The 2018-19 NCAA college basketball season is a month away from Tournament play. Hundreds of men’s and women’s teams will be battling for those previous spots in the NCAA Tournament. From now until April, we’ll be following along, closely watching. But instead of just box scores and highlights, we’re going to profile a player from each class, plus one additional story. With TSFJ and the help from Josh Naso, we present to you The Sports Fan Journal’s Box And One.
In The Zone: There are so many very good college basketball players across the nation. Because of selection, varying estimations of potential and the development of that potential, the players who end up among the elite don’t always go to the most prestigious programs. Yes, UConn women, Kentucky and Duke men and the like nab a high number of those players. But since those schools can’t sign everybody, and a lot of those players choose other schools for differing personal reasons, some really talented players end up at “smaller” schools.
This is the case for Grambling State University’s Shakyla Hill. The senior from Little Rock is one of the nation’s most complete players. Her impact is bigger than just her gaudy numbers, though those numbers are a product of that impact. She plays 35 of the 40 regulation minutes and averages 19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and an incredible over 4 steals a game. Hill has her hand in every aspect of the game, being a force on offense and disruptive on defense. This willingness to affect all parts of basketball has led her to amass 2 quadruple-doubles in her career–something that’s only happened once in the history of men’s college basketball. Her latest one came on February 2nd, with Hill posting 21 points, 16 rebounds, 13 assists and 10 steals against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Perhaps it was her size, at just 5’7″ inches tall, that got her overlooked. Maybe she didn’t stand out in high school. MaxPreps had her ranked as the 751st player in the country in 2015, despite her averages that year being similar to her college averages now. Whatever the reason may be, Shakyla Hill has been a gem for the Lady Tigers since her arrival. Hopefully, with more light being shone her way, she’ll get the attention her and her game deserves.
Here are some other not-so-hidden gems around the country.
Freshman: Cam Reddish, Duke Blue Devils. It’s very easy to be overlooked on a team as widely known as Duke if one’s teammates are the number one and two prospects out of high school that are now the top two scorers in the ACC. Cam Reddish is every bit the lottery pick his teammates RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson are, and is the best shooter on the team. Reddish has an ideal NBA size with the potential to be an amazing two-way player with the right team and coaching staff. Yes, Barrett and Williamson deserve the praise they’re getting. But Reddish is very good, in his own right.
Sophomore: Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State Aztecs. Showing the interior players some love by highlighting Jalen McDaniels. The 6’10” highly skilled forward is carving up the Mountain West Conference, averaging 17 points and grabbing nearly 9 boards a game. San Diego State regularly has good players on good teams, and McDaniels may be a name to look out for in the first round of the Draft come June.
Junior: Ky Bowman, Boston College Eagles. The ACC is loaded with very, very good players—especially guards. Duke and North Carolina each have a pair of them, not to mention those guards at Syracuse and Pitt. Boston College has one who may not receive as much recognition, though he should. Ky Bowman, who is from North Carolina, was passed over by those schools in his home state and found his way to the Eagles. Bowman is third in the conference in scoring and at 6’1″, is pulling down nearly eight rebounds a game. Conference play has not been kind to Boston College, currently just 2-7. But Bowman is a pro prospect that will help whatever team selects him should he declare for the Draft.
Senior: Paris Kea, North Carolina Tar Heels. North Carolina’s women’s team has been just as hot as its men’s counterpart in the past couple weeks. Boasting upset wins over previously top-ranked Notre Dame and previously unbeaten NC State, those Heels are led by Paris Kea. The senior guard has a knack for making plays for herself and others.
And One: The country’s leading scorer plays at Campbell. He is 5’9″ and absolutely unstoppable. But this post is bigger than Chris Clemons and his 29 points per game. It’s even bigger than the fact he averages six rebounds at his height. This post is about the fact that Clemons has made game-winning jumpers against Radford two years in a row. Both shots are strikingly similar: rhythm dribbles as the clock ticks down and Clemons rising over defenders to sink a three to secure a victory for the Fighting Camels. There’s an old adage about being fooled once and being fooled twice, but Clemons didn’t try to trick Radford. He did what he does at a 40 percent clip—get in position to shoot a three.
Thirteen weeks in, and we’re still in the zone. Enjoy the college basketball season, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.