25 under-the-radar college hoops players to keep an eye on

Posted 19 hours ago | By Jeff Mezydlo

We know about the stars of the 2020-21 college basketball season. The all-Americans and one-and-done elite freshmen. But what about those underrated performers who don’t get the attention they deserve?

Here’s a look at 25 names to remember going forward during this unique college basketball season.

Keve Aluma, Forward, Virginia Tech

Keve Aluma, Forward, Virginia Tech
David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

Aluma spent his first two college seasons at Wofford, where he averaged less than 7.0 points. However, the 6-foot-9 Maryland native is off to a strong start for the ranked Hokies. Through his first four contests, Aluma averaged 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. He scored 23 and pulled down eight rebounds during Virginia Tech’s 81-73 overtime win over then-No. 3 Villanova on Nov. 28.

Joel Ayayi, Guard, Gonzaga

Joel Ayayi, Guard, Gonzaga
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert is a preseason all-American, big-man Drew Timme has been surrounded by hype and freshman Jalen Suggs is a blue-chip elite for the Bulldogs. Then there is Ayayi, who has been nothing but solid during his first two seasons with the Zags. Through the first three games of his junior season, now a regular starter, Ayayi averaged 13.7 points, while shooting 57.6 percent, and 7.7. rebounds.

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Marquette pauses basketball activities due to positive COVID-19 tests

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 10/22/20

Marquette University announced on Wednesday evening that the men’s and women’s basketball programs have paused all team activities for at least 14 days due to each returning one positive COVID-19 test. 

While the school didn’t disclose if any players tested positive, the official statement added that all who fall into “NCAA-defined Tier 1 team personnel” will quarantine for the 14-day period.

“Our student-athletes and staff members have been doing a tremendous job in relation to following university and NCAA COVID-19 protocols and that effort has been reflected in our department’s low positivity rate,” vice president and director of athletics Bill Scholl said. “The actions we are taking surrounding the basketball programs are a proactive measure aimed at stopping the potential for increased infection, with the health and safety of everyone involved our highest priority.”

Men’s coach Steve Wojciechowski added: 

“We have talked as a team on multiple occasions about keeping our focus on what we are able to control when it comes to the impact COVID-19 has had on our lives. While there are so many uncertainties with the virus, one action we are able to control is our response to the test results and our efforts as a program to keep everyone associated as healthy and safe as possible.”

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Fall basketball? NBA season could stretch into September

The NBA season could be extended into September in order to determine a winner, rather than canceling it, several ESPN analysts suggest.

While there’s been talk the league could play into August, this is the first time we’ve heard of potentially playing to the end of summer or even the start of fall.

Appearing on Outside the Lines, Ramona Shelburne declares the league will do all it can to have a team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy (Video link).

“This is a general sense among owners and players that no matter what they want to salvage the season, if that’s in July, if that’s in August, if that’s in September, so be it,” she said. “I don’t think anyone wants to start a new season without crowning a champion from this season.”

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Originally posted on Hoops Rumors | By Dana Gauruder | Last updated 3/23/20

Relentless and revered: How I will remember Kobe Bryant

To young basketball fans who came of age in Southern California in the mid-1990s, Kobe Bryant was not a basketball player, but a young god. Our prince. We watched him grow up with the Los Angeles Lakers, as sure of his potential as we were of our own. When he won, we won.

Now he’s gone, and with him, our childhoods.

Dead at 41 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., along with eight others, including his precious 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

He died on the way to a girls basketball tournament at his namesake Mamba Academy, in my hometown of Thousand Oaks, Calif., roughly an hour’s drive from the Great Western Forum, Bryant’s first professional home. The tragedy has taken on added meaning for those I know best. After the news broke, I almost immediately received texts as well as anguished phone calls. Our hero, gone, and so close to our home.

Part of his future was in Thousand Oaks, where the next generation of Kobe acolytes were to be infused with the Mamba Mentality. He also was involved in creative endeavors, technology businesses and a venture capital partnership.

An hour after Bryant’s death, I commiserated with my longtime friend Justin Taylor, Nike’s former director of digital marketing. He worked closely with Bryant toward the end of his professional basketball career and saw the beginnings of a burgeoning empire.

“I remember asking him, ‘It’s your last year, what do you want to accomplish?’ The Lakers were not winning the title that year, it’s his last year, what were his goals,” Taylor said. “He was not a guy to rest on his laurels. He looked at me and said, “Every single morning, I wake up and I work to get better at every single thing in my life. Whether it be making eggs or basketball. And I’ll do that every single day, for the rest of my life.’ ”

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By Jon Gold  |  Last updated 1/26/20

Lithuanian Basketball Team President Is Blaming Struggles On Black Players

Written by Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports.com

Gedvydas Vainauskas, president of Lithuanian professional basketball team BC Lietuvos Rytas, has sparked controversy after attributing his team’s struggles to having too many black players, according to FIBA.com writer Simonas Baranauskas‏.

“We’ve always held a stance that there shouldn’t be more than two black players on the team,” Vainauskas said. “What happened was that coach Tomas Pacesas likes to play with black players — to control them, to teach them, to tutor them — and we ended up with four players that are black. All of a sudden, they came together to form … how should I put it … a sort of a gang. It cannot be that way; no more than two black players — I can say that from my 23 years of experience in the business. Teams, don’t ever have more than two black players … (smiles) Because that’s when bad things start to take place.”

According to Baranauskas, the site that aired the video (which is owned by Vainauskas) edited out the comments and re-uploaded the video, but the original video (in Lithuanian) can still be seen on Facebook.

Vainauskas issued a statement regarding the incident, and it is published on the team’s website:

“While talking about the lessons learned during the last season, I had in my mind the situation with foreign players.

The principal position of BC Lietuvos Rytas is that a basketball player first of all is a professional.

Unfortunately, a few of our foreigners did not meet expectations of the club.

During the play-offs they acted irresponsibly and that had a great negative impact on our team’s performance. In my interview, I expressed my disappointment about some of the foreign players selected for the season.

I apologize, if I was improperly understood.”

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Ben Simmons Had Taken Over College Basketball. Can He Become the Best One-And-Done Ever?

Written by Ryan Palencer at The Comeback

Ben Simmons was awarded the title of the second coming before logging any minutes of college basketball. He was anointed as the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft before completing his first dribble at LSU. Simmons is this year’s “it guy” for the top freshman in the country…and he has done nothing at all to disappoint. In fact, he has built up his legend.

Simmons is doing things that have not even been approached in college basketball for a few decades. The stat lines he accumulates on a nightly basis, as incredible as they are, don’t even tell the whole story.

Simmons has the size of Kevin Durant, the smooth passing skills of Magic Johnson, and the ability to hit the board with athleticism of Ralph Sampson. Simmons, similar to Johnson, has the ability to play every position on the floor and not lose a step.

Through nine games in his college career, Simmons is more than just a star on paper, but the raw numbers are imposing enough in their own right: His line is 19.9 points, 14.9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2.4 steals, 1.6 blocks, and three ESPN highlights per night. Beyond those numbers and data points, however, Simmons has the look of a generational talent that was ready for the NBA two years ago.

There are a couple of knocks on Simmons, believe it or not. Last week, with the game on the line against Marquette in the final seconds, Simmons unselfishly passed to a teammate, and the Tigers lost. Willing to share and finding the open teammate is all well and good, but you need THAT guy to have a killer instinct. Simmons got drilled by critics (albeit in a much softer tone) the way LeBron James was early in his career. Passing was seen as unacceptable, in many cases a sign of an unwillingness to take the big shot.

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Big Ten Basketball Continues to Take Its Lumps in Non-Conference Play

Written by Andy Coppens at Talking 10

Big Ten basketball has had some fun at the top of the college basketball heap over the past four years or so, but that is clearly coming to an abrupt end in the 2015-16 season.

What was thought to maybe be a blip on the radar in the first few days of the season has become an alarming trend. There was Wisconsin losing to Western Illinois and Illinois losing to North Florida to set off alarm bells on opening night alone.

However, things have settled in to a not-so-good pattern for the conference since that time. What was a fluke has proven to be a trend.

Since those alarming opening night losses, the Big Ten is already down to just four undefeated teams in under a week.

However, Tuesday night may have taken the cake, as there were losses to the likes of Radford and Louisiana Tech coming from Penn State and Ohio State respectively. Even on a down year, Big Ten teams should and have beaten teams like this in easy fashion.

For Ohio State, perhaps its a sign of youth like a few head-scratching losses by Wisconsin, but it was the second loss in a row to a non-Power 6 school and that is mind-blowing.

It’s mind-blowing for a couple of reasons, chiefly because OSU brought in arguably the best collection of talent not at Kentucky in the country this past recruiting cycle. That kind of talent should be enough to pull out a win over Radford of all teams.

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Five Things Learned at the 2K Classic

Written by Mike Abelson at Bloguin

Another season of college basketball is underway, and while football is still center stage, the November slate of hoops is always fun with endless enticing non-conference matchups. The 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden brought Duke, Wisconsin, Georgetown, and VCU to Manhattan, and they played four action-packed games that entertained the thousands. A lot happened, a lot was learned, and a lot of questions were brought up. Let’s chomp into this one and try to make sense of it all.

1. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig need consistent help

Hayes and Koenig played major roles in Wisconsin’s run to the national title game last year. Now they are the veteran leaders on a team with eight new players. The dynamic is totally different, and at times they did too much on the floor. Yes, the Badgers did beat VCU in the consolation game, but points were a chore to come by for large chunks of both games, especially in the Friday loss to Georgetown.

It was a small moment, but something that stood out was a play in the second half against VCU. Hayes got the ball in the middle of the paint with an open teammate on each block. Instead of dishing for an easy two he tried for a quick drive and layup. In that moment two VCU defenders closed in, hassled the shot, got the rebound, took it the other way, and drew a foul. The Rams scored both the shots so Hayes’ play ended in a four-point swing in VCU’s favor. It wasn’t selfish at all. It just looked like Hayes didn’t trust his teammates yet. That will have to change in a big way going forward for the Badgers to succeed.

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To Freshman or Not to Freshman, That Is the Question

Written by Perry Missner at Hoops Manifesto

If a person were to look for easy sports narratives (and who isn’t?), then Tuesday night’s Champions Classic from Chicago made for an easy one for college coaches: to freshman or not to freshman. It’s not as if Bill Self and Tom Izzo wouldn’t give their eye teeth to get freshman classes laden with talent, but there are only one-and-done players to go around. Right now, Duke and Kentucky have nearly cornered the market, so Kansas has to take a flyer on the currently ineligible Cheick Diallo and Michigan State gets bench minutes from Devonta Davis. Izzo and Self can tout player development, but they have brought in one-and-doners before (remember Wiggins and Embiid, and to a lesser extent, Gary Harris?). So, if that hypothetical person in the first sentence were lazy, he could say that Kansas and Michigan State develop talent, while Kentucky and Duke just rent it. I am certainly lazy, but I’m not that lazy.

Every year the Champions Classic is an interesting referendum on four of the best programs in college basketball. It seems like it is best when the Blue Devils and Wildcats meet, but I can’t really complain about the other match ups. I just wish there were more events like this. Perhaps that is just being greedy, but why couldn’t four other teams meet annually. Let’s see: how about Arizona, North Carolina, Villanova, and Ohio State? For now, I’ll be content with the Champions Classic and let the wonderful people who run college basketball sort everything else out.

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College Basketball’s New Points of Emphasis Are Reshaping the Sport

Written by Ryan Palencer at Bloguin

Outrage flooded the NBA when the “Hack-a-Shaq” took effect. During the last few years, the same outrage has followed in the NBA playoffs when teams would foul poor free throw shooters to gain possessions.

In the first few games of the new college basketball season, we’re seeing something different. What’s happening on the hardwood is not due to any loopholes that teams have been found in the rules. Rather, free throw totals are skyrocketing because of the new emphasis on freedom of movement.

The main goal of the rule makers in college basketball this season was to make the game more aesthetically pleasing for fans. In doing this, the first thing they realized is that fans want to see a fluid, balletic style of play, rather than physical defensive slugfests with endless bumping of cutters and bodies crashing into each other with impunity.

In outlawing disruptive physical play, the NCAA has created an environment in which free throws reign supreme. This is the downside of policing contact: The emphasis takes the flow of the game in a different direction, creating so many stoppages of the clock with so many trips to the line. Reducing rough play is a goal which won’t be achieved right away; teams are clearly adjusting to the new points of emphasis. In the meantime, whistles have become the soundtrack for games. That’s an inconvenience the sport will have to live with, trusting that defenses and coaches will adjust in the course of time.

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