College Basketball: Top 10 Small Forwards of the 2011-2012 Season

Eric HampfordContributor IIIJanuary 15, 2012

College Basketball: Top 10 Small Forwards of the 2011-2012 Season

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    The talk coming into this season revolved around the amount of young stars who surprisingly decided to spend another year in school instead of jumping ship for the greener pastures of the NBA.

    However, with the lockout looming, the decision to stick around undoubtedly made the decision easy for many of the young studs.

    Mirroring the young talent that is in abundance on the hardwood this season is a slew of young and talented small forward prospects. 

    In the Top 10 small forwards so far this college basketball season, seven are either freshman or sophomores.

    Enjoy these athletes while you can, because odds are, many of them will be testing the waters of the NBA draft at the end of this season.

1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky

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    Height: 6'7" 

    Weight: 232 pounds

    Class: Freshman

    2011-2012 Statistics: 13.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks

    Why He Made The List:

    He is the heart and soul of a young, albeit very talented Wildcat team. In the team's biggest games, he always shows up and save the day. Take yesterday's 65-62 win over Tennessee, where the New Jersey native scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while also accounting for three steals. His best game of the season came against rival Louisville, where he berated the Cardinals to the tune of 24 points and 19 rebounds. Simply put, he is a winner.

2. Doug McDermott, Creighton

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    Height: 6'8"

    Weight: 210 pounds

    Class: Sophomore

    2011-2012 Statistics: 24.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists

    Why He Made The List:

    He may play for a mid-major school, but Doug McDermott is one of the best players in college basketball. Early in the season against Campbell, he lit the Fighting Camels up for 31 points and 11 rebounds. Three weeks later, against Tulsa, he exploded for 35 points and seven rebounds. His best game? Last week, in a victory over Bradley, he pounded the Braves for 44 points and eight rebounds.

3. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

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    Height: 6'8"

    Weight: 215 pounds

    Class: Sophomore

    2011-2012 Statistics: 16.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals

    Why He Made The List:

    The Tar Heel star was being hyped as a possible 2012 National Player of the Year award candidate throughout the preseason. While he isn't playing at that level just yet, he is still without a doubt one of the finest young players in the game.

    He has the skill set to take over games, but hasn't developed that "Kobe" killer instinct just yet. His best game this season came in a blowout win at home against Texas, where he scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

4. Andre Roberson, Colorado

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    Height: 6'7"

    Weight: 195 pounds

    Class: Sophomore

    2011-2012 Statistics: 11.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

    Why He Made The List:

    With Alec Burks now competing for minutes with the Utah Jazz, the Colorado Buffaloes turned to the sophomore as their next star. He has been just that so far this season. The exciting athlete changes games with his length and athleticism. In a close loss to a very talented California team this week, he led the Buffs' with 11 points and 14 rebounds, along with two blocks. 

5. Cleveland Melvin, DePaul

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    Height: 6'8"

    Weight: 208 pounds

    Class: Sophomore

    2011-2012 Statistics: 18.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

    Why He Made The List:

    The dark days for DePaul basketball don't look like they are over just yet, but Cleveland Melvin is helping to make the Blue Demons at least enjoyable to watch. His gem this season came on New Year's Day. Playing against the No. 1 ranked Syracuse Orange, he was nearly unstoppable, scoring 23 points, grabbing eight rebounds and swatting two shots.

6. Moe Harkless, St. John's

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    Height: 6'8"

    Weight: 190 pounds

    Class: Freshman

    2011-2012 Statistics: 15.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals

    Why He Made The List:

    Want a reason to be excited for the future of Steve Lavin's St. John's Red Storm? Look no further than the home-bred star. The Queens native is paving the way for future New York City prep stars to look at playing their college ball closer to home. Against Providence, he absolutely demolished the Friars to the tune of 32 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks.

7. Jae Crowder, Marquette

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    Height: 6'6"

    Weight: 225 pounds

    Class: Senior

    2011-2012 Statistics: 16.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.8 assists

    Why He Made The List:

    The Marquette Golden Eagles look poised to take the program deeper in the NCAA tournament than they have in some time. With veteran leadership coming from Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, it looks very possible. The muscular forward made a statement in a loss to ranked-opponent Georgetown by scoring 17 points, snatching eight rebounds, dishing out two assists and getting an impressive five steals. He is an all-around threat and a probable All-Big East selection.

8. Orlando Johnson, UC Santa Barbara

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    Height: 6'5" 

    Weight: 205 pounds

    Class: Senior 

    2011-2012 Statistics: 20.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 blocks

    Why He Made The List:

    Another mid-major star on the list, Orlando Johnson came into the season as a marked man. He competed for the United States in the World University Games this summer, and has carried his production into the college season. His statement game came against a powerful UNLV team. Against the Runnin' Rebels, he demolished the Mountain West power for 36 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.

9. Kris Joseph, Syracuse

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    Height: 6'7"

    Weight: 210 pounds

    Class: Senior

    2011-2012 Statistics: 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals

    Why He Made The List:

    The savvy veteran on the best team in America, Kris Joseph is doing his job as the preordained leader of the youthful Orange. He is an all-around talent who can affect the game in a variety of ways. His best game to date came against Virginia Tech, where he torched the Hokies for 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

10. C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State

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    Height: 6'8"

    Weight: 210 pounds

    Class: Sophomore

    2011-2012 Statistics: 12.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals

    Why He Made The List:

    The sophomore was anointed as the cornerstone of the program the minute he signed his allegiance to the Wolfpack in his senior year of high school. The jumping jack is doing his best to live up to the lofty billing. His best game came against Maryland. Against the Terrapins, he notched 20 points and 11 rebounds in a 79-74 N.C. State victory.