2011-12 RTC All-American TeamsPosted by zhayes9 on November 1st, 2011
Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @zhayes9.
The 2011-12 Rush the Court preseason All-American team only verifies the notion that the ongoing NBA lockout was a godsend for college basketball.
It can be argued that, if the NBA was enveloped in a state of stability with an agreed-upon revenue split and owners raking in profits everywhere from Boston to Sacramento, this All-American team would have a completely different look. If first-teamers Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones, along with second team selection Perry Jones, felt completely comfortable they’d be gearing up for their first professional game right about now, they may have opted for guaranteed riches instead of another campaign on campus. We’ll never know if, say, Sullinger was 100% coming back to Ohio State regardless of the Buckeyes early exit in the NCAA Tournament or a mid-season promise to Thad Matta.
One thing we do know: college basketball fans certainly aren’t complaining.
Without further ado, here’s this year’s first, second and third RTC All-American teams. Get ready to hear their names a lot over the next five months.
G- Jordan Taylor, SR, Wisconsin- Given his leadership abilities and on-court performance, Taylor is everything you want in a collegiate point guard. He’s developed from a sporadically-used freshman into one of the most efficient backcourt cogs in America. Taylor led the nation with a 3.83:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season and was named to the Big Ten all-defensive team. His scoring prowess was on full display during a monumental win over top-ranked Ohio State when Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half. He added a career-high 39 points at Indiana three weeks later.
G- Tu Holloway, SR, Xavier- The reigning Atlantic 10 POY is the engine that fuels Xavier’s potent offensive barrage. Holloway was asked to play an astounding 94.5% of available minutes last season and took full advantage, finishing second in the A-10 in both assist rate and free throw rate while compiling absurd 20/5/5 averages. Xavier legend David West was the only non-senior All-American in school history before Holloway earned third-team honors as a junior. Opposing guards also must respect Holloway from deep (35% 3pt). Expect him to become a household name by next March.
F- Harrison Barnes, SO, North Carolina- A preseason All-American last year, Barnes struggled under the weight of unfair expectations before exploding in the second half of the season, averaging nearly 16 PPG in league games, including 40 against Clemson in the ACC Tournament. Barnes only improved during the Heels’ Elite Eight push (21.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG), showing a new-found aggression and confidence sure to continue into his sophomore year. Barnes finished eighth in the ACC in scoring, posted the fifth-highest scoring average ever by a Carolina rookie and scored in double-figures 30 times last season.
F- Terrence Jones, SO, Kentucky- If the reports are true that Jones has added 10 pounds of muscle and improved his conditioning to avoid a repeat of last season’s second-half decline, the SEC better watch out. Jones averaged 16/17/4 during the loaded Maui invitational, scored 35 vs. Auburn and averaged a robust 16/9 as a freshman, but his contributions extend deeper than scoring. Jones finished near the top of the SEC in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, defensive rebounding percentage and block percentage.
F- Jared Sullinger, SO, Ohio State- The third sophomore to earn first team honors, Sullinger garnered the most votes among our panel for National Player of the Year. Sullinger was the most productive freshman on the planet last season, averaging 17/10 on 54% FG in 31.7 MPG. An unstoppable force in the paint from day one for Thad Matta, Sully drew double teams, crashed the backboard and instantly becamethe Buckeyes most reliable scorer. Sullinger has shed some unnecessary baby fat and spent the offseason developing a face-up game to compliment his advanced post repertoire.
G- Ashton Gibbs, SR, Pittsburgh- Gibbs dipped his toe in the NBA waters before electing to return for a senior season at Pitt where he’s a frontrunner to take home Big East POY honors. Gibbs has been a phenomenal scorer since arriving on campus, crossing the 1,000 point threshold as a junior. Gibbs will be asked to score and run the point following Brad Wanamaker’s graduation, but the multi-faceted guard should be able to handle double duty with his usual aplomb.
G- John Jenkins, JR, Vanderbilt- Considered the best shooter in the nation, Jenkins shot 41% from three as a sophomore despite facing constant double-teams and unrelenting attention from opposing defenses. Jenkins also shot a remarkable 89% from the charity stripe and led all SEC players in scoring (20.8 PPG) during league games. The sharp-shooting junior has reportedly upped his defense and penetration game this offseason to serve as an ideal complement to his extraordinary shooting capabilities.
G- Jeremy Lamb, SO, Connecticut- Lamb didn’t hit his stride until midway through Big East play and into the NCAA Tournament where he became UConn’s dependable second option after Kemba Walker. The lean but athletic Lamb averaged 16.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG during the Huskies’ magical March run and was named both to the All-Big East Tournament Team and NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team. He’s now expected to claim go-to guy status for the Huskies as a multi-dimensional wing capable of putting up huge scoring totals.
F- Perry Jones, III, SO, Baylor- A matchup nightmare at 6’11″, Jones passed up on the lottery to return to Waco and play in the postseason for the first time. Jones was a bright spot amidst a disappointing Bears season, averaging 13.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, shooting 55% and utilizing his length to guard multiple positions defensively for Scott Drew. Most believe Jones is just scratching the surface of his ability. If he develops a killer instinct and becomes more aggressive on a consistent basis, Jones could make postseason first team All-America.
F- Tyler Zeller, SR, North Carolina- Zeller was Carolina’s most consistent, efficient and reliable offensive player last season. He’s an athletic 7-footer who can run the floor, making him an ideal center in Roy Williams’ preferred breakneck pace. His left shoulder jump hook is practically unstoppable and one of the top go-to moves in college basketball. Zeller has improved his points, rebounds and assists per game in each of his three years in Chapel Hill. That trend should continue as a senior.
G- Kendall Marshall, SO, North Carolina- North Carolina’s floundering season suddenly took off when Marshall was inserted into the starting lineup. UNC would finish the season on a 20-3 push after the switch, and, in his first game playing 25+ minutes, Marshall tallied 16 assists against the impenetrable Florida State defense. A pure point guard in every sense of the word, the heady Marshall will be asked to spearhead Carolina’s patented secondary break from day one as a sophomore.
G- Marcus Denmon, SR, Missouri- The gritty and tough-minded Denmon might be the most under-appreciated player in the sport. Denmon led the nation in turnover rate and finished in the top-50 in offensive rating, effective FG% and true shooting percentage. His raw numbers are also inspiring: 16.9 PPG, 1.8 SPG, 50% FG and 45% 3pt as an undersized two-guard. He’s a leading candidate for Big 12 POY during what could be Missouri’s last year in the conference.
G- Austin Rivers, FR, Duke- Rivers is a 6’4″ combo guard with phenomenal explosiveness, agility and athletic ability, but he’s most advanced as a shotmaker. A blue-chip prospect, Rivers has unlimited range on his jumper and is an unstoppable playmaker with the ball in his hands. He could easily lead the Blue Devils in scoring as a freshman.
F- Thomas Robinson, JR, Kansas- With the Morris Twins off to the pros and Kansas down six main contributors from last season, Robinson has a chance to play 30-35 MPG and become the Jayhawks number one offensive option. A physical specimen with tremendous rebounding instincts, if Robinson refines his offensive game and adds a jumper from 12-16 feet, he’s a surefire All-American candidate.
F- Anthony Davis, FR, Kentucky- A former guard who grew seven inches while in high school, Davis has perimeter skills in a big man’s body. His shot-blocking instincts, leaping ability, fluidity and motor are off the charts. Davis reminds many evaluators of a young Kevin Garnett and is widely considered the frontrunner to be selected first in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Others Receiving Votes: Andre Drummond (Connecticut), Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Allen Crabbe (California), Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota), Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure), Michael Glover (Iona), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Michigan), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Kris Joseph (Syracuse), Reeves Nelson (UCLA), John Henson (North Carolina).