College Basketball: Five Little Guys Who Have Big Game
Basketball guards seem to be getting taller each year, making it harder for the little guys to make an impact.
Consider point guard John Wall, the first overall selection in the 2010 NBA draft, who's listed at 6'4". Or perhaps the 2010-11 NBA MVP Derrick Rose, a PG who's 6'3". Even Russell Westbrook, known for being one of the more athletic guards in the league, is 6'3".
But before those six-foot-and-under guards call it quits, they might want to take a look at these five guys who are proof that height is simply a measurement, not an obstacle.
1. Pierre Jackson, Baylor
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At 5'10", Pierre Jackson isn't going to stand out in a crowd. But on a basketball court, it's a different story.
Jackson led the Baylor Bears in scoring at 13.8 points per game in the 2011-2012 season, which is impressive considering the NBA talent he had on his team. But this year, Jackson won't have Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller or Quincy Acy to rely on. Instead, the senior guard will need to lead this team if it has any hopes of duplicating last season's run to the Elite Eight.
Jackson shoots better than 40 percent from three-point range, but his game doesn't shine exclusively on offense. He also creates nearly two steals a game, which usually leads to easy scoring opportunities.
In Baylor's regional final loss to Kentucky, Jackson scored 21 points, along with with five assists and two steals. Despite the loss, it's this kind of effort against a quality opponent that should have Baylor fans amped up in anticipation of this little guy having a big senior year.
2. Phil Pressey, Missouri
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Phil Pressey, a 5'11" junior guard out of Dallas, Texas, nearly left the Missouri program in 2011. Tigers fans sure are glad he didn't.
The do-everything point guard averaged 10.3 points and more than two steals a game during his junior campaign, which saw Missouri earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament before getting upset in the first round.
But it's his ability to get others involved that makes Pressey so valuable. His 6.3 assists per game led the Big 12 and was the 13th highest average in the country. He'll have a chance to expand upon those efforts this year as the Tigers welcome in former UConn big man Alex Oriakhi.
Being able to make quality passes to the interior of the defense will surely help a team that is looking to regain some of its star power.
Without guard Marcus Denmon, who was drafted 59th overall by the San Antonio Spurs, Pressey will be go-to guy for Missouri as it begins a new chapter in the SEC. But if last year is any indication, Tigers fans will be happy with Pressey at the helm.
3. Chaz Williams, UMass
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Unless you're a diehard UMass fan, you probably wouldn't notice Chaz Williams walking down the street. Being 5'9" doesn't make Williams stand out. But his game does, and if you attend a UMass game this season, noticing him won't be difficult.
The junior out of Brooklyn, N.Y., averaged nearly 17 points per game last season to go with 6.2 assists. His team reached the NIT, where Williams put up 28 points in an opening-round win. He followed that with back-to-back 20-point games to help UMass reach the semifinals in Madison Square Garden.
Williams also averaged more than 23 points and 10 assists in two games against a ranked Temple team led by 6'4" guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore.
With two seasons of eligibility remaining, you can expect a lot more out of Williams, perhaps even in March, where on the biggest stage, the little guy played his best.
4. Tray Woodall, Pitt
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Pitt ended last season by winning a tournament. Only this time, it was the College Basketball Invitational. And despite finishing with a win, the Panthers said goodbye to an underwhelming year.
But all is not lost for Pitt fans, who have reason to be excited about guard Tray Woodall's senior season.
Woodall is a 5'11" playmaker from Brooklyn, N.Y., who averaged just under 12 points per game in the rugged Big East. But like several other players on this list, it was his selfless play that made him stand out.
Woodall averaged more than six assists per game, including 10 in a win against 10th-ranked Georgetown in just his third game back from an abdominal tear that forced him to miss 11 games.
While winning the CBI may not be a story that Pitt fans retell in 25 years, ending the season on a high note is more than most teams can boast. And with Woodall back for his senior campaign, a different tournament destination may be on the horizon.
5. Aaron Bright, Stanford
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You can understand if Aaron Bright is tired. He followed is freshman year that saw him playing nearly 20 minutes a game with a sophomore season in which he averaged nearly 30.
But the 5'11" junior from Bellevue, Wash., has a lot of basketball left in him, which won't make Pac-12 fans happy when Stanford comes to town.
Bright averaged almost 12 points and four assists as a sophomore for the Cardinal, and his 43 percent shooting average from long range makes him dangerous from anywhere on the court.
He put up six threes and a season-high 29 points in a second-round NIT win over Illinois State. He added 15 points and six rebounds in the championship game, which the Cardinal won, defeating Minnesota, 75-51.
Add in fellow guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown, and you can see why opposing teams will have their hands full with Stanford this season. If they choose to hone in on Randle and Brown, you can bet that Bright will be prepared to light up the scoreboard time and time again.