Well, the month of September means two things: the start of football season, and the influx of college basketball preview magazines. These magazines, like the major networks during the season, tend to focus on the players and teams in “BCS” leagues. This means that many players excel outside of the limelight throughout the year, and fans hear little of them until they lead their team to a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament. Also, you have your players in the BCS leagues that fly under the radar because they don’t play for the popular schools. Below are the nation’s most underrated players, three teams deep.
G Jared Jordan (Senior- Marist)
2005-06 averages: 16.1 ppg, 8.5 apg, 4.8 rpg
One could argue that Jordan, who led the nation in assists last season, is the best point guard in America. He can do it all, setting up teammates as well as putting the ball in the basket himself, leading the Red Foxes in scoring as well. With heavy backcourt losses at Manhattan, Iona, and St. Peter’s, Jordan and his teammates are the preseason favorite in the MAAC. Also, all Jordan did in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am League this summer on a team of highly touted UConn recruits was lead his team to the title and snag MVP honors.
G Rodney Stuckey (Sophomore- Eastern Washington)
2005-06 averages: 24.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.1 apg
As hard as it was for St. Peter’s Keydren Clark to get some publicity last season for his scoring ability, the 6-4 Stuckey was almost non-existent in the eyes of many (except for those on this site) when it came to acknowledging some of the best guards in the nation. Stuckey led all freshmen in scoring last season, and the Eagles should make a move in the Big Sky with only one senior departing. Can Stuckey put the ball in the basket even more this season? The way in which he performed last season, I would bet against him.
F Morris Almond (Senior- Rice)
2005-06 averages: 21.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Almond got no hype until he announced that he was withdrawing from the NBA Draft. Last season Almond was the best player in the “Memphis and everyone else” Conference (watching TV, you would have sworn that Conference USA had changed their name) not in a Memphis jersey. With the Owls losing only three seniors from the 2005-06 edition, head coach Willis Wilson had to have jumped for joy when he got the good news. Look for Almond to lead the Owls to the top half of Conference USA, and with an appearance in the Preseason NIT (first round matchup with Gonzaga), hopefully the man can get some more national respect.
F Bryant Dunston (Junior- Fordham)
2005-06 averages: 16.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg
Bryant Dunston does nothing to draw attention to himself besides play hard and put up numbers. Last season, Dunston tallied nine double-doubles in leading the Rams to their first ever appearance in the A-10 Tournament semifinals, as well as a winning record (9-7) in conference play. Just like Almond, Dunston gets a chance in the Preseason NIT to show his skill with a first round game against Tennessee. Don’t be surprised of Bryant averages a double-double this season for Dereck Whittenburg.
F Caleb Green (Senior- Oral Roberts)
2005-06 averages: 20.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg
I’m going small with the first team, selecting Green to fill out the team. Green posted fourteen double-doubles for the Golden Eagles, helping lead ORU to the NCAA Tournament. There, they gave Memphis all they wanted before falling 94-78. His points and rebounds per game led the Mid-Continent Conference, making Green the Mid-Con Player of the Year, as well as an Honorable Mention All-American. ORU lost some key pieces in the backcourt to graduation, so look for Green to take on even more of the responsibility this season.
G Loren Stokes (Senior- Hofstra)
2005-06 averages: 17.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.8 apg
Most people know Stokes for one of two reasons: he’s the younger brother of former Cincinnati guard Leonard Stokes; and he was on the receiving end of a cheap shot from George Mason’s Tony Skinn in the CAA Tournament semifinals. Hofstra was on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday, but don’t count on that happening this year with Stokes returning for his senior season. Along with Antoine Agudio and Carlos Rivera, Stokes leads what could be one of the most explosive backcourts in the Northeast, if not in the nation. Hopefully the national media will pay more attention to Stokes’ play this season. Then the masses will appreciate just how talented he is.
G Bobby Brown (Senior- Cal State Fullerton)
2005-06 averages: 17.5 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.6 rpg
Brown, who like Morris Almond applied for the NBA Draft yet returned to school, is the favorite to repeat as Big West Player of the Year. The senior point guard is well within reach of the school’s all-time scoring record, currently held by Leon Wood, and should help lead the Titans to their third consecutive winning season. The Big West gets very little, if any, national exposure other than their title game during “Championship Week”, but look to hear a little about Bobby Brown early in the year, as the Titans visit UCLA December 5th.
G Blake Schilb (Senior- Loyola-Chicago)
2005-06 averages: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg
Although Schilb is 6-7, the Ramblers list him as a guard, which shows just how versatile he is. Schilb led the Ramblers in both scoring and assists, while his rebounding average was second on the team. He is yet another player on this list that declared for the NBA Draft, yet returned to school when he found that his stock wasn’t as high as he would have liked. This could make Loyola, the only school in the state of Illinois to win a national title in basketball, a favorite out of the Horizon League to reach the NCAA Tournament. Yes, this makes three point guards on the second team, but given the versatility of the three chosen, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
G/F Quinton Hosley (Senior- Fresno State)
2005-06 averages: 18.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg
Ever since Jerry Tarkanian and the NCAA left Fresno, the Bulldog program hasn’t received much publicity unless rules enforcers found something else to penalize. Well, get to know Quinton Hosley, a junior college transfer (Lamar CC) from Harlem, NY. All Hosley did last season was put up twelve double-doubles, including an amazing 25 and 17 in a 99-96 double-overtime win over Utah State on January 7th. It will be extremely tough for someone to dethrone Nevada’s Nick Fazekas as WAC Player of the Year next season, but this could be the man for the job. As Steve Cleveland continues to rebuild the Bulldog program, it surely can’t hurt to have Hosley in uniform.
F/C Matthew Knight (Senior- Loyola Marymount)
2005-06 averages: 16.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg
The senior from Australia return off of a stellar season in which he racked up seventeen double-doubles. Unfortunately, LMU is in a league that many choose to think of as “Gonzaga and those other guys”, also known as the West Coast Conference. Put Knight in a Gonzaga uniform and the likes of Digger and Dickie V would be drooling over his output. The Lions, who fell two points short of an NCAA bid in a loss to Gonzaga to end the season, return the majority of their team from last season, so Knight will have ample help. Second-year head coach Rodney Tention has to be happy that his big man will be back for one final run.
G Dominic James (Sophomore- Marquette) 15.3 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.5 rpg Didn’t receive his just due until late in the year when people saw that it wasn’t just Steve Novak scoring points. But he got more respect than the players above, so that’s why he’s here.
G Gary Neal (Senior- Towson) 26.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg Off-court issues led to his departure from LaSalle. Neal put up spectacular numbers in seventeen games at Towson last year, and will look to help the Tigers move up in the competitive Colonial Athletic Association.
G Quin Humphrey (Junior- Youngstown State) 19.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.6 apg When your team goes 7-21, people tend to ignore you. Humphrey, although only 6-4, managed to put up ten double-doubles last season. Look for the Penguins to improve behind his play this year.
F C.J. Anderson (Junior- Xavier) 18.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg Thanks to transfer rules, the former Manhattan standout has to sit out this season. Anderson put up seven double-doubles in his sixteen games last season, the shortened schedule being a result of academic issues. Sean Miller has to be crossing the days off his calendar until 2007-08.
F Obie Nwadike (Senior- Central Connecticut State) 12.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg All Nwadike did last season was average a double-double…and the man is only 6-4. Nwadike had thirteen double-doubles, including 11 and 20 in a 76-68 win over St. Francis (NY) back in early February. Most people around the nation may say that he’s too small, but fans in the Northeast Conference see Nwadike as a player who proves true the saying that “You can’t measure heart”.