Rex Chapman, an All-SEC player at Kentucky in 1986-87 and ’87-88 and an NABC All-American in 1988, gives his opinion each week on five players that impress. Player statistics are through Feb. 11.
Otto Porter Jr. is a joy to watch play the game. Simply, I love this guy.
Porter Jr. provides the Georgetown Hoyas with a silky smooth forward who truly does do it all. He reminds me a bit of a former teammate of mine by the name of Tom Gugliotta. Their actual game may be a bit similar, but I make this comparison more so in that I always called Googs a “jack of all trades.” Tom always filled up the stat sheet and that’s what Porter does every single night for the Hoyas.
I mean, what a luxury for a college coach to have a player with the type of skill-set Otto Porter Jr. possesses. Whether you need the dude scoring the ball or want to run your offense through him as a trigger, he’s more than capable of doing it. Porter Jr. can step into the backcourt on the press and help bring the ball up the floor if need be. He rebounds the ball, defends, blocks shots. The icing on the cake for me is that he — despite only being a 19-year old sophomore — ALWAYS acts like he’s done it before. The guy never beats his chest, flexes to show you his guns or makes any other kind of “Look at ME” Type of gesture. Porter Jr. is all team, all of the time. Pull up his season stats and take a look at one more thing about this youngster — he plays his best against the best teams. He’s a gamer.
I’m a big believer in winning pedigrees. Winning is a habit just as losing unfortunately can be. Don’t believe me? Take your pick of pro franchises in any sport and take a look at the teams who always manage to find themselves at the bottom of the standings year after long and ugly year. Porter Jr. comes from a winning background. Whenever I watch him play I’m always reminded of learning about his high school career in Sikeston, Mo. a few years ago. His team won three state titles during his career — but in his last high school game — the state championship contest with the big trophy on the line — OPJ had 29 points. Not too shabby, eh? Oh, my bad — he ALSO HAD 35 REBOUNDS!
OPJ is one of my favorite players in all of college basketball. His presence gives the Hoyas a legit chance of making a deep run in the Big Dance this year. The guy is bit of a throwback. My kind of player.
Mason Plumlee has turned himself into one heck of a college basketball player for Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils.
In this day of players signing letter of intent to use schools as stepping stones to launch their pro-basketball playing careers, it’s beyond cool to watch an 18 year old kid who was a McDonald’s All-American spend four years on a college campus. It’s really fun to watch him grow into a man, not only as a basketball player but also as a human being. Mason Plumlee has done just that.
I try my best to not discuss underclassmen in the context of what kind of NBA or pro-basketball player they might become someday. Seniors are a different story however. And here’s the kicker for young MP. In a few months, Plumlee will leave Duke as an Academic All-American with degrees — yes, plural — in both Psychology and Cultural Anthropology. With a birthday in March, MP will have just turned 23 years of age when he ascends the steps in June on NBA Draft day to shake hands with longtime NBA commissioner David J. Stern as a lottery pick. Now THAT’S a dream worth dreaming. Many do, few succeed. Plumlee has worked to make that dream his reality. I love it.
Mason Plumlee the basketball player is a physical specimen. At 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, with long arms, big hands and a live bouncy body, he possesses the kind of body and skills only very few people on the planet are fortunate enough to have. He has great hands and catches whatever is thrown at him. He runs as easily and fluidly as any big-man in the country — college or pro. Plumlee has always been a very good rebounder, but this season he’s taken a huge step forward as a scorer — and it appears he’s gearing up his buckets for the stretch run having scored 108 points in his last five games, which includes an eight point effort on 4-for-4 shooting in a Blue Devils blow out win on the road at Florida State.
There may be one more piece to Mason Plumlee’s reality here very soon as well. Playing now with a consistency that had previously eluded him during his years in Durham, Plumlee has turned into a double-double machine (14 on the year to date). Playing as well as he has this season, Mason Plumlee’s reality may very well have him leaving Duke’s campus in a few months wearing a NCAA championship ring.
Trey Burke is the kind of point guard who allows a coach to sleep well at night. That makes John Beilein one well rested man.
Burke, a sophomore, plays with the pace and poise of a player who’s spent four years walking a college campus. For some reason when I watch Trey Burke play the game, I’m reminded of a guy I played against and then later traded for when I was an executive with the Denver Nuggets — Allen Iverson.
Allow me to clarify — Burke is not AI. Maybe nobody will ever be another Iverson, but there are things Burke does on a basketball court that remind me of The Answer. Burke can get any shot he wants, whenever he wants. He’s quicker with the ball in his hands than he is without it. And Burke has terrific elevation on his jumper, something that is a definite plus for players barely reaching 6-feet tall.
Yes, Trey Burke isn’t as freakishly long as Iverson. AI was barely 6-feet but had a 6-foot-7 wingspan, which is bizarre considering I’m almost positive Allen did not have wings. Ok ok, I’m sorry. Couldn’t resist. His extraordinary length and skills allowed him to play in the NBA for 14 years — and much of the time as a two-guard. Unheard of.
But Burke is something that Iverson never was, he’s a guy who is a pass-first point-guard. A player who can get his own, but who prefers to pass the ball. Simply, he’s a guy others want to play with and who fills his tank by leading his team by passing the basketball. Don’t get me wrong, the guy can score and he does so with regularity, as he is averaging 18.2 points per game for the No. 4-ranked INCREDIBLY talented Michigan Wolverines this season. But Burke’s 7.1 assists per game, in my opinion, tell more about him as a player than does his scoring. With more than a 3.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Burke is one of the most efficient ball-handlers and play-makers in all of college basketball.
There are very few elite point guards in the college game this season — Burke, Marcus Smart, Michael Carter-Williams, Lorenzo Brown, Phil Pressey, Peyton Siva and Isaiah Canaan — and I’m not sure that when it’s all said and done that Burke won’t be the one who proves to be the biggest and brightest star. This guy is clutch, he’s tough and he’s a winner.
Victor Oladipo, along with being arguably the most explosive and exciting open-court player in the country, may be one of the most improved players in NCAA basketball this season.
Oladipo came to play for Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers three-years ago as an unheralded prospect from famed Dematha High School in Hyattsville, Md. He was ranked as the No. 144 HS player and the 41st shooting guard. Oladipo’s whole world has changed after spending the past few summers working with Crean and his staff in Bloomington.
I ran into Crean at the Indianapolis Pro-Am Summer League after Victor Oladipo’s first year playing Big Ten basketball. I asked him about Victor as I’d watched his young player play the previous season and had seen some flashes of brilliance from him despite being an extremely raw and unpolished basketball player. Crean told me, “Victor has a chance to be a terrific player. He’s a bit of a mistake player right now, so we’re working on his decision-making more than anything.”
I sat with Tom as we watched Oladipo and IU teammate Will Sheehey play a summer league game. Tom then asked if I wouldn’t mind saying a little something to both of his players after the game finished. I, of course did so, and can’t begin to tell you how impressed I was with both young men. Oladipo and Sheehey both hung on every word and appeared to be as coachable as two 19-year old kids could possibly be. This is why I’m not surprised that IU is currently perched atop the polls as the nation’s No. 1 team once again this week or why Oladipo has completely transformed his game from being a rough around the edges “mistake player” as a freshman with few expectations, to a likely All-American junior who’s become a household name in the college basketball world.
Oladipo is a highlight-reel waiting to happen. At 6-foot-5 with outrageous bounce, a long and lanky body, big hands and a 3-point stroke which has jumped from 20.8-percent as a sophomore to a nearly unbelievable 52.6-percent as a junior — Oladipo may very well be the key to Indiana hanging another banner — its sixth — in fabled Assembly Hall. How’s that for expectations?
For just one day I’d like to look like Patric Young. I’d take off my shirt and just stroll up and down the beach only stopping to chat-up the girls who would undoubtedly flock to my side.
Florida’s Patric Young is a beast, a man-child, a monster or any other “big, strong, chiseled” name you can think to say. I mean, LOOK at the dude’s picture again! That’s called “hitting the genetic-lottery.”
I’ve played both with and against guys who looked similar to Patric Young. Many of them only looked-the part of a tough-guy. Not PY. This guy IS a tough guy and he plays that way. If you’re looking for the No. 1 reason that Billy The Kid Donovan’s Florida Gators have arguably the most stingy and best defensive team in all of college basketball this season then look no further — the reason is Young. He is the Gators enforcer in the middle. You’d better have your head on a swivel if you decide to stroll across the paint with Young standing there, because the big guy has the kind of strength that can hurt you even when he’s not trying to do so. Opponents are learning to expect to be given a friendly little “bump” of sorts from Young should they decide to wander into his painted area or, if they try to challenge him at the rim. Young is currently fourth in the SEC with 1.7 blocks per game.
With only three weeks remaining in the regular season, a match-race has developed for SEC Player of the Year, and that race involves two Gators: Patric Young and Erik Murphy. If Florida continues its strong play through the end of the regular season, I’m all for Young and Murphy taking home Co-SEC POY’s.
This Florida team is for real. I’ll be glued to my television watching this battle-tested and extremely experienced Gators squad take on my beloved Kentucky Wildcats in Gainesville. U of F’s O’Connell Center is arguably the toughest SEC basketball venue for opposing teams. There and LSU’s Maravich Center were the two I felt were toughest. Of course Rupp Arena is no walk in the park. And I’m sure this young, inexperienced, currently surging No. 25 UK squad will find the O’Connell Center a very raucous place when they tip it off there. I’m very much looking forward to the Nerlens Noel vs. Patric Young match-up. “Noilens” has a definite height and length advantage over Young, but Big Pat has experience, strength and leverage advantages over the young UK jumping-jack pogo-stick.
Regardless of the outcome, Young has established himself among the elite big men in college basketball this season — and the Gators are reaping the rewards.
Rex Chapman played at Kentucky from 1986-88. He was a two-time All-SEC selection as well as an NABC All-American in 1988 before opting for the NBA Draft. He was the No. 1 choice — eighth overall — of Charlotte and played for the Hornets (1988-92), Washington Bullets (1992-95), Miami Heat (1995-96) and Phoenix Suns (1996-2000). Follow Rex on Twitter @rexchapman