Identifying the Top Big 12 ReservesPosted by dnspewak on October 11th, 2011
There’s a reason the Sixth Man of the Year award exists. Our society values toughness; it roots for the underdog, and it appreciates good character. In short, America loves bench players, and so do college basketball coaches. The game’s best recruiters find hidden gems to help them off the bench when stars need to take a breather. Alas, here are the Big 12’s top reserves, listed in terms of their ever-important roles.
Ray Turner, Texas A&M: Turner’s statistics won’t blow your mind, but his leaping ability certainly will. A&M students didn’t campaign Turner for class president for nothing, after all. He’s probably the most exciting reserve in college basketball because of his athletic ability, but he can also rebound the heck out of the ball. Even though Turner is still playing in a crowded front court this season, new coach Billy Kennedy will figure out a way to give him valuable minutes. Or else he’ll miss out on dunks like the above.
The Backup Point Guard
Bubu Palo, Iowa State: It’s about time to give this walk-on a scholarship. Palo is more than just a funky name off the bench for the Cyclones. He’s a very good passer with some scoring punch, and overall, he’s the quintessential backup point guard. He played in every game last year and even started three contests, cracking double figures in the scoring department four times. Coach Fred Hoiberg has to find Palo a role on this team again in 2011-12.
The Steady Veteran
Fred Ellis, Baylor: Scott Drew can recruit all the McDonald’s All-Americans he wants in the paint, but he’ll always need a player like Ellis. Now entering his fifth season with the program, the 6’6″ forward plays basketball the right way. He consistently cracked the Bears’ rotation in 2010-11, giving his teammates steady and mistake-free minutes. Ellis will never provide much scoring punch off the bench, and there won’t be many available minutes for him behind Baylor’s all-star cast of forwards. However, when Ellis gets his chance to see the floor, there’s never a reason to worry.
The Do-It-All Guard
Will Spradling, Kansas State: During the first month of his freshman season, Spradling made an impression on the national scene. In a game against Virginia Tech during ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon, Spradling earned the praise of commentator Bob Knight after taking a few charges and playing all-around solid basketball. Even without Knight’s kind words, it was obvious that Spradling fit the mold of a Frank Martin player. As the season progressed, he experienced his share of freshmen struggles—take a six-turnover performance at Missouri, for example—but he emerged as an occasional scoring threat during Big 12 play. With the graduation of Jacob Pullen, Spradling may actually push for a starting job this fall. Even if he remains on the bench, though, he’s a bright prospect who could help Martin’s program tremendously as an upperclassman.