Everyone who has watched college basketball this season knows about Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky and how they’ve made the Wooden Award a two horse race. However, there are a number of other players across college basketball who certainly deserve some recognition at the national level.
Jerian Grant G Notre Dame
Son of Harvey Grant, nephew of Horace Grant, and brother of current NBA player Jerami Grant, Jerian Grant certainly has the pedigree to be a great NBA player one day. This season as the engine behind the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Grant has been the go-to guy for everything. Hitting timely shots, finding his teammates for open looks and defending down the stretch, Grant has been nothing short of incredible for the Irish.
If Jahlil Okafor did not attend Duke, there is no doubt in my mind that Grant would be the frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year. He is the complete package as both a guard and a leader, certainly a captivating prospect for Notre Dame fans. A likely lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft, Grant is a player to keep your eyes on moving forward as Notre Dame looks to make a deep tournament run.
Delon Wright G Utah
The de facto leader of a 20-4 Utah squad that will make a push towards the Pac-12 championship, Wright is a leader in every sense of the word. He is dynamite in the up-tempo system of the Utes, able to push the pace and get to the hole while also demonstrating a willingness to pass and find teammates for open shots. Additionally, he is probably the best defensive guard in the entire Pac-12, averaging just over two steals per game while going up against some of the toughest guards in the country.
He shows great patience and maturity in his offensive game, allowing pick and roll plays to develop while utilizing both hands to drive to the basket. His constant motor, tireless effort, and willingness to do anything that is asked of him make Wright a massive asset to the Utah Utes and likely an NBA player come this summer. Wright is the perfect example of someone who utilized college to properly develop his game, and now he ranks amongst the best in the country at the point guard position. Keep an eye on Wright in both the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, and I assure that you will not be disappointed.
Karl-Anthony Towns F Kentucky
While Towns came into the season as one of Kentucky’s highly touted freshmen, his emergence as a true superstar has been something not many saw coming. Towns is a complete big man with the ability to pass, shoot, rebound, and defend on the low post. His ability to make a difference at the next level has been well documented by NBA scouts.
However, what has truly wowed me this season is his ability to contribute as a teammate when he helps Willie Cauley-Stein on defense, makes the extra pass for an outside shot, and plays all-around unselfish basketball in an effort to help his team win. Towns has made it clear that despite his incredible talent, his main desire is to win games as a Kentucky Wildcat, and with John Calipari’s uber talented roster, he has done just that. ¥et it has been Towns’ ability to sacrifice, not just his ability to contribute, that has truly impressed me during his freshman season, and I look forward to watching him and his Kentucky teammates make a push towards perfection as they head into the tournament.