Unheralded players have a chance to shine
AP Basketball Writer
It happens nearly every year: an unheralded player, maybe from a school few people know about, goes on a scoring tear or single-handedly carries his team through a couple of rounds of the NCAA tournament.
Two years ago, little Stephen Curry from Davidson dashed his way through the bracket, shooting the Wildcats past Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin on the way to the regional finals.
There was Wally Szczerbiak taking Miami (Ohio) to the 1999 Sweet Sixteen, Bo Kimble carrying Loyola Marymount into the 1990 regional finals after the death of Hank Gathers, Fennis Dembo hoisting Wyoming to the regional semis in 1987. Perhaps the greatest one-man show was Larry Bird in 1979, leading Indiana State to the title game against Magic Johnson and Michigan State.
So who could be this year’s Curry, Kimble or Bird? The guys who aren’t Evan Turner, Sherron Collins, John Wall or Scottie Reynolds?
Here are a few to keep on eye on. Actually, five from each region:
Derrick Caracter, UTEP, Jr., 6-9, 280 – Randy Culpepper was the Conference USA player of the year, but Caracter made the Miners an inside-out team after transferring from Louisville. He’s a lane-clogger who can be a game-changer.
Jordan Crawford, Xavier, So., 6-4, 195 – Remember the secret video of someone dunking on LeBron James? That was Crawford. Turns out, he’s far more than just a dunker. The leading scorer in the Atlantic-10 has a great all-around game.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU, Jr., 6-2, 195 – The only D-I player to score 40 points twice this season, Fredette patterns his game after John Stockton, but is a better scorer. He can change a game shooting or passing.
Derick Nelson, Oakland, Sr., 6-5, 236 – You might want to keep an eye on a guy scores 36 points in the Summit League title game – with a broken nose.
Dominique Sutton, Kansas St., Jr., 6-5, 210 – It’s not always the scorers who make a difference. Sutton doesn’t have much range outside 12 feet, but can change a game with defense and rebounding. He’s a shutdown cornerback in a hoops jersey.
James Anderson, Oklahoma State, Jr., 6-6, 210 – It’s hard to be unheralded as the Big 12’s player of the year, but Anderson doesn’t get the same attention as other scorers in the country. Don’t be surprised if he drops 40 on someone.
Armon Bassett, Ohio, Jr., 6-2, 180 – Explosive scorer who led the Bobcats to a surprise win in the Mid-American Conference tournament, scoring a record 119 points in four games.
Jordan Eglseder, Northern Iowa, Jr., 7-0, 280 – The big fella has a good touch around the basket and is a force in the lane at both ends.
Aubrey Coleman, Houston, Sr., 6-4, 200 – Might be the most likely player to go on a Curry-like run. The nation’s leading scorer (25.6 points) will be ready to fire after going 4 for 20 in the Conference USA title game.
Brady Morningstar, Kansas, Jr., 6-3, 185 – OK, OK, he plays on the nation’s No. 1 team, but Morningstar’s contributions often go unnoticed. He makes the Jayhawks go with his entry passes, spot-up shooting and denying defense.
Kevin Anderson, Richmond, Jr., 6-0, 175 – The Atlantic-10 player of the year has given opponents a case of arachnophobia, averaging 17.8 points a game this season to help the seventh-seeded Spiders win 12 of their last 13.
LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor, Jr., 6-4, 205 – Dunn honed his skills by tying his left hand behind his back at the urging of a middle-school PE teacher. It worked. He’s the leading 3-point shooter in the tournament at 42.5 percent and has a sneeze-quick release.
Ronald Moore, Siena, Sr., 6-0, 156 – This kid knows how to dish. The scrappy guard leads the nation with 7.8 assists per game, close to what some teams averaged this season. Plus, he was there when the Saints knocked off Vanderbilt in the 2008 tournament and Ohio State last year.
Jerome Randle, Cal, Sr., 5-10, 172 – If you don’t know the Pac-10 player of the year, you will. The gritty point guard can put up points in bunches, hands out assists with the best of them and is one of the nation’s best free-throw shooters.
Donald Sloan, Texas A&M, Sr., 6-3, 205 – Sloan has become the go-to player for the Aggies since his childhood friend, Derrick Roland, suffered a gruesome leg injury in December. He scores and usually guards the opponent’s best perimeter player – a rare all-around combination.
Demontez Stitt, Clemson, Jr., 6-2, 175 – The driving force behind the Tigers who’s usually lost in Trevor Booker’s shadow. When Stitt penetrates and hits jumpers, it forces teams to back off Booker and they pay for it along the baseline.
Ryan Wittman, Cornell, Sr., 6-7, 215 – The Ivy League player of the year, Wittman is the key to the Big Red’s attack, averaging 17.5 points. He’s hit 100 3-pointers this season and 368 in his college career. An NBA career could await him.
Kevin Thompson, Morgan State, So., 6-9, 240 – The sophomore was the MEAC’s defensive player of the year, ranks fourth in the nation with 11.9 rebounds per game and leads the team with 50 blocks this season. Oh, and he’s second in scoring at 12.9 points per game.
Noah Dahlman, Wofford, Jr., 6-6, 215 – The Terriers are making their first NCAA appearance in big part due to this Southern Conference player of the year, who leads the team in scoring (16.8 ppg) and has scored in double figures in all 34 games this season. He doesn’t miss much, ranking 11th in the nation by hitting 58 percent of his shots.
Brian Qvale, Montana, Jr. 6-11, 265 – Averages 9.7 points on 60 percent shooting and posts 6.9 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game. When the Grizzlies rallied from a 22-point deficit against Weber State to win the Big Sky tournament, Qvale pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked six shots. Hey, Montana guard Anthony Johnson needed someone else to hit the boards so he could put up a tournament-record 42 points.
AP Sports Writers John Kekis, John Wawrow and Mark Long contributed to this report.