College basketball: 10 under-the-radar seniors hoops fans should know
It won’t take long for college basketball fans to become familiar with the stars at Duke or Kentucky this season. Those blueblood programs will appear on national television at least twice a week. North Carolina has a veteran roster that features two four-year stars, which has become a rarity in the upper echelon. It’s only news if Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 regular season title, regardless who shoots and passes for coach Bill Self, while Michigan State is a mystery in November and a guarantee come March, under wily coach Tom Izzo.
Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram could be first-team All-Americans. They’re freshmen, of course.
Out among the 351 Division I teams, however, there are seniors aiming this season to wrap a tight bow on a fantastic career. They have the ability to score 30 points or drop a double-double on any opponent. When March rolls around they could lead their team to an upset victory. They play in front of two or three thousand fans in tiny gyms or old arenas. They take their shots in the national spotlight whenever available. When they do, be sure to set the DVR or carve out time to watch. Here are the nation’s 10 best under-the-radar seniors, broken down into a first team and second team.
Juan’ya Green - Hofstra
Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich describes Green as an NBA level passer. Green, a 6-2, 190-pound point guard, believes in his coach. He played two seasons for Mihalich at Niagara, then followed him to Hofstra. Last season, Green averaged 17.1 points per game, 6.5 assists per game, played 36.4 minutes per night and scored in double figures in all 34 games. The Philadelphia native is the likely preseason Player of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association.
A.J. English, Iona
Green is an excellent shooter, who at 6-4, 190 pounds might earn a glimpse from the NBA as well. He made 106 3-pointers a year ago and finished second in the MAAC in scoring (20.1 points per game). English does more than simply score. He also handed out 172 assists and snagged 5.1 rebounds per game. He didn’t back down when the Gaels faced stiff competition either, scoring 28 points against Rhode Island and 25 points against Arkansas.
Shawn Long, Louisiana Lafayette
The 6-9 Morgan City, La. product is the nation’s leading returning rebounder (1,036) and second leading scorer (1,700 points). He’s also recorded 52 double-doubles in a college career that he contemplated ending for a pro career after last season when he averaged 16.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and hit 57.9 percent of 2-point shots. One of the nation’s best defensive rebounders, Long is more than an inside threat. Leave him open outside and he'll score from there as well (88 career 3-pointers).
John Brown, High Point
When he’s not appearing on Sportscenter’s top plays, the athletic forward Brown is terrorizing Big South frontcourts. The 6-foot-8 Jacksonville native has been player of the year once, made first team all-conference three seasons in a row and is the nation’s third leading returning scorer (1,680 points). Brown takes 33.8 percent of the Panthers’ shots and recorded a 116.1 offensive rating last season.
Jameel Warney - Stony Brook
In three seasons competing in the America East, the 6-8, 260-pound Warney has won Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year (twice). That’s domination. He racked up a nation-best 24 double-doubles in 2014-15, averaging 16.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per contest. He punished Hartford last February, scoring 32 points on 13 of 17 shooting in a key late-season road win.
RELATED: NCAA.com 2015-16 All-Senior team
D.J. Balentine, Evansville
The nation’s leading returning scorer (1,766 points) led the Missouri Valley Conference last season in scoring, producing 20.1 points per game. He attempted a staggering 563 shots - more than twice the attempts of any teammate - but made 39.1 percent of 3-pointers. Balentine, a 6-3, 210 pound guard from Kokomo, Ind., reached 30 points on four occasions, including 35 in an 89-82 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the College Insider Tournament.
Casey Jones, Chattanooga
A versatile player who contributes across his line in the box score. He finished in the top eight in the Southern Conference in scoring (14.0 ppg), rebounding (7.0 rpg) blocks (1.2) field goal percentage (52.0) to earn first-team honors. Jones, a 6-5, 200-pound wing, averaged 22 points in the Mocs two games against SoCon champion Wofford.
Joel Bolomboy - Weber State
Bolomboy is a fierce defender and dunker, and an important physical presence for Weber State. At 6-9, 235 pounds he’s increased his scoring each season (13.3 ppg in 2014-15) and added a 3-point shot as a junior, hitting 15 of 41 attempts. He averaged a double-double last season when he was 12th in the nation on the glass. He also hauled down 16 rebounds against top seeded Arizona in 2014 NCAA tournament.
Venky Jois, Eastern Washington
Such a skilled low-post scorer, who can also face the basket and drive. He hit 60.5 percent of his 2-point shots a year ago was named All Big Sky and all tournament. A 6-8, 230-pound native of Boronia, Australia, he needs 63 blocked shots to set the Big Sky record. With career averages of 14.2 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game, it’s easy to see why he was tabbed as preseason Player of the Year.
Thomas Walkup - Stephen F. Austin
Good luck finding anyone who drives harder to the basket than this tough, strong 6-4 guard-forward from Pasadena, Tex. He earned honorable mention All-American and Southland Conference Player of the Year honors, hitting 61.5 percent of 2-point attempts while assisting on 28.5 percent of his team’s baskets. He finished the season with 13 consecutive double figure scoring games and a gaudy offensive rating of 126.1
Others worth a look: Martin Breunig, Montana; Obi Emegano, Oral Roberts; Chris Fowler, Central Michigan; Deondre Parks, South Dakota State; Jesse Reed, American; Terry Tarpey, William & Mary; Jamel Waters, Alabama State; Jalan West, Northwestern State;