Big East Basketball: Ranking the 10 Most Relentless Players
Anyone can survey a box score and pick out a team's top scorers, touting them as the stars of a victory. But floor boards and hustle defense don't translate into statistics, despite being the hallmark characteristics of great players and winning teams.
You know these kinds of players. The ones who take a tumble on one end of the court only to pop up and sprint back to atone for a lost possession with a big time play.
Those are the athletes we focus on here. Big East playmakers who transcend statistics and provide their program with a spark. Teammates rally around players like those on this list.
10. Mike Poole, Rutgers
Considering he only plays about 18 minutes per game as a reserve member of a struggling Rutgers team, you may not have heard of Mike Poole. Opposing coaches are all too familiar with the 6'5" junior.
Poole is the definition of a defensive pest. He is not a dynamic scorer or dangerous shooter, but he is exceptional at getting between ball-handlers and the basket.
Poole is among the conference's underrated players in terms of tenacity and a selfless attitude.
"I can help the team in multiple ways. Not just scoring, not just playing defense,” Poole told newjerseynewsroom.com reporter Matt Sugam. “I can rebound, I can get a steal or two, I can get a block or two. I just try to do everything my team is lacking at that time.”
9. Davante Gardner, Marquette
Gardner is an instant energy provider for Marquette. He is often tasked one of the team's toughest defensive assignments and displays a high motor when fighting for rebounds.
The 6'8" junior is an underrated scorer because of his reputation as a defensive stopper and reckless loose ball chaser.
Gardner tallied 26 points on 7-of-7 shooting on Feb. 25 in a win over Syracuse.
8. Sir'Dominic Pointer, St. John's
The sophomore swingman has built a reputation as an intense defender from perimeter to paint. Pointer is Steve Lavin's go-to defensive stopper and he's lived up to the billing.
He had five first-half steals in a January win over Rutgers and averages about a block per night. Perhaps Pointer's most impressive attribute is his ability to get St. John's off and running.
He is adept at sparking transition opportunities off turnovers, leading to fast break buckets for the Red Storm.
7. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Cincinnati's midseason surge toward the top of Big East standings put the team on course to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bearcats have cooled of considerably over the past few weeks, but Kilpatrick hasn't skipped a beat.
The 6'4" junior leads Cincinnati in minutes and points while ranking second on the team in rebounds, assists and steals. Kilpatrick can be an inconsistent scorer at times, but hardly lets up on the defensive end.
Like so many members of this list, Kilpatrick ranks among his squad's top options on both ends of the court.
6. Vincent Council, Providence
This senior point guard is the definition of a battle-tested vet. The 6'2" ball distributor has played at least 32 minutes per game in each of the past three seasons.
Council is a fearless floor general and consistently threads closing passing lanes with dime passes. He averages 7.2 assists per game, which puts him among the country's elite.
He provides dogged defense and exhibits elite lateral movement. Council swipes away nearly two steals per contest and is rarely caught out of position.
5. Chane Behanan, Louisville
Behanan's efforts are summed up nicely by a recent play at South Florida. Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal does a nice job describing the moment the sophomore forward sent an off-balance pass floating to the waiting hands of teammate Russ Smith.
He is among the savviest young players in the Big East and provided a highlight-reel play that left onlookers in awe.
“I don’t know if I want to say (it was) luck,” Behanan told Sullivan. “I got good control of it and just snapped it to him. It’s peripheral vision. I was looking at the ball and I (saw) Russ the whole time.”
Aside from exceptional basketball IQ, Behanan is among Big East leaders in rebounds (nearly eight per game) and is an aggressive defender.
He registered 56 minutes of playing time in a five-overtime loss at Notre Dame in February, keeping the team afloat with 30 points and 15 rebounds.
4. Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall
There is a six-minute long video highlighting the hustle plays Edwin has made at Seton Hall. Once you've finished watching it, there's no question the Pirates leading scorer is an unheralded star for a variety of reasons.
Edwin—a 6'6" junior—plays with a chip on his shoulder. Sometimes that can be a negative but that's not the circumstance here and gives him a roughness on the court that gets under the opponent's skin.
When the ball isn't in his hands, Edwin is always on the move. He ranks second in the Big East in steals and is a top-notch creator in transition.
3. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
The sophomore's grittiness and resolve are what has so many NBA scouts salivating over Carter-Williams.
The 6'6" specimen often draws the opposition's toughest defensive assignment, but he's been able to break down schemes throughout much of the season.
Carter-Williams posts approximately eight assists per game and creates opportunities for teammates on a consistent basis. His size and ball skills make him an ideal point guard prospect in an evolving basketball spectrum.
He owns more steals this season than anyone in the Big East and is the most important player on one of the nation's best program.
His attitude helps set the tone for Syracuse and the team will go as far as he wills them.
2. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
If it wasn't for Otto Porter's virtuoso performance during a 10-game Georgetown win streak, Cooley would be in serious consideration for conference player of the year. He ranks second in the nation with 18 double-doubles through 28 contests.
The 6'9" senior could be a confused with a seven-footer because of the way he controls real estate inside. Cooley boxes out with authority to gain position and pulls down 11 boards per game, tops in the Big East.
"You tell your big guys, 'Don't accept the block-out.' A lot of guys accept block-outs," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told the Chicago Tribune. "Most guys accept block-outs. Jack Cooley truly does not accept block-outs. And he's relentless."
That effort has Cooley leading the nation in offensive rebounds and creating second chance opportunities for the Fighting Irish.
1. Otto Porter, Georgetown
Porter is a Player of the Year frontrunner and possesses excellent numbers, including an average of 20 points per game over the past three weeks, but he does so much more than score.
The 6'8" forward makes opponents feel his wrath in every facet of the game.
He is relentless in the paint, ranking third in the Big East in rebounds (about eight per game) and leads the Hoyas in steals. Porter provides plenty of points on the offensive end without ever giving up a possession on defense.
The rising star is also a closer.
In Wednesday night's double overtime win at UConn, Porter scored 21 of his 22 points after halftime and beat the Huskies with a game-winning layup with 9.5 seconds remaining in the second overtime period.