While I was home over Christmas, I finally got to see my Sooner men play a few games (of course I got to see the loss, but whatever) and I kind of fell in love with Willie Warren, our freshman guard. Willie was a big recruit in his own right, but Blake Griffin mania has a tendency to make his teammates disappear into the background. So I thought I’d spend this post giving a little love to some of the guys that have to share their court with a budding NBA lottery pick.
Just to make things easier, I used the latest projected NBA draft rankings at NBAdraft.net, which are as follows:
- Blake Griffin, OU
- Hasheem Thabeet, UConn
- James Harden, Arizona State
- Jordan Hill, Arizona
The teammates playing in the metaphorical shadows, after the jump.
Willie Warren, Freshman, University of Oklahoma
As I mentioned, Willie was one of the most highly touted recruits in OU history, having been 2008 Texas Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year after leading his team to a state championship. He’ll probably take over as BMOC (at least as “B” as one can be at a football school) after Blake leaves, but for now he’s just that guy with the infectious smile and the second highest field goal (50%), free throw (74%) and three point (38% — we’re not a perimeter team, OK?) percentages on the team.
Kemba Walker, Freshman, University of Connecticut
Hasheem Thabeet is the Huskie getting all the attention, and the other veterans on the starting five are making their own presence felt, but Kemba is doing a great job off the bench, averaging 10 points a game and scoring 20 or more on three different occasions. He’s only managed to get into the starting lineup once on this packed squad, but it looks like he’ll be ready once he becomes a full-time starter.
Ty Abbott, Sophomore, Arizona State
Ty grew up in Phoenix, so he’s well known to local Sun Devils fans, but not as visible to the rest of the country. Not only overshadowed by James Harden, Ty’s stellar freshman season got lost amid the achievements of the superstar rookies in last year’s Pac-10. (For example, he was one of only three freshmen last year to have a 30 point game. The other two? O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless.) Also I find something kind of Chris Paulish about him. I don’t know if it’s the ball handling, or the grin.
Nic Wise, Junior, Arizona
As a junior, Nic’s had to deal with the mess of Arizona’s coaching situation over the last few seasons, as well as playing in the shadows of Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger. For further drama, a knee injury last year caused him to miss four weeks of the season. Thankfully, Nic is now fully healthy — he’s played all 40 minutes in 6 games this season — and accustomed to his supporting roll; in Arizona’s first 18 games, he had 5 or more assists 10 times. And, apparently, he likes to dance. Funky chicken dance, not March Madness dance. (Though I bet he’d like that, too.)
Who are your favorite overlooked college players? I’m sure there’s someone playing with Hansbrough that Mistress Christina wants to talk about.