Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America TeamsPosted by Walker Carey on November 12th, 2015
With the season tipping off on Friday, there’s no better time to roll out our the RTC 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 and this is where we ended up.
First Team All-Americans
- Kris Dunn, Providence (UNANIMOUS) – Dunn enters his junior season after a finally healthy campaign where he averaged 15.6 points and 7.5 assists per game in leading Providence to its second straight NCAA Tournament. While his numbers show he is a triple-double threat every night, he needs to be watched in order to understand just how good he is. He ranked first in the country last season with a 50.0 percent assist rate; he was named co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year; and he recorded a steal once every 20 defensive possessions for the Friars. The quintessential floor leader does it all for his team and he does it at an awe-inspiring level. Factoid: The television show “Friends” may have aired its last episode in 2004, but that has not stopped Dunn from apparently becoming an avid fan of the series. Could we see the likes of Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer show up at Dunkin’ Donuts Center to root Dunn’s team on before season’s end?
- Melo Trimble, Maryland – Maryland was quite successful in its inaugural Big Ten season as the team advanced to its first NCAA Tournament since 2010. Those Terrapins were unquestionably led by senior guard Dez Wells, but now that he has graduated, Trimble will take over as the team’s heart and soul. The sophomore guard turned in a highly impressive freshman season where he averaged 16.2 points per game and shot a respectable 41.2 percent from behind the three-point line. Expectations are high this season in College Park, and Trimble will be a big reason why if Maryland ultimately meets its goals. Factoid: Trimble spent a portion of last summer playing for Team USA at the Pan American Games. At 20 years old, he was the youngest player selected to the squad by Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
- Buddy Hield, Oklahoma – The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year returns to Norman for his senior season. After terrorizing conference foes throughout both his sophomore (16.5 PPG) and junior (17.4 PPG) years, Hield will look to take his game to an even higher level during his final collegiate go-around. When he bypassed the NBA Draft last spring, the junior guard noted, “I just can’t wait to see what Coach Kruger has in mind for next year. I know we’re going to be a really good team.” It’s difficult to argue with Hield’s assertion there. Factoid: Hield, a native of the Bahamas, says that his self-proclaimed “Bahamian Swagger” is something he developed while growing up on the island chain with his single mother and six brothers and sisters.
- Ben Simmons, LSU (UNANIMOUS) – The 2015 Gatorade National Player of the Year arrives in Baton Rouge accompanied by a great deal of hype. When looking at the freshman’s prep statistics, it’s easy to understand why expectations surrounding him are so high. In 29 regular season games as a senior, he averaged 28.0 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.6 steals per game while shooting 70.7 percent from the field and collecting 24 double-doubles. Factoid: Former LSU great Shaquille O’Neal called Simmons “the best player in the world” when he introduced the prep star to his many Instagram followers last November.
- Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga – Wiltjer returns to the fold at Gonzaga after a junior season where he averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game on his way to becoming a consensus second-team All-American. At 6’10”, Wiltjer’s long-range shooting makes him a nightmarish match-up for Zags’ opponents — he shot a sizzling 54 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from behind the three-point line a season ago. Factoid: When Wiltjer arrived in Spokane following his transfer from Kentucky, Wildcats head coach John Calipari called Gonzaga coach Mark Few and told him how good of a post scorer Wiltjer can be, even though he never really had a chance to show that part of his game in Lexington.
Second Team All-Americans
- Ron Baker, Wichita State – Baker is back for his final season as a Shocker, culminating a career that has seen him blossom from an unheralded recruit to one of the nation’s premier basketball players. His team should once again be a significant force in both the Missouri Valley and on the national level and a major reason for that is Baker’s tremendous ability on both ends of the court. Factoid: After watching Baker play for Team USA in the Pan American Games, ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla gave tremendous praise to Baker, stating, “If he’s not first- or second-team All-American, I don’t know basketball.”
- Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia – Brogdon returns for a senior season where he will look to lead Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers to their third consecutive regular season ACC title. As a junior, Brogdon paced the deliberate Virginia offensive attack with 14.0 points per game. While it would be unreasonable to expect Bennett to change his offensive philosophy for the sake of one player, it would surprise nobody to see Brogdon become an even more productive cog in the Cavaliers’ attack. Factoid: Brogdon hopes to use the money he makes from his eventual professional career to create a non-governmental organization to help alleviate poverty and hunger in third world countries.
- Jamal Murray, Kentucky – Kentucky’s freshman class received a tremendous boost when it got a mid-summer pledge from Murray, a standout Canadian guard. Murray’s talent was on display in late July when he led Canada past the United States in the Pan American Games by scoring all 22 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime. The big guard has great offensive instincts which should allow for him to cause defensive problems for SEC backcourts all season long. Factoid: Just a few months ago, Murray was a standout player expected to graduate high school in spring 2016. He then reclassified to the Class of 2015, where he is now one of the hottest prospects eligible for the 2016 NBA Draft.
- Skal Labissiere, Kentucky – Following in the footsteps of former Kentucky big men DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle and Karl-Anthony Towns, is Labissiere, whose length and skill set already has NBA scouts very excited about his long-range potential. The big man’s talent is so considerable that Kentucky head coach John Calipari offered him a scholarship before any other prospect in his class. Calipari has already given a great deal of praise to Labissiere, saying he is in the same mold as a pair of his past collegiate standouts (and NPOYs), Marcus Camby and Anthony Davis. Factoid: Labissiere is a native of Haiti and did not come to the United States until a devastating earthquake rocked his country in January 2010.
- Jakob Poeltl, Utah – The sophomore Austrian began grabbing national attention during a freshman season when he exhibited his great size and potential on both ends of the court. Poeltl’s top moment in his inaugural campaign came in a Round of 64 victory over Stephen F. Austin where he contributed 18 points and eight rebounds to the winning effort. In his second season in Larry Krystkowiak’s system, the already-proficient Poeltl should become even more of a factor in the paint and on the glass. Factoid: Poeltl was discovered when Utah assistant Andy Hill stumbled upon an Austria/Netherlands match-up in the 2013 U-18 European Championships.
Third Team All-Americans
- Fred VanVleet, Wichita State – The steady control man who has led Wichita State to unprecedented heights during his first three collegiate seasons will look to keep that trend going this year. VanVleet is a point guard by the strictest definition, as he has led the Missouri Valley Conference in total assists, assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio over the last two seasons. Factoid: VanVleet found it easy to bypass the NBA Draft and return to Wichita State for his senior season, saying: “If I’m going to be a second-round pick, I’d rather be a second-round pick with a degree.”
- Marcus Paige, North Carolina – Paige is back in Chapel Hill for a senior season where expectations are high for the preseason #1 Tar Heels. While the guard’s productivity slipped a bit between his sophomore and junior seasons, he remains the unquestioned floor leader for Roy Williams and his very talented unit. Factoid: Paige suffered a broken hand during practice last week and will be sidelined for three to four weeks as a result.
- Denzel Valentine, Michigan State – Following a very productive junior season when he improved in every statistical category, Valentine returns for a Michigan State squad looking to build on April’s unexpected Final Four run. With a demonstrated ability to both score (14.5 PPG) and rebound (6.3 RPG), Valentine is among the most complete guards in the entire country. Factoid: Michigan State will look to Valentine for leadership again, as he was named a team captain for the second straight season.
- Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin – Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker no longer wear Badgers’ uniforms, so look for Hayes to emerge as Wisconsin’s most productive player this season. The junior forward started all 40 games and was third on the team in scoring (12.4 PPG) and second in rebounding (6.2 RPG) during the team’s magical run to the national championship game. Factoid: Hayes gave Badgers’ fans a glimpse of his clutch ability during last month’s Red vs. White scrimmage, as he hit a contested corner three in the waning seconds to give his squad the victory.
- Georges Niang, Iowa State – As Iowa State transitions from the Fred Hoiberg to the Steve Prohm era, Niang will remain a familiar face for the Cyclones. The fourth-year starter (and third-year captain) will once again be the go-to guy for Iowa State’s explosive offense. The Cyclones have earned a reputation over the last several seasons as a haven for transfers, but Niang’s time in Ames has shown the program can also come strong with four-year players. Factoid: New Iowa State coach Prohm has taken to Niang so much that the coach invites the senior into his office for bi-weekly private chats about the team.
Honorable Mentions: Perry Ellis (Kansas), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame), Gary Payton II (Oregon State), Troy Williams (Indiana), D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown), Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Jaylen Brown (Cal), Rico Gathers (Baylor), Damian Jones (Vanderbilt).
Some brief analysis on the selections:
- Twenty-six different players earned nominations to our three teams.
- Kris Dunn and Ben Simmons were consensus RTC First-Team Preseason All-Americans.
- Twelve of the 15 selections come from Power Five + Big East schools with Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer and Wichita State’s Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet the only representatives from outside those six basketball conferences.
- With the season set to begin on Friday afternoon, we definitely realize that there will be some different names on this list come April 2016. Until then, let’s all debate and discuss intelligently and enjoy what should be another very entertaining season of college basketball.