In the almost six-month-long college basketball season, there is an inevitable lull as practices drag on. Teams travel almost every weekend, and the grind of the game begins to affect players.
Enter the energy guys—players that can get their team amped up and playing at a high level despite fatigue and general boredom.
Now more than ever, teams are looking for an extra spark. One player can be the difference between a win and an embarrassing loss.
Take the Florida State Seminoles’ drubbing of the North Carolina Tar Heels. If North Carolina had just one player come onto the court with passion and drive, he might have woken up the entire team.
Instead, the Tar Heels suffered their biggest loss of the Roy Williams era.
Energy guys can be the most important players on teams. They play with excitement, often doing all the little things and making key plays that inspire everyone around them.
Here are the 10 biggest energy guys in college basketball.
Pierre Jackson had a tough role to play. The former junior college player of the year had to step onto the Baylor Bears team and fit in with a squad ready to take the next step and become an elite college basketball team.
Jackson has helped lead Baylor to a 16-0 record and No. 3 national ranking. He averages 12.3 points per game, five assists and three rebounds.
Jackson’s biggest contribution to the team, however, is the spark he gives them when he comes off the bench.
According to Syracuse.com, coach Scott Drew said:
When Pierre comes in, the speed of our team and everything else just picks up. We start off going 55 miles per hour, and now we're at 70 miles per hour. He gives us a boost right as some guys might be beginning to slow down.
Jackson also provides strong guard play that Baylor has lacked in recent years. He is a fearless competitor who leaves it all on the floor.
As the Bears strive for a Big 12 championship and deep tournament run, Jackson is fitting in perfectly because of the energy he infuses in the team.
Ryan Boatright’s freshman season for the Connecticut Huskies has been tumultuous to say the least.
He was suspended for the first six games of the year for receiving improper benefits. Then, after playing in the next 10 games, he was suspended again amid questions about his eligibility.
But when Boatright plays, he is a huge part of UConn’s success. In just his second collegiate game, Boatright scored 23 points to go along with five rebounds and six assists.
He is the type of player who makes his presence felt immediately after stepping on the floor thanks to his skill and determination.
Boatright can impact a game in a number of ways. He can grab rebounds, find open teammates and, most importantly, score.
One of his biggest contributions to the Huskies is his driving ability. With Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier often settling for outside shots, Boatright can be an offensive threat who forces defenses to change their game plan.
As soon as Boatright’s eligibility questions are answered, he will become a major asset for Connecticut.
Dion Waiters is the top-ranked Syracuse Orange’s second leading scorer. He leads the team in steals, averages 2.9 assists and is Syracuse’s best perimeter defender.
And he comes off the bench.
Waiters is key to the Orange’s success so far this season. He ensures that after the first few minutes of a game have been played, his team will not become lazy and settle into the flow of a game.
Waiters’ role off the bench is to inject energy into his team and up his teammates' level of play.
Because Waiters can excel at so many different facets of the game, his contributions are that much more meaningful.
For instance, against the Villanova Wildcats, Waiters scored 20 points and had five rebounds.
Against the Marquette Golden Eagles, Waiters scored 12 points and had seven assists.
In the game against the George Washington Colonials, Waiters had six steals. He is also often matched up against the opposing team’s best player.
A bench player has a different role than a starter. He must ensure the energy of the game stays high and that his team does not lose a step once a starter comes out.
Waiters does all that and more.
Really, now, is there a more energetic guy in all of college basketball?
“It’s gonna be awesome, BABY!” because, according to Dick Vitale, every single basketball game will be the best game of the year.
Vitale would bring the same fervor to his broadcasts whether he was announcing a matchup of two top-10 teams or the Division III fifth-place game.
His catchphrases are known nationwide, and student sections often have cardboard replicas of Dickie V’s face to wave around.
Yes, Vitale has a tendency to harp on one thing for an entire game. Yes, Vitale often looks like he has an IV filled with Red Bull pumping into his veins.
But is there anyone who looks like he loves his job more than Vitale?
He is truly the best energy guy in all of college basketball.
The Duke Blue Devils’ identity is that they are a solid team with a roster full of players who can contribute.
There is no J.J. Reddick, who can take over games with his scoring night in and night out. There is no Nolan Smith, who serves as the emotional leader of the team.
Instead, there are a lot of very good players who know the fundamentals of the game and who, at times, can be very boring.
That’s where Andre Dawkins comes in.
Dawkins does not lead the team in any statistical category. He is good, but not great. And yet, he is Duke’s best energy guy.
Dawkins’ strengths are his three-point shooting and his defense. When he enters a game, he makes sure that the opposing team knows who he is—and fast.
It seems as if Dawkins checks in and then immediately forces a turnover or hits a huge three.
If Seth Curry is struggling from outside, Dawkins can penetrate and kick it out to Curry for a wide-open look. If Ryan Kelly can’t seem to put the ball in the basket, Dawkins will get a steal and hit Kelly for a fast-break layup.
When Dawkins is playing well, the Blue Devils are tough to beat.
The Arkansas Razorbacks are a surprising 13-4, and the team is playing with renewed vigor and confidence.
When the team’s leading scorer, Marshawn Powell, was lost for the season because of a knee injury on Nov. 17, it would have been easy for the Razorbacks to roll over and give up. However, the team won its next three games, mostly thanks to B.J. Young.
Young is the team’s leading scorer despite coming off the bench. He scored 28 points against the then-10th ranked Connecticut Huskies, proving that he could play with anyone.
Despite being just a freshman, Young has taken over a leadership role since the loss of Powell. His energy and fearlessness every time he steps on the court rubs off on his entire team.
New head coach Mike Anderson preaches more physical play and tougher conditioning. Young has embraced the challenge, and it is reflected in his play.
Arkansas is playing well and playing together, and a large part of its success is due to Young’s dynamic play.
Arguably the No. 1 energy guy in the country, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist plays every game as if it were the national championship.
The freshman for the Kentucky Wildcats is all over the floor. He dives for lose balls, fights in the lane for rebounds and plays lockdown defense for a full 40 minutes each game.
Kidd-Gilchrist has sparked Kentucky to two of its biggest wins of the season. Against the Wildcats' arch-rival Louisville Cardinals, Kidd-Gilchrist had 24 points and 19 rebounds.
In Kentucky's recent game against the Tennessee Volunteers, he led his team in a hostile environment with 17 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. He did not shy away from Tennessee’s physical play, but rather embraced it.
The most important part of Kidd-Gilchrist’s game, however, is that he can make his presence felt even without filling up a stat line.
It is his defense, excitement and do-everything attitude that make him one of the most important players in college basketball.
Kidd-Gilchrist never fails to provide a spark and often overwhelms opponents with his tenacity and drive. Kentucky can thank Kidd-Gilchrist for its 17-1 record.
The Indiana Hoosiers are one of college basketball’s biggest surprises this season.
Unranked to begin the year, the Hoosiers are now ranked 13th in the country and have already upset the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats and No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes.
The key to Indiana’s success? The fans.
The Hoosiers are one of the most tradition-rich basketball programs in the country.
Yet, in recent years, the team has fallen on hard times. Recruiting violations, NCAA infractions and multiple head coaching changes took their toll on Indiana basketball.
The fans stuck by the team and are being rewarded this season. Their response has been to cheer even louder.
In the upset of Kentucky, the volume at Assembly Hall never dipped below a roar. The fans were jumping, clapping and cheering their team to victory.
There is a reason that two of Indiana’s three losses this season have come away from Assembly Hall.
Fans like the Hoosiers’ truly define the phrase "home-court advantage."
The Kansas Jayhawks were supposed to be in for a rebuilding year thanks to the loss of the Morris twins to the NBA.
Not according to Tyshawn Taylor.
The senior point guard is the heart and soul of the Kansas team. He has an incredible drive to win and a swagger that is seeping into the rest of the Jayhawks’ roster.
Taylor is averaging career highs in points and assists and has led the team to a 14-3 record and No. 7 national ranking.
One of Taylor’s biggest problems during his time at Kansas was that he was too excited and too erratic. Often, his energy led to turnovers and his good intentions were wasted.
This year, however, Taylor is learning how to channel his energy into good play. He still has a few more turnovers than he should, but there is no statistic that adequately reflects how much Taylor means to his team.
He can lead Kansas by scoring or simply through his demeanor. If a team’s point guard stands up to any opponent, chances are the rest of the team will too.
The Alabama Crimson Tide is hoping to finally turn the corner this season and make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
In their quest for greatness, Tony Mitchell has been one of the most important players on the team.
The junior forward brings energy and toughness to a team that is working to incorporate a number of young players.
Mitchell has improved each year, and his broad skill set enables him to make an impact in a number of different ways.
Mitchell’s three-point shooting percentage has increased steadily, and he often seems to know exactly when his team needs a boost.
He can also drive to the basket or grab an offensive rebound and finish with a dunk to get his team energized.
Alabama has a lot of talent on its roster this season, but no player is as versatile as Mitchell. He averages at least one block, steal, assist and rebound per game. It is hard to contribute more than that.
Mitchell has been through the wars during the long basketball season. His passion and strong play will be key to Alabama’s success this season.
The style of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team is run, run, run. The team presses its opponents relentlessly and goes for steals on every possession.
One of the problems with Louisville’s style of play is that the team is so concerned with defense that sometimes, the players cannot perform offensively.
The Cardinals are ranked 122nd in the country in points per game and 186th overall in field-goal percentage. Only two players on the team are averaging more than 10 points per game.
One of the two is freshman sensation and energy guy extraordinaire Russ Smith.
Smith is a huge part of Louisville’s success this season, mostly because of his scoring. Unlike many of the other players on his team, Smith can create his own shot and score in bunches.
Smith has already scored more than 20 points four times this season including a 30-point outburst against the Kentucky Wildcats.
Smith energizes the Louisville team and its fans with his quick scoring and beautiful drives.
It is no coincidence that in two of Louisville’s four losses, Smith has failed to score five points.
Louisville sorely needs Smith’s scoring and penetration. So far this season, he has not disappointed.