Even though the calendar only says September, it’s never too early to start talking college basketball.
Like every other off-season, many of the games top players decided to take their talents to the NBA. However, a new crop of players is ready to emerge and take the torch from the likes of Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo.
With practice only a month away, let’s get to know the names and faces of the 2008-2009 college basketball season.
HoopsAddict.com First Team All-Americans:
PG: Tyrese Rice- Boston College, Sr.
The Numbers: 21.0 ppg, 5.0 asp, 1.6 spg
There may be bigger names at the point guard position, but none are more talented than the Boston College senior. Despite being hampered by a sub-par supporting cast, Rice was anything but disappointing, averaging 21 points per game, even with defenses gearing up to stop him. The soon to be fourth year player scored 20 or more points in 16 games- saving two of his best performances for his two biggest opponents- 46 points against North Carolina and 28 points at Duke. Rice was First Team All-ACC, and if it wasn’t for some guy named Tyler Hansbrough, likely would have won the league’s Player of the Year award, despite playing for a below .500 team. Although he may not be a household name among college basketball fans, he will once again be one of the nation’s top players.
SG: Stephen Curry- Davidson, Jr.
The Numbers: 25.9 ppg, 2.0 spg, 162 3PT’s (4.5 pg)
All off-season Davidson coach Bob McKillop stated that Curry will primarily play point guard this season. But since Curry is the most naturally gifted scorer in college basketball, and played the position a year ago, we’re going to stick him into the scoring guard spot on our All-American team. The story of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Curry comes back to college basketball after finishing fifth in the nation in points per game- scoring 30 or more points a staggering 11 times. He saved his best games for the brightest lights- averaging 32 points in four NCAA Tournament games, topping the 30 point mark in three of them. Although he won’t have the talent around him that he did a year ago, the junior can score in more ways than anyone in college basketball, and make shots that no one else can. His overall numbers might not be as impressive, but look for Curry to score in bunches against any opponent, leading Davidson to another NCAA Tournament berth.
SF: Sam Young- Pittsburgh, Sr.
The Numbers: 18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Like so many other players that have come to star at Pitt, not much was made of the 6’6″ junior before a break-out season a year ago. After averaging only seven points a game through his first two years, the First Team All-Big East selection burst onto the college basketball landscape, averaging over 18 points and six rebounds a game. He won’t surprise anyone this season, after scoring 20 or more points 15 times while leading Pitt to a Big East championship, and earning tournament Most Outstanding Player in the process. The senior has one last chance to get a deep and talented Pitt Panthers team to the Final Four. If they do get there, they’ll have the un-heralded senior from Maryland to thank.
PF: Luke Harangody- Notre Dame, Jr.
The Numbers: 20.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg
Although Luke Harangody doesn’t always look pretty on a basketball court, the numbers don’t lie. ‘Gody, as the ladies in South Bend call him, was phenomenal in his sophomore season- earning player of the year honors in the toughest conference in college basketball- the Big East. The junior was one of only two Big East players to average a double-double, and scored in double figures in all but one game. Much like others on this list, Harangody put up his best numbers against the best competition- scoring 32 points and grabbing 16 rebounds at UConn and getting 40 and 12 at Louisville. Look for his numbers to improve in the 20008-09 season. As well as having an excellent supporting cast around him, Harangody is a smart enough player to score and rebound, even though virtually all his opponents are taller and more athletic than him. Notre Dame is another team with Final Four aspirations, and if the Irish are to get there, it will be because of the un-assuming big guy in the middle.
C: Tyler Hansbrough- North Carolina, Sr.
The Numbers: 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg
No All-American list would be complete without the man they call “Psycho-T.” The accolades are incredible: Hansbrough won every major National Player of the Year award a year ago, was a First team All-American, ACC player of the year, and earned unanimous selection onto the All-ACC first team for the third time in his career. Maybe the only thing more impressive than Hansbrough’s hardware case is his play on the court. Not only did the senior average 22.6 ppg and 10.2 rpg but he recorded a staggering 19 double-doubles, with 27 games in which in he scored at least 20 points. We could use any superlative in the dictionary to describe Hansbrough, but know this: The senior came back to college for no other reason other than to win a National Championship. He’s already done everything else and if Hansbrough does win one, he will go down as one of the greatest college basketball players of all-time.
HoopsAddict.com Second Team All-Americans:
PG: Darren Collison- UCLA, Sr.
The Numbers: 14.5 ppg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 spg
UCLA has made three straight Final Fours, and no one has played a larger role in the streak than Darren Collison. The diminutive senior finally has the spotlight all to himself, after teaming with former Bruins stars Jordan Farmar, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook throughout his career. Despite being a second team All-Pac 10 member a year ago, look for Collison to put up even bigger numbers this season, as he won’t be sharing the backcourt with Westbrook. As his senior season is fast approaching, Collison can do something only a select few others have done in their college basketball careers- go to four Final Fours. Even if he doesn’t, Collison will leave UCLA one of the most decorated guards in the storied programs history.
SG: James Harden- Arizona State, Soph.
The Numbers: 17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.1 spg
Because Arizona State didn’t win a ton of games in 2008, many college basketball fans aren’t familiar with Harden. This season, the Sun Devils sophomore will no longer remain in obscurity. As a freshman a year ago, Harden was nothing short of phenomenal- earning All-Pac 10 first team honors despite being the youngest player in the league (Harden just turned 19 in August). With defenses keying on him, Harden still carried the Sun Devils offensively scoring 20 or more points in 16 games. Coach Herb Sendek is now in his third year and the Sun Devils should be much improved. Because of it, look for James Harden to get the credit he deserves.
SF: Chase Budinger- Arizona, Jr.
The Numbers: 17.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Although Jeryd Bayless had better numbers for Arizona a year ago, anyone who watched the Wildcats knows that Budinger was this teams true leader. In a season full of coaching controversy (head coach Lute Olson decided to take the season off and was replaced by assistant Kevin O’Neill), Budinger was a rock for Arizona, finishing second on the team in scoring, earning third team All-Pac 10 honors. Being on the third team is no knock to Budinger- the talent in the conference was just that good. Since all of the turmoil around Arizona basketball appears to be over, look for Budinger to again thrive under Olson- the coach who recruited him and will allow him more free reign on offense. Budinger’s defense must improve, but offensively, he is second to none.
PF: Blake Griffin- Oklahoma, Soph
The Numbers: 14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg
Ask any NBA executive who they expect to be the first overall pick in next years draft and the answer is unanimous: Blake Griffin. The sophomore easily could have declared for the draft after a freshman season which saw him lead the Sooners in scoring and rebounding, but decided to come back for another season to play alongside his brother Taylor- a senior. As a freshman a year ago, Griffin was phenomenal for Oklahoma, earning first team All-Big XII honors as one of the conferences most aggressive rebounders- recording nine double-doubles. While minor injuries nagged him a season ago, there will be no stopping Griffin in 2009. Oklahoma fans enjoy him- the NBA is calling and Griffin may not reside in Norman much longer.
C: Hasheem Thabeet- Connecticut, Jr.
The Numbers: 10.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.5 bpg
While Hasheem Thabeet’s offense is still a work in progress, there is no denying his presence as the premier defender in college basketball. The junior returns to college basketball after winning every major defensive player of the year award, and the scary thing is that he should be better in 2009. Although 4.5 blocks per game seems impressive, let’s look at the numbers even further. Thabeet had a staggering 14 games in which he blocked five or more shots, and tallied 10 against Notre Dame’s formidable frontline. No player may be more of a difference maker in college basketball- teams are petrified to come into the lane against Thabeet, and for all the blocks he gets, he alters even more. Many experts (myself included) believe that Connecticut is the biggest threat to North Carolina for the National Championship. If they do advance that far, it will be in large part thanks to the big man in the middle.
Other Notables: Nick Calathes- PG, Florida; Sherron Collins- PG, Kansas; Wayne Ellington- SG, North Carolina; Taj Gibson- PF USC; Gerald Henderson- SG, Duke; Domenic James- PG, Marquette; Curtis Jerrells- SG Baylor; Tywon Lawson- PG North Carolina; Jack McClinton- SG, Miami (FL); Patrick Mills- PG, St. Mary’s (CA); Andrew Ogilvy- C, Vanderbilt; Patrick Patterson- PF, Kentucky; A.J. Price- PG, Connecticut; Scotty Reynolds- PG, Villanova; DaJuan Summers- SF, Georgetown
Photo Credit: Icon Sports Media