Royce White and College Basketball's Top 24 D-I Transfers

Scott Henry@@4QuartersRadioFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2012

Royce White and College Basketball's Top 24 D-I Transfers

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    Some schools can simply snap their fingers and recruit an array of blue-chip prep talent. Not every player adapts well to his original destination, though.

    When players decide that they need a change of scenery, they often look to other Division I institutions to further their careers. Going to another D-I school can be even easier than stepping in as a freshman, because the original experience acquaints a player with the workload required to play at that level.

    The search for playing time and good relationships with coaches are often prime motivators, much like being recruited from high school.

    These 24 players have established themselves as strong producers for their 20 teams. Many of these teams are in the conversation for NCAA Tournament berths, and their new transfers are major reasons why.

Rian Pearson, Toledo

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    On the guard-heavy roster of the 2009-10 Green Bay Phoenix, Rian Pearson saw only two starts. As sixth men go, he was highly productive, especially as the season came to an end. Averaging 11 points and five rebounds over the season's final seven games, Pearson still had Green Bay's top two scorers standing in the way of a starting position.

    When coach Tod Kowalczyk left for Toledo, Pearson decided that he could be instrumental in helping Kowalczyk rebuild a program hammered by a point-shaving scandal. This season, Pearson has certainly been the brightest Rocket in Kowalczyk's arsenal.

    Pearson has scored 20 or more points nine times this season, but perhaps even more impressive is the 6-4 guard's seven games with double-figure rebounds. In a five-game stretch in late January and early February, Pearson averaged 23.6 points and and 10.6 boards, capped by an 18 and 16 performance against Ohio.

    That stretch garnered Pearson three straight MAC West Player of the Week awards. His 16 points (second in the MAC) and 7.8 rebounds per game (third) have him in the thick of the discussion for MAC Player of the Year.

Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss

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    The primary reason Holloway isn't higher on this list is that it's up for some debate whether we can consider him a transfer at all.

    Holloway began his career at Ole Miss, establishing himself as a gritty rebounder and inside scorer when paired with the dynamic scoring duo of Chris Warren and Terrico White. A family issue prompted Holloway to pick up stakes and transfer to his home state school of South Carolina.

    He practiced with the Gamecocks, but was unable to receive a scholarship because Rebels coach Andy Kennedy never released him from his Ole Miss commitment. Rather than hold it against Kennedy, Holloway decided to rejoin him for this season, having never suited up for SC.

    Back in Oxford after a waiver cleared him to play immediately, Holloway picked up right where he left off. He ranks among the SEC's top five in rebounds and top 10 in steals, although his efficiency numbers have suffered from the days when Warren and White drew the defense's attention.

    Still, Holloway's good for 11 points and nearly nine rebounds per game, and several teams in the SEC would gladly accept more players like him.

David and Travis Wear, UCLA

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    The inseparable Wear twins didn't seem to fit into Roy Williams' rotation at North Carolina. Rather than sit behind future pros like Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, the California natives decided to end their experiment with life away from home and relocate to UCLA.

    While the Bruins have struggled at times, the Wears have helped solidify a frontcourt suffering from the expulsion of forward Reeves Nelson and the conditioning woes of center Joshua Smith.

    David Wear ranks in the Pac-12's top 10 rebounders with 6.1 per game. Travis Wear shoots 53 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line, both figures that rank in the conference's top 10. Travis has the duo's only 20-point game, in a January win over Arizona, and each twin has recorded a pair of double-doubles.

    While they may never live up to their McDonald's All-American billing, the Wear twins have established themselves as solid pieces on a team that could use the kind of star power that they left behind in Chapel Hill.

Leonard Washington, Wyoming

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    Leonard Washington was no stranger to controversy at USC. As a freshman, he was ejected from a game against Oklahoma for clocking Blake Griffin in the "man regions."

    He missed the first 10 games of his sophomore season with academic issues. Midway through that season, he unexpectedly decreed he would "never talk to the media again. I'll pay fines in the NBA if I have to."

    Once the season ended, he was dismissed from the Trojan program, a rare move for a school that can afford to give away hoops talent almost as much as Ke$ha can afford to record without AutoTune. He's ended up at Wyoming, and under new coach Larry Shyatt, his brutish defensive game has found a home.

    Washington's first big notices this season came when he recorded 16 points and seven rebounds in a win over Colorado, which would have been a Pac-12 rival were he still at USC. He went for 18 and 9 against Denver, then had a true breakout performance against Colorado State. His 32 points and 14 rebounds led the Cowboys to their first Border War win since 2009.

    Against schools outside the Centennial State, Washington's production has been up and down. Still, he's ranked in the Mountain West's top 12 in six of the eight major statistical categories. That feat is actually impressive, considering that the Cowboys are one of the five slowest-paced teams in America.

NC Central's Power Conference Pair

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    Dominique Sutton was a pivotal player for Kansas State's Elite Eight squad in the 2009-10 season, ranking second on the team in rebounding. The 6-5 forward sought a school closer to his hometown of Durham, North Carolina, to be with his family, including his two young daughters.

    Ray Willis was a seldom-used swingman for Oklahoma, playing in only 13 of 31 games as a sophomore and shooting an anemic 25 percent. He was a Top 100 prospect coming out of Atlanta, but he needed a change of scenery as Jeff Capel's program began to fall apart.

    Both landed at Durham's North Carolina Central, a school that was preparing to rejoin the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a league it had once helped found. NCCU stayed behind when the MEAC moved up to Division I in 1979 and was finally catching up to its former brethren.

    A far cry from the bright lights and TV cameras of the Big 12, Sutton and Willis have helped Central to what may be its first winning season since joining Division I.

    Both transfers rank among the MEAC's top seven scorers and top 15 rebounders. While this is Sutton's final season of eligibility, Willis may be the rock the Eagles can lean on next season, finally getting a team he can call his own.

Kevin Dillard, Dayton

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    Kevin Dillard immediately established himself as a floor general at Southern Illinois, recording two seasons of 12 points and four-plus assists per game, leading the Missouri Valley Conference in the latter as a sophomore. The Salukis weren't winning, though, with a record five games under .500 during Dillard's tenure.

    The six-foot guard has never spoken about what led him to transfer schools, but Dayton has agreed with him.

    Dillard dished nine assists in his Flyer debut, but his true breakout may have come two weeks later against Minnesota. Dillard skinned the Gophers for 19 points, 10 assists, seven steals and three blocks in a 16-point Dayton win.

    Ten days later, the Flyers beat Alabama for their second BCS conference victim, with Dillard again stuffing the stat sheet. He amassed 14 points, eight rebounds, and six assists to lead a win that had Flyers faithful thinking the team would threaten for only the program's second NCAA Tournament berth in the last nine seasons.

    A four-game Atlantic 10 losing streak in late January and early December cooled that talk somewhat, but with the A-10's second-leading assist man keying the offense, the Flyers aren't a club any of the league's leaders want to see in their conference tournament bracket.

Ramon Galloway, LaSalle

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    Ramon Galloway traveled a similar road to the one walked by the Wear twins. The Philadelphia native finished high school in Florida and headed to South Carolina to play for new Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn.

    For two seasons, Galloway was a double-digit scorer, albeit not a very efficient one, shooting 35.8 percent from the floor as a sophomore. Horn acknowledged that Galloway was likely to lose playing time in his junior season, and it was time for Ramon to head home.

    LaSalle appealed on Galloway's behalf and won him a hardship waiver allowing him to play immediately, and the Explorers have reaped the benefits since.

    After a slow start, including three games missed, Galloway peeled off three 20-point performances in his next five outings. His two highest-scoring games have also been his most efficient, shooting 10-of-12 for 26 points against Army and scoring 28 on 11-of-12 shooting against George Washington.

    Galloway sits in the Atlantic 10's top 25 in all three shooting percentages, scoring, assists and steals. The Explorers have ridden him to the third winning season in John Giannini's eight-year tenure. With three other double-figure scorers, LaSalle could potentially make a run in the A-10 Tournament to keep playing meaningful games in March.

Elston Turner, Texas A&M

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    Elston Turner was not happy being a spot-up shooter in coach Lorenzo Romar's offense with the Washington Huskies. The 6-5 guard was a Top 100 prospect coming out of Texas, and with others staking claim to a bigger role than he was getting, a homecoming was in order.

    Turner began competing for Texas A&M this season amidst a flurry of great expectations for the Aggies. Ranked in several analysts' Top 25 lists, A&M had issues from the start, with injuries to key players, the transfer of touted freshman Jamal Branch and a Parkinson's disease diagnosis for new coach Billy Kennedy.

    Through it all, Turner has been one of the infrequent bright spots. He's gotten his desired opportunity to be an all-around scorer, carding seven 20-point games, including three straight in late January. He's even had to be the de facto point guard with Branch's transfer and an injury to starter Dash Harris.

    Turner's 14.1 points per game place him in the Big 12's top 10, and he also ranks among the league's top shooters from the free throw line and beyond the arc. The Aggies are hoping for a reboot next season, and perhaps the opportunity to capture the moment they were supposed to seize this year.

Justin Hamilton, LSU

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    Ten players bailed on Iowa State during an 11-month span during 2009 and 2010. One of them was a seven-footer from Utah who had led the Big 12 in offensive rebounding as a sophomore.

    Justin Hamilton had no reservations about signing with LSU, a school that has turned out a steady stream of talented big men, from future Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal to NBA enigmas like Stromile Swift, Tyrus Thomas and Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

    Given that pedigree, it's somewhat surprising that Hamilton is the first 7-footer to be on scholarship in Baton Rouge since Geert Hammink in the mid-1990's.

    This season, Hamilton leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding, with almost half of his boards coming on the offensive end. Once again, he's threatening the conference lead in that category, trailing only Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie.

    A brief 5-1 streak in February had LSU faithful beginning to whisper about sneaking into the NCAA Tournament field. While that talk has quieted with a 24-point thumping at the hands of Ole Miss, next year's team will only be missing forward Storm Warren from the usual rotation.

    After two straight losing seasons under Trent Johnson, the Tigers can at least look at this season as a step forward. And for the first time since making the Final Four in 2006, LSU has a big horse capable of pulling the wagon.

Chaz Williams, UMass

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    Brooklyn native Chaz Williams seemed like a solid fit during his freshman year at Hofstra, located less than an hour away in Hempstead. He made the Colonial Athletic Association All-Freshman team playing alongside future NBA draft pick Charles Jenkins.

    When the Pride's coach, Tom Pecora, left for Atlantic 10 also-ran Fordham, however, Chaz's options were opened as well. The A-10's former bully, Massachusetts, had fallen on hard times, not making a trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1998, with only four winning seasons in the same span.

    UMass's biggest problem? An inability to find point guards who could blend solid play with solid citizenship. That issue was particularly galling since the Minutemen's last two coaches, Travis Ford and Derek Kellogg, were pretty solid floor generals themselves.

    Point guard play has been the least of Kellogg's worries this season. Williams has scored no fewer than eight points in any game this season, breaking 20 on seven occasions. The 5-9 sophomore currently sits seventh in the A-10 in scoring, third in steals, and leads the league at 6.3 assists per game.

    Kellogg has praised his new court leader for bringing some swagger back to Amherst. "He carries himself like a New York City point guard, a guy that has a little chip on his shoulder," Kellogg said (via at the start of the season. Chaz's next goal is to put the Minutemen on the kind of stage that they haven't enjoyed since Kellogg himself ran the show for John Calipari.

Kenny Kadji, Miami (FL)

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    Kenny Kadji has been a part of college basketball since 2008, yet he's still listed as a sophomore. To paraphrase a great philosopher, it's been a long, strange trip for the 6-11 native of Cameroon.

    The likes of Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin and Erik Murphy stood between Kadji and heavy playing time at his original destination, the University of Florida. He averaged 12.5 minutes per game, recording 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds a night.

    A knee injury that prematurely ended his original sophomore campaign was a further complication. Needing a change of scenery to wash off the disappointment in his role with the Gators, Kadji headed south to Miami.

    New Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga walked into an uncertain frontcourt situation, with big men Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble both suffering injuries before the season. Gamble's was season-ending, to boot.

    Kadji started slowly as the Hurricanes' primary low-post option, but by Christmas, he found his legs in a big way. Twenty-one points against Florida Atlantic, 18 points and 10 rebounds against Charlotte, and 30 points with 12 rebounds against UNC-Greensboro comprised Kadji's dominant stretch, coinciding with Johnson's return to the lineup.

    Kadji scored in double figures in every game from New Year's Day to Leap Day, and he did it efficiently, to boot. Kadji was only held below 50 percent shooting twice in that 14-game span.

    The Hurricanes need a few signature wins to ensure an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and if they earn that trip, undersized opponents will be wise to fear the titanic Johnson-Kadji duo.

MoMo Jones, Iona

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    Lamont "MoMo" Jones was the second-leading scorer on last season's Arizona Wildcats squad that crashed the Elite Eight. When his grandmother took sick, however, the Harlem native wanted nothing more than to head home.

    He was blocked from transferring to his first choice, St. John's, because his high school coach had been hired as the Red Storm's director of basketball operations. So, he chose to settle in at Iona College, thirty minutes up the road in New Rochelle.

    After receiving a hardship waiver from the NCAA clearing him to play immediately, Jones has enjoyed playing on one of the highest-scoring teams in the country. Receiving passes from NCAA assist leader Scott Machado has helped Jones rank in the MAAC's top ten in scoring, averaging more than 16 points per game.

    Jones has broken 20 points on 11 different occasions, including a 43-point explosion against Canisius on February 2. His percentages from the floor and beyond the arc have both improved by nearly five points, and both also rank in the MAAC's top 15, as does his 78.6 percent average from the foul line.

    Playing with Machado, burly forward Mike Glover and sharpshooter Sean Armand, Jones has a supporting cast that could very well help him pull a few more wins out of the NCAA Tournament.

Cal State Fullerton's Titanic Trio

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    Cal State Fullerton's last NCAA Tournament trip (2008) was spurred by an entire starting lineup full of transfers, led by ex-Washington State Cougar Josh Akognon. In 2012, the Titans are once again led by an influx of Division I refugees.

    A trio of in-state transfers, guards D.J. Seeley (Cal) and Kwame Vaughn (San Francisco) and forward Omondi Amoke (Cal), have established themselves as prime producers for Fullerton.

    Seeley and Amoke couldn't find consistent minutes for the Golden Bears, even though Amoke was pulling down over 11 rebounds per 40 minutes. Seeley was stuck behind players like Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Jorge Gutierrez in a crowded backcourt.

    Vaughn, meanwhile, wasn't happy under demanding Dons coach Rex Walters, despite being the team's second-leading scorer as a sophomore.

    The three are coexisting happily at Fullerton. Seeley (16.6 points per game) and Vaughn (15.8) are the Titans' two leading scorers, and Amoke is the Big West's second-leading rebounder at 8.6 per game. Collectively, the transfers account for 56 percent of the Titans' scoring and half the team's rebounds.

    If not for the dominating presence of Long Beach State, Fullerton would stand an excellent chance of riding another wave of transfers back to the Big Dance. As it is, the trio can still make life difficult for the 49ers in the Big West tournament.

Devoe Joseph, Oregon

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    In January 2011, guard Devoe Joseph elected to transfer from Minnesota to Oregon. Gophers coach Tubby Smith blamed the move on Joseph's complaints about playing time and shots. Never mind that Joseph was taking shots on 28 percent of the possessions he played on over his eight games.

    After sitting out the Ducks' first six games, Joseph has served as the sparkplug of the Oregon offense. His 16.3 points per game rank fourth in the Pac-12, and he's been held to single digits just once all season. Only four of those games, though, have been 20-point efforts, speaking to remarkable consistency.

    Joseph is playing a whopping 35 minutes per game, placing him second in the Pac-12.

    Joseph's breakout effort came when he dropped 30 points and seven rebounds on Stanford on January 5. Along with fellow transfers Olu Ashaolu (Louisiana Tech) and Tony Woods (Wake Forest), Joseph has helped steer Oregon into the ever-shifting bubble conversation.

Rakim Sanders, Fairfield

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    Unlike the typical transfer, Rakim Sanders was already a double-digit scorer in a major conference before changing his scenery.

    Sanders averaged at least 11 points per game in all three of his seasons at Boston College. He had some special moments, dropping 22 points against South Carolina as a junior and equaling that number in 2009 against eventual national champion North Carolina.

    Still, when Steve Donahue arrived from Cornell to take over as head coach, Sanders needed a change. He had suffered a high ankle sprain that had robbed him of his conditioning and explosiveness. The mild slump in his statistics corresponded with BC's sliding out of NCAA Tournament contention.

    Sanders chose Fairfield primarily due to his relationship with Stags assistant Ed Cooley, who had helped mentor him at BC. Cooley took the head coaching job at Providence just in time for Sanders to become eligible at Fairfield, and the two teams collided in Sanders' second game.

    The Friars won the game, but Sanders went for 25 points and nine rebounds. From there, Sanders established himself as the lead Stag.

    Sanders has recorded 10 games over 20 points and eight double-doubles. He ranks fourth in the MAAC in scoring, third in rebounding and eighth in steals.

    The Stags will need to win the MAAC tournament to get Sanders back to the Big Dance, and doing that will likely involve defeating league-leading Iona. Sanders has scored 46 points and pulled 20 rebounds in his two meetings with the Gaels, but both have ended in defeat.

Justin Cobbs, California

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    California native Justin Cobbs didn't see a lot of court time in Minnesota as a freshman in the 2009-10 season. In other breaking news, Minnesota is extremely cold during basketball season.

    No word on whether the latter had much to do with Cobbs' transfer to the University of California, but the lack of playing time combined with homesickness certainly did. Seeing the kind of playing time that he missed out on in the shadows of Devoe Joseph and Al Nolen, Cobbs has averaged 13 points and five assists per game this season.

    As the Bears chase only their second regular season conference title since the 1950s, Cobbs is in fact rarely leaving the floor. In conference play, Cobbs averages 34.5 minutes per game, including 38 per game in the last five.

    A large part of Cal's success has also been tied to Cobbs' ability to hang on to the ball. He sports a 2.5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, including an immaculate game against Oregon on February 16. Cobbs dropped 28 points, eight assists and four steals on the Ducks without committing a single turnover.

    Guard play is often considered a barometer for success in March. If that holds true this season, the backcourt trio of Cobbs, Allen Crabbe, and Jorge Gutierrez should have Cal fans confident in their team's chances of a solid run.

Mike Moser, UNLV

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    Mike Moser had a blueprint for his transfer from UCLA to UNLV. Fellow Rebel/ex-Bruin Chace Stanback beat the same path two years prior.

    Both were similarly built players with similar games who were similarly neglected by UCLA coach Ben Howland. Stanback became a consistent double-figure scorer under Lon Kruger, and Moser thought that he could do the same.

    By the time Moser was able to suit up for games, however, Kruger was gone, replaced by ex-Rebel player Dave Rice. Still, Moser had little trouble performing at a dominant level from day one under Rice. Granted, the opposition was Division II Grand Canyon University, but Moser's 16 points and 20 rebounds announced his presence with authority.

    Twelve more double-doubles have followed, some coming against the likes of Illinois, North Carolina, and New Mexico. Moser is fifth in the Mountain West with 13.9 points per game, second at 10.7 boards per game, and first with nearly two steals a night.

    Moser's waging a battle with New Mexico's Drew Gordon, another UCLA transfer, for Mountain West Player of the Year, while both teams battle with San Diego State for the league's regular season championship.

    One certainty is that Moser will get an opportunity to show his relentless game in the NCAA Tournament, introducing himself to Eastern-based fans who may not have stayed up late enough to see UNLV firsthand.

LaRon Dendy, Middle Tennessee State

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    Another of the numerous transfers that bolted from Iowa State when Fred Hoiberg arrived, LaRon Dendy expected to make an impact in his new home. Only the most optimistic Middle Tennessee State supporter would have expected the lengths to which he would lead the Blue Raiders.

    When MTSU took the floor at the Los Angeles Sports Arena against Pac-12 preseason favorite UCLA, the outcome was expected to be a mere formality. Dendy produced 16 points and 13 rebounds, spurring Middle to a 20-point win.

    The victories continued to mount from there, and a team projected to finish second in the Sun Belt East Division stampeded to a 14-2 league record, 25-5 overall.

    When the Blue Raiders needed to finish strong to clinch the regular-season title, Dendy closed the deal emphatically. In wins over Western Kentucky, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Florida Atlantic, Dendy racked up 69 points and 30 rebounds.

    Finishing in the Sun Belt's top five in scoring, rebounding, blocks and field goal percentage resulted in Dendy claiming the conference's Player of the Year award. Sure, it's not the Big East or the ACC, but a Player of the Year award is not exactly the work of "a basketball vagabond ... miring in obscurity at Middle Tennessee State," as Dendy was described by a bitter Cyclones blogger.

Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State

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    Oftentimes, transfers leave major conference schools to find playing time at lower-level conferences, many with struggling programs. Arnett Moultrie walked the other way.

    The 2009-10 UTEP Miners cruised through Conference USA with a 15-1 record, making a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Moultrie was the team's fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, starting all 33 games.

    It's easy for a player to overestimate his abilities and end up out of his depth in a major conference, but Moultrie has had no such problem in coming to the SEC. He's fourth in the league in scoring and seventh in the nation in rebounding, cementing himself as a potential NBA lottery pick out of Mississippi State.

    Until the recent five-game tailspin that left the Bulldogs clinging to the edge of the tourney bubble, the only person that bore any sour feelings about Moultrie's performance was his former UTEP coach, Tony Barbee. Barbee thought that Moultrie was following him to Auburn, and was none too happy when the player rerouted himself to Starkville.

    With the Bulldogs at least still in the conversation for meaningful March games and Auburn circling the SEC drain, perhaps it was a wise decision. Or perhaps Moultrie would have helped Auburn to respectability. It's possible that the question keeps Tony Barbee, for one, awake at night.

Royce White, Iowa State

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    Royce White didn't even get to play a game for Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota. A series of legal issues ranging from trespassing to shoplifting resulted in a suspension that claimed his season before it even started.

    The 6-8, 270-pound forward joined a group of other Big Ten transfers at Iowa State. Penn State's Chris Babb and Michigan State's Chris Allen, along with former Southern Illinois forward Anthony Booker, had many observers looking with cautious interest at Fred Hoiberg's rebuilding project.

    A program that was demolished by a mass exodus of transfers, including LaRon Dendy and Justin Hamilton, has been quickly rebuilt by a similar mass influx. White's 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game all lead the team, and he's the only major college player leading his team in all five major categories.

    While White lacks the consistency of others who have appeared on this list, he has proven capable of some spectacular games. Perhaps none were more impressive than the triple-double (10 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists) he posted against Texas A&M on January 7, but he's got seven other double-doubles for consideration, as well.

    His nights of 22 and 13 against Michigan and 18 and 17 against Kansas prove that White is fully capable of posting great games on the kind of competition the Cyclones will be seeing in the NCAA Tournament.

    While Royce has a fear of flying and generalized anxiety disorder, his opponents often have no bigger fear than White himself.