basketball-men-d2 flag | February 21, 2018

5 DII big men ready to make an impact this March

  Dustin Sleva is amongst the PSAC leaders in both scoring and rebounding.

There are just a few games remaining in the regular season. The chaos of conference tournaments and the NCAA postseason is ready to commence. While scoring points can win you games, a strong presence in the paint can win you championships.

RELATED: 6 of the most prolific scorers in Division II

Here’s a few of Division II’s best big men looking to make an impact in March.

Emanuel Terry, Forward, Lincoln Memorial

The No. 1 team in DII has plenty of exciting stars, evidence by the Railsplitters' three representatives on the Bevo Francis watchlist. Terry is one of them and is a huge reason the Railsplitters are 25-1.

Lincoln Memorial is second in DII in scoring at 97.1 points per game, while allowing just 68.2 per game — a top-30 mark. Terry is a big factor in both of those departments. The 6-9 senior forward scores 18.3 points per game on a South Atlantic Conference-best 72.7 field goal percentage, second in DII. He also leads the SAC in rebounding, ripping down 10.6 boards per contest. Terry is also tops in the SAC and top-25 overall with 47 blocks on the season.

Terry does everything a big man needs to do for a championship contender, and most importantly he does it very well. The Railsplitters were in the national semifinals last season and with Terry, Trevon Shaw and Dorian Pinson leading the charge, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see them back there.

Zach Hankins, Center, Ferris State

  Hankins is averaging 15.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game for the 27-1 Bulldogs.
Standing at 6-10, Hankins is one off the biggest big men in DII. He certainly delivers for the 27-1 Bulldogs.

Hankins leads thee Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in rebounding with 9.4 per game. He also leads the conference in blocks, with his 3.1 per game ranking third-best in DII. Hankins is also a power in the paint, dropping a team-best 15.3 points per game very efficiently at 63.9 percent from the field. That's good for 11th-best in DII.

The junior All-American has been at his best of late, scoring 65 points with 40 rebounds over his last three contests. Hankins has 10 games with five or more blocks this season, so if you want to drive to the hoop, you've been warned. 

Ferris State was upset in the second round last season by Findlay. If Hankins continues to dominate down low, the Bulldogs should go further than that this season.

Dustin Sleva, Forward, Shippensburg

Sleva isn't your traditional big man, but he's listed as the tallest Raider on the roster. Sleva is a scoring machine, but he can do everything well for 20-5 Shippensburg.

The 6-9 senior became the Raiders' all-time leading scorer this season. If Shippensburg, currently ranked third in the Atlantic Region, can make a run in the tournament, Sleva has an easy chance to crack the 2,000-point mark, having scored 1,912 already in his career. He does it every way imaginable, knocking down 41.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Sleva isn't all about scoring, however. His 11.2 rebounds per game are second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and eighth overall in DII. This is a team that allows just 69.7 points per game; its 11.3 scoring margin is No. 24 in DII. Sleva is a big reason for that on both sides of the court.

Kalidou Diouf, Center, California Baptist

The Lancers are second in the PacWest and it's in large part thanks to the ever-improving play of Diouf. The 6-9 center is posting career-highs across the board for 22-4 California Baptist.

The team leads the PacWest in scoring (83.2 points per game) and is second in points allowed per game (68.1 per game). Diouf leads the team in scoring with 17.8 points per game while leading the team on the defensive boards (173) and in blocked shots (29).  He has 10 double-doubles on the season, but hasn't recorded one since Feb. 3.

California Baptist is sitting with the No. 2 seed in the West Region, and is up to No. 19 in DII. If the Lancers plan on going far, they'll need their big man in top form.

Haywood Highsmith, Wheeling Jesuit

  Highsmith leads DII in double-doubles this season.
The Cardinals are holding on to the eighth spot in the Atlantic Region, ranked No. 25 overall in DII. They have two games remaining and one is against the high-scoring, No. 5-ranked West Liberty Hilltoppers. Highsmith will have to be at his best to help slow down that offense.

Highsmith has been a beast all season. He's played in 25 games and has 22 double-doubles, the best in DII. His 21.7 points per game put him in the top 25 of DII scorers and his 12.4 rebounds per game are fourth overall. 

West Liberty is scoring a ridiculous 107.2 points per game on the season. The last time out, the Hilltoppers could only muster 81 points in a three-point victory over their Mountain East Conference rivals. Highsmith stuffed that stat sheet in that game, leading all scorers (22) and rebounders (12) while adding four assists, two steals and two blocks.

That's what you can expect from Highsmith every night out. 

MORE: Justin McBride redefining "big man" for Valdosta State

Also considered:

  • Drew Noble, Ashland
  • Carter Kirk, Southwest Minnesota State
  • Noah Starkey, Southern Nazarene
  • Micah Till, Slippery Rock
  • Niksha Federico, Hawaii Pacific