Much like the rest of the country this year, SEC basketball is not a thing of beauty. Outside of Kentucky’s freshmen, there isn’t a lot of top-notch NBA talent, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t guys who relentlessly come at their opponents for 40 minutes.
Before getting hurt last week, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, who is both talented and relentless, played with great fire and energy every time he set foot on the floor. Noel would have topped this list if not for his injury, but Ole Miss’s Marshall Henderson and Missouri’s Phil Pressey also bring it every game.
Whether it’s offensively, defensively or on the boards, here are the top 10 relentless players in SEC basketball.
Michael Carrera was one of the two players South Carolina coach Frank Martin singled out in a positive way following the team’s 64-46 loss to LSU. There is good reason for that. Carrera is a 6’5” freshman, and he is one of the best rebounders in the conference.
Carrera leads the conference in defensive rebound percentage (25.75) and is third in offensive rebound percentage (14.37), according to StatSheet.com. He is seventh in the SEC with 7.1 rebounds per game.
After transferring in for his senior season from Connecticut, Alex Oriakhi has settled in nicely down the stretch of his only season at Missouri. Oriakhi has provided physicality and energy on both ends of the floor.
He is third in the SEC in rebounding with 8.8 rebounds per game and seventh in blocked shots with 1.6 blocks per game. Oriakhi leads the conference in offensive rebound percentage (15.32), according to StatSheet.com.
Kenny Boynton is not shy when it comes to hoisting up shots. In fact, his shot selection has not been a strong point of his since arriving at Florida, but he never seems to lack confidence to let it fly.
Boynton averages 6.5 three-point attempts per game and is making 34.2 percent from beyond the arc. In Florida’s three losses this year, Boynton is 4-of-19 from three.
Marshawn Powell is incredibly active and does so much in Arkansas coach Mike Anderson’s up-tempo system. He is the definition of a stat-sheet stuffer, averaging 15.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
He can also be a little too aggressive at times. Powell’s minutes have been limited in numerous games due to foul trouble, and he has fouled out of three SEC games.
Murphy Holloway is undersized at 6’7”, but he compensates for that down low with his tremendous energy and aggression. Holloway rebounds the ball really well and is aggressive on the offensive end taking the ball to the basket.
Holloway is second in the SEC in rebounding with 9.3 rebounds per game and is also shooting 53.1 percent from the field.
Johnny O’Bryant III has improved in his second year at LSU, but his aggressiveness on the boards has been constant since arriving in Baton Rouge. At 6’9”, 262 pounds, he is strong with a great motor, everything that is needed to be an excellent rebounder.
This year, he is fourth in the league with 8.7 rebounds per game. In his last nine games, O’Bryant is averaging 10.7 rebounds per game and has eight double-doubles.
Scottie Wilbekin’s constant defensive pressure is one of the big reasons that Florida’s defense is among the best in the country. He makes life miserable for opponents. Earlier this season, he held Texas A&M’s Elston Turner to just 1-of-10 shooting and forced Missouri’s Phil Pressey into 10 turnovers.
Wilbekin averaged just 15.1 minutes per game last year playing behind Erving Walker. This year, he has made an impact on both ends. Wilbekin ranks second in the SEC with 5.5 assists per game and ninth in the league with 1.6 steals per game.
Patric Young’s activity and physicality down low give Florida something no one else on its roster can. His presence in the post defensively allows the Gator guards to get out and pressure the ball while knowing that Young can provide the help that’s needed at the rim.
Young pushed Kentucky around down in Gainesville, putting up 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. For the season, he is fourth in the SEC with 1.8 blocks per game.
Phil Pressey is an aggressive point guard who sees the floor better than anyone in the country. He leads the conference with 6.8 assists per game and routinely has the ball in his hands when the game is in on the line for his team.
Pressey is constantly forcing the issue, putting pressure on the opposing defense. That can certainly work in Missouri’s favor, but it can also be detrimental, as Pressey can be prone to make some mistakes with 3.7 turnovers per game this year.
Marshall Henderson is a shooter, and he most certainly has a shooter’s mentality. Regardless of if his shots are falling, Henderson always believes his next shot is going in. That was on full display in Saturday’s win over Georgia when Henderson reeled off 10 straight points, eight from the free-throw line, late in the second half to force overtime, despite making just two shots to that point.
He averages 10.6 three-point attempts per game, making 35.3 percent from beyond the arc. Henderson leads the SEC in scoring with 19.7 points per game, and his team is always a quick one-man spurt away from seizing momentum in any contest.