Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 13th, 2014

With the season tipping off on Friday night, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion over the next four months. Our crack panel of seven national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this is where we ended up.

First Team All-Americans

FirstTeam

  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina – Paige enters his junior season at North Carolina following a sophomore campaign when the guard take his game to new heights. After a fairly productive freshman season (8.2 PPG), the 6’1″ point guard took home the ACC’s Most Improved Player Award by upping that average to 17.5 PPG as he led the Tar Heels to the NCAA Tournament. Paige’s season was good enough for him to be the first North Carolina point guard to be named first-team All-ACC as a sophomore since Tar Heels’ legend Phil Ford in 1976. Expectations are high in Chapel Hill again this season, and with Paige running the show, it is easy to understand why. Factoid: In an informal poll of college coaches taken by CBSSports.com in August, Paige was named as one of the players the pollsters would most like to have on their team this season. Once coach said of the Tar Heel, “he really doesn’t get enough credit for what he did for North Carolina last season. Won’t surprise me if he’s National Player of the Year.”
  • Juwan Staten, West Virginia – Not many guards can fill up the stat sheet like Staten. The highly productive senior returns for the Mountaineers following a season when he become the first player in West Virginia history to score 500 points (598), grab 150 rebounds (186), and dish out 150 assists (193) in a season. With the offseason transfers of Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, Staten will almost definitely see those numbers rise during his final collegiate season in Morgantown. After a two-year hiatus from the NCAA Tournament, Staten appears primed to lead what one expert is calling an underrated Mountaineers squad back to the Big Dance. Factoid: Following Staten’s first season at West Virginia, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins gave his guard the assignment of watching tape from two of the great point guards Huggins coached at Cincinnati – Nick Van Exel and Steve Logan.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville – It was a bit of a surprise in April when Harrell announced that he would return to Louisville for his junior season rather than enter the NBA Draft. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is undoubtedly pleased with his big man’s decision, as Louisville is set to begin its first season in the arduous ACC. With Russ Smith and Luke Hancock gone, Harrell seems to be the best bet to pick up the slack in Pitino’s up-tempo offense. The junior forward has reportedly added what he and his coach call a more consistent 14-to-16 foot jump shot to his offensive repertoire. While that development unquestionably has Louisville fans giddy, it should worry the Cards’ new conference foes. Factoid: Harrell originally committed to Virginia Tech out of high school, but he reopened his recruitment following Seth Greenberg’s abrupt dismissal. A few weeks later, Harrell signed with Louisville and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • Jahlil Okafor, Duke – The Chicago prep superstar-to-Duke pipeline continues as Okafor is set to begin his freshman season in Durham. The consensus number one high school player in the Class of 2014 enters his college career with a tremendous amount of hype. He has been described as “one of the most skilled and poised back to the basket centers to come along in some time.” Duke brought in a star-studded recruiting class to help offset the early departures of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, and there is no question that Okafor is the jewel of that class. If the big man turns in the type of season that many expect from him, there is no telling what the ceiling for the Blue Devils could be. Factoid: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has already acknowledged that he expects Okafor to be a one-and-done: “We won’t have him long. We’ll have him this year and then he’ll be one of the top NBA picks.”
  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin – Kaminsky entered the 2013-14 season as a relative unknown after averaging just 4.2 points in 10.3 minutes per game as a sophomore. He did not remain an unknown for long, though, as the junior emerged as one of the top big men in the Big Ten, taking home consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors. While his regular season was outstanding, what really turned Kaminsky into a household name was his 28-point, 11 rebound effort against Arizona to send Wisconsin to the Final Four. The Badgers return four starters from that Final Four squad, but none are more important than the seven-foot senior. Factoid: Kaminsky was lightly-recruited coming out of Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois. In fact, he was a Plan B for the Badgers after one of their top frontcourt targets, Nnanna Egwu, committed to Illinois.

Second Team All-Americans

secondteam

  • Fred VanVleet, Wichita State – The steady control man who helped lead Wichita State to an unbeaten regular season returns to the fold for the Shockers. VanVleet, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, was recently named a preseason first-team All-American by the Associated Press. The junior personifies a true point guard, as he led the conference in total assists, assists per game, and assist-to-turnover ratio last year. With a rock-solid player like VanVleet running the show, you can understand why Gregg Marshall’s squad is poised for another very successful season. Factoid: Wichita State started last season 34-0 before falling to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. While the Shockers have moved on from the defeat, VanVleet says, “I think about it every once in awhile when I need extra motivation.”
  • Ron Baker, Wichita State – Joining VanVleet on the RTC second team is his teammate, Ron Baker. The redshirt junior has blossomed from an unheralded recruit to one of the nation’s premier players. Over the past two seasons, Baker has been in the Wichita State starting lineup 52 times. In those 52 games, the Shockers are an incredible 49-3. With the graduation of Cleanthony Early, Baker will likely build on his 13.1 points per game average from a season ago, and he seems to be the best bet to lead this year’s Shockers in scoring. Factoid: Baker had the pleasure of guarding LeBron James at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas this summer. Baker said of the experience, “I wouldn’t say I held my own or anything; he was only going about 50 percent. The memory I have of guarding him is enough for me. He plays like a bull. He’s pretty much unguardable. He likes to talk a lot.”
  • Caris LeVert, Michigan – During his two years in the maize and blue, LeVert has seen standout teammates Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary all move on to the NBA. After establishing himself as a legitimate scorer (12.9 PPG) in his sophomore season, it is now LeVert’s team in Ann Arbor. Michigan has advanced to the Final Four and won an outright Big Ten title in the past two seasons. If LeVert can take over – much like Burke did in 2012-13 and Stauskas a year ago – John Beilein’s squad will once again be a true contender in the Big Ten. Factoid: LeVert played the tail end of last season with a fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his foot, an injury that he believes he suffered during Michigan’s run to the Elite Eight. LeVert had surgery to correct the injury on May 12 and he is 100 percent healthy to begin the season.
  • Sam Dekker, Wisconsin – After turning down early entry into the NBA Draft, the immensely talented Dekker returns to Madison for his junior season. Following a freshman season where he served as Wisconsin’s sixth man, Dekker started all 38 games for the Badgers last season and was one of just six players in the Big Ten to average 12 points and six rebounds per game. At 6’9″, the wing is a match-up nightmare due to his ability to score both from the outside and at the rim. Factoid: Dekker was listed at 6’7″ during his first two seasons at Wisconsin, but over the summer, he was measured at 6’9″ on multiple occasions. Dekker said of his growth, “the extra two inches feels good. I feel comfortable at this height.”
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona – Hollis-Jefferson showed a lot of glimpses of his vast potential during his freshman season in Tucson, but none clearer than in the NCAA Tournament. In the Wildcats’ Round of 32 victory over Gonzaga, he tallied a season-high 18 points along with five rebounds, five assists, and four blocks. He carried that strong performance over to the Sweet Sixteen win over San Diego State where he put up 15 points to go along with six rebounds. After being used as a spark plug off the bench as a freshman, Hollis-Jefferson appears ready to take the next step as a full-time starter for Sean Miller’s squad. Factoid: Looking to improve his offensive game, Hollis-Jefferson spent a lot of time in the offseason working on his jump shot. According to Sean Miller, no Wildcat took more jump shots over the summer than Hollis-Jefferson.

Third Team All-Americans

ThirdTeam

  • Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga – Pangos has been a mainstay in the Bulldogs’ lineup since arriving in Spokane, starting an incredible 103 of 104 career games. That durability – along with his sterling play on the floor – has allowed the Canadian sharpshooter to be named to the All-WCC first-team in all three of his collegiate seasons.With expectations again high for Gonzaga this season, look for Pangos’ stable presence to lead the Bulldogs from the opening tip. Factoid: It is pretty amazing that Pangos was even able to play last season, let alone play at a high level, as he was hampered by turf toe on one foot and a sprained ankle on the other. The injuries were so severe that he spent three months after the season ended rehabbing, trying to get back to 100 percent.
  • Terran Petteway, Nebraska – Nebraska (A.K.A. Nebrasketball) was one of the hot stories of the 2013-14 season, as it battled through the tough Big Ten to earn its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1998. A major reason for that success was Petteway’s play, as the first-team All-Big Ten performer led the conference in scoring with 18.1 points per game. If the Cornhuskers are able to build on last year’s run and advance to even greater heights this season, Petteway’s scoring prowess will play a major role. Factoid: Petteway spent his freshman season in 2011-12 at Texas Tech before transferring to Nebraska. According to the junior, the choice to leave his home state to play for Tim Miles at Nebraska was a no-brainer.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State – Niang has been a force to be reckoned with ever since he stepped foot on Iowa State’s campus. After a wildly successful freshman campaign when he averaged 12.1 points per game, he took it up a notch in his sophomore season with 16.7 points per outing. If Niang can make a similar progression during his junior season, Iowa State will be a tough out throughout its Big 12 slate and into the postseason. Factoid: Niang underwent an incredible body transformation this offseason. The junior has dropped 25 pounds and halved his body fat as he strives to become an All-American force for the Cyclones.
  • Stanley Johnson, Arizona – California’s 2014 Mr. Basketball begins his first season in Tucson as one of the most talked-about freshmen in the country. Known throughout recruiting circles for his incredible versatility on both ends of the court, Johnson should bring another dimension to a stacked Arizona squad. Standing at 6’7″ and weighing 237 pounds, it is unlikely that Johnson will be pushed around too much in the Pac-12. Factoid: Faith trumps everything in Johnson’s life. As a young athlete, he missed many Sunday basketball games because church topped basketball in his house.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky – The 2014 Gatorade National Player of the Year joins a stacked roster in Lexington and appears ready to make a significant impact in his freshman season. Standing at 6’11”, Towns is not your typical big man. He is an extremely capable three-point shooter and his passing skills have earned great praise. John Calipari brought in another tremendous recruiting class this season and Towns certainly has the skills to be seen as the crown jewel. Factoid: Towns, who was a tremendous student in high school, is studying kinesiology and plans to become a doctor when his playing days are over.

Honorable Mentions: Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Delon Wright (Utah) Perry Ellis (Kansas), Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Branden Dawson (Michigan State), Tyler Haws (BYU), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Brandon Ashley (Arizona), Ryan Boatright (Connecticut), Wayne Selden (Kansas), Chasson Randle (Stanford), Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Treveon Graham (VCU), Myles Turner (Texas), and Aaron Harrison (Kentucky).

Some brief analysis on the selections:

  • Thirty different players earned nominations to our three teams, and there were no consensus RTC First Team Preseason All-Americans. However, the five members of the first team – Marcus Paige, Juwan Staten, Montrezl Harrell, Jahlil Okafor, and Frank Kaminsky – were the only five players to be named by every pollster.
  • Twelve of the 15 players selected to the RTC All-America teams come from the “Power Seven” conferences. Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Kevin Pangos are the only players to come from outside those leagues.
  • The RTC First-Team All-America has just one difference from the Associated Press First Team All-America, as Juwan Staten is a member of the RTC First Team All-America, while Fred VanVleet is on the Associated Press First Team All-America.
  • With the season set to begin on Friday, we definitely realize there will be some different names on this list come March 2015. Until then, let’s all debate and discuss intelligently and enjoy what should be another very entertaining season of college basketball.
WCarey (247 Posts)


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