The Big 12 All-Drone Team: Five Guys Flying Under the RadarPosted by Taylor Erickson on October 17th, 2013
On Tuesday, CBSSports.com released a ranking of the top 100 players in college basketball for the 2013-14 season. Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart were slotted as the top two players in the list, highlighting the type of talent we will be fortunate enough to see this season in the Big 12. Even for the casual Big 12 basketball fan, Wiggins and Smart are household names, but what about those “other” guys out there? The ones who will take a back seat to the Wiggins and Smart media exposure, but are fully capable of putting on a show in their own right? If we were to take a page out of the Dick Vitale vault, we might refer to this list as the All-Drone Team – guys who will fly a bit under the radar, but certainly remain viable weapons for their respective teams. Here are five Big 12 players to keep an eye on this season:
Markel Brown: 6’3” Senior Guard, Oklahoma State: While Marcus Smart is the one who garners the national media attention for Oklahoma State, Brown is a vital part of the Cowboys’ success in Stillwater. Brown initially made his mark in college basketball with his knack for throwing down monster dunks, but proved last season that he’s much more than just a high-flying guard, averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting 36% from the three-point line. It was Smart’s play down the stretch in Oklahoma State’s win last season in Allen Fieldhouse that drew praise nationally, and rightfully so, but Brown was the thorn in the side for the Jayhawks in the first half, knocking down five of seven three-point attempts to build a lead. There certainly won’t be a moment too big for Brown this season, given his fearlessness and confidence. Opposing players and fans alike should refrain from sleeping on him, or they’ll quickly be reminded just how impressive he is at dunking the basketball.
Georges Niang: 6’7” Forward, Iowa State: Unlike Brown, Niang isn’t a superior athletic specimen, but that’s what makes his European-inspired game all the more impressive. The fact that Niang is a staple in Fred Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system shows his ability to shoot the ball from deep. Add that to his ability to put the ball on the floor and his crafty ways of scoring around the rim and you have a match-up problem for almost any team in the country. Niang will be looked at as a key component this season after the departure of the Cyclones’ leading scorers. The combination of he and fellow forward Melvin Ejim will provide an ability to stretch the floor and test the frontcourt depth of Iowa State’s opponents this year.
Shane Southwell: 6’7” Guard, Kansas State: Bruce Weber’s squad enters the 2013-14 season without their two leading scorers in Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez from a year ago, thus leaving a massive void on the offensive end of the floor. That hole creates a perfect opportunity for Southwell, who averaged 8.4 points per game last year, to step up as the prominent feature in Weber’s motion offense. At 6’7”, Southwell has the length of a big man but the ability to stretch the floor and shoot the ball from deep, similar to Niang. Southwell’s versatility should prove to be a great match with Weber’s curling ball screen offense in which Rodney McGruder thrived last season. Much of Southwell and K-State’s success this season will depend on Will Spradling’s ability to run the point with the departure of Angel Rodriguez, but look for Southwell to be one of the better scoring threats in the Big 12 this season.
Perry Ellis: 6’8” Forward, Kansas: Ellis battled the proverbial “freshman wall” for much of the 2012-13 season, but emerged down the stretch for Kansas, providing a legitimate low post scoring option alongside Jeff Withey, earning Big 12 all-tournament team honors. For Ellis, the skill was evident in bits and pieces, but his passive-aggressive behavior on the court often left much to be desired from Kansas fans last season. This year, Kansas will need Ellis to hit the ground running, picking up right where he left off in March. What Ellis may lack in physicality and aggression, he makes up for with finesse around the basket and the ability to put the ball on the floor and score. In the CBSSports.com list, Ellis was nowhere to be found. While Andrew Wiggins and fellow freshmen Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid were recognized, Ellis remains the far less sexy pick in our freshman-infatuated society but there’s definitely a scenario where Ellis could lead Kansas in scoring this season. With the talent surrounding him in Lawrence, Ellis appears to be a bit under the radar and could end up surprising people nationally for the Jayhawks.
Cory Jefferson: 6’9” Forward, Baylor: Jefferson joined fellow Baylor teammate Isaiah Austin in a decision to forego June’s NBA Draft to return to Waco for another season. In doing so, Jefferson and Austin make up perhaps the most talented and experienced frontcourt in the league this year. Jefferson is an athletic freak at 6’9” and will get a chance to build upon an impressive junior season after spending his first few years behind a slew of NBA prospects at Baylor. Jefferson averaged 13.3 points per game for the Bears last season and brings a toughness to the team to complement Austin’s finesse style of play. In addition to a strong defensive presence, Jefferson has the ability to play above the rim, and punish anyone who tries to get in his way, similar to Markel Brown.
While Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, and Isaiah Austin will almost certainly be featured in the Big 12 spotlight for much of this season, these five individuals will play a prominent role in determining who ultimately wins the Big 12 championship come February and March. They may not all be currently recognized as some of the top players in college basketball right now, but by the time conference season rolls around, anyone familiar with Big 12 basketball will be well aware of what each of these individuals are capable of.