes is one of the best at getting average out of great talent. This season, he’s giving Myck Kabongo the keys to the system, and hoping that he does something right. This team lacks talent, and strangely, that’s why this team will do well. Prince Ibeh is the prize incoming recruit, and the Longhorns return Sheldon McClellan (11.3 ppg) and Julien Lewis (7.8 ppg) in terms of scoring to go along with Kabongo’s 9.6 ppg. They also bring back Jonathan Holmes’ 4.8 rebounds per game. If Kabongo can be the man that J’Covan Brown was last season, this team could shock the Big 12.
MOST OVERRATED TEAM
Kansas State – Forgive me, Bruce Weber. One of the nicest guys in the business inherits great talents in Jordan Henriquez and Angel Rodriguez, and he’ll get to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. But I think a lot of people overvalue Weber’s buffer time between getting his team to adjust to his style of play. Weber utilizes more zone than Frank Martin did, and that’s a lot tougher to get used to that one would imagine. It’s not going to be a bad first year for Wildcat fans under Weber, just not a great one.
SLEEPER IMPACT PLAYER
Romero Osby, Oklahoma – He’s not that traditional sleeper. Osby was third on the Sooners in scoring (12.9 ppg) in his first season since transferring in from Mississippi State in 2011-12. He also led the team in rebounding at 7.3 per game. The sleeper part of it is that he was on a 15-16 team. The Sooners should be better this season, but if that team is going to be good, Osby is going to be the reason why. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a double-double out of this guy.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Pierre Jackson, Baylor– I’m one of the most skeptical people when it comes to junior college players making the jump to Division I. The ones that make it normally are the ones that didn’t qualify out of high school, and even those have a tough time keeping it together for two/three years in D-I. Jackson is one of the exceptions. He’s got the speed and court vision and has commanded control of the Bears on the court since Day 1. He’s going to make some late-first-round team very happy in the 2013 NBA Draft.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Travis Ford, Oklahoma State – The Cowboys had the roughest of rough years in 2011-12. This year, a huge recruiting haul for Ford including point guard Marcus Smart could create a deadly one-two punch with LeBryan Nash. Back comes Nash’s 13.3 ppg and 5 rpg along with Markel Brown’s 10.5 and 5.1 per. Don’t forget Jean-Paul Olukemi (9.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Brian Williams (9.6 ppg) making a return. Smart will be this team’s starting point guard with Brown moving to the two. If Michael Cobbins and Phillip Jurick (97 combined blocks) can improve their defensive presence, Ford could be a surprise 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
PHOTO: BIG 12 CONFERENCE