Ranking the 10 Best International Players in NCAA Basketball for 2013-14 Season
Breaking news: the United States is no longer the only epicenter of basketball talent.
Competitions like the Olympics, FIBA World Championships and World University Games—that ninth-place finish stings a little—have driven home the point that the rest of the world has caught up with America when it comes to producing skill on the hardwood.
Fortunately for college basketball fans and writers, these international players see American colleges as their most likely path to the NBA.
Aside from the expatriates, there are also players born and bred in America who qualify as FIBA internationals thanks to one parent being an immigrant. These stars may not leap to mind as foreign talent, but some have already suited up for other nations.
These players should stand as some of the college game's best this season, reminding us of what a global language basketball has become.
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The next five members of our All-United Nations team, these players are listed in alphabetical order. Hit the comments thread and make your case for why one or another should have been listed in the main 10. One in particular should get your attention.
Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State & Khem Birch, UNLV
A pair of highly dangerous Canadian shot-blockers, these two will be pivotal to their teams getting NCAA tournament bids. Birch will especially need to shoulder some extra weight with Anthony Bennett in Cleveland and Mike Moser playing for Oregon.
Both can become nightly double-double threats. Bachynski could become an All-American if he played UCLA every night, since he recorded 54 points, 28 rebounds and 13 blocks in three meetings last season.
Devon Collier, Oregon State
The half-Puerto Rican St. Anthony's HS (Jersey City, N.J.) product took a slight step back from his sophomore season, but still ranked in the Pac-12's top 20 in scoring, rebounding and blocks. Collier found a good-sized spotlight last season when he scored 48 points and pulled 20 rebounds against Alabama and Purdue in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
Yes, Canada has talent, and we're just getting started. Hanlan's 15.5 points per game led his team and ranked fifth in the ACC last season. He won the conference's Freshman of the Year award, peaking late with a 41-point explosion against Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Okay, so they're not all veterans. Wiggins is here because he's Canadian and because he's Googled all the time. He's with this group because he hasn't played a college game yet. He should crack the top 10 around the 10-minute mark of his debut.
10. Talib Zanna, Pittsburgh
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While Pitt forward Talib Zanna's raw averages—9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds—don't look all that sexy, they're solid for a man who played a mere 24 minutes per game.
In coach Jamie Dixon's extensive rotation, Zanna started every game, but only played more than 30 minutes five times. In those five games, Zanna averaged 15 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, figures much more acceptable for a starter on a tournament team.
Zanna combined with freshman center Steven Adams to form a dangerous post duo, but this season, Adams will ply his trade for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Panthers don't have much in the way of proven bigs, so look for Dixon to lean much more on his 6'9" Nigerian senior. The ACC has lost a lot in the way of low-post talent, so if Dixon lets Zanna handle full-time minutes, all-conference production is possible.
9. Stephen Holt, St. Mary's
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Stephen Holt's junior season didn't quite measure up to his sophomore efficiency, but that's not to say it was without its highlights.
The 6'4" guard, who qualifies for this list by virtue of his Filipino mother, dropped a combined 59 points in St. Mary's three losses to Gonzaga, shooting 57 percent in the process. He tore down a career-high 14 rebounds in a win over San Francisco. Holt also led the Gaels with 18 points in their NCAA opening round win over Middle Tennessee.
While his field goal percentage dipped from near 50 to just above 40, Holt improved his ball security and was a solid rebounding presence, especially for his size. He finished the season third on the team in total points, rebounds and assists. SMC will need him to push that much harder with iconic point guard Matthew Dellavedova gone to the professional ranks.
8. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
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Nik Stauskas scored in double figures in 21 of his first 23 collegiate games. Of course, that's much easier to do when you get your markers three at a time.
In non-conference play, the Mississauga, Ontario native shot a sparkling 56.5 percent from three-point range. Some players can't shoot that well in the paint.
Once Big Ten play started, Stauskas fell to a 37 percent mark from deep, but he managed one last hurrah when he drilled six out of six threes in the Elite Eight against Florida. Now for the worst news of all: he made only 3-of-18 for the rest of the tournament.
So, the big question heading into 2013-14 is this: is Stauskas' actual level closer to last year's non-conference success or the invisibility of UM's other five NCAA tournament games?
It will certainly be more difficult in the early going for all the Wolverines as they adapt to life after Trey Burke. Still, the moment a defense gets disconnected from Stauskas, he'll put another three on the board.
7. Ronald Roberts, St. Joseph's
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St. Joseph's was a sexy pick to win the Atlantic 10 and reach the NCAA tournament at this time last season. The chips didn't quite fall that way, but don't blame Ronald Roberts.
Roberts is a product of a basketball family, with a dad who played for Billy Tubbs at Oklahoma in the mid-1980s and a mom who was a member of the Dominican national team.
The 6'8", 220-pound forward was one of four Hawks to average double-figure scoring, ranked in the top 50 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and shot nearly 53 percent from the floor. In perhaps the most encouraging development for coach Phil Martelli, the player who shot 47 percent from the line as a freshman managed a 67 percent mark as a junior.
SJU still has four seniors on the roster, including Roberts, forward Halil Kanacevic and guard Langston Galloway. There's still plenty of experience and a good amount of talent on hand, so that NCAA bid could still happen, especially with four of the A-10's top-half teams departed for other leagues.
6. Christian Standhardinger, Hawaii
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In 2011, German forward Christian Standhardinger was a man without a country, so to speak. He had left the Nebraska program and decided to transfer to LaSalle. His scholarship offer was immediately rescinded, however, when he was cited for public indecency.
He left the continent to relaunch his career, but he didn't end up back in Europe. His travels took him in the opposite direction, landing in Hawaii.
All he did when he reached the islands was make All-Big West first team and finish in the conference's top 10 in four major categories: points, rebounds, steals and field goal percentage.
Standhardinger carded nine double-doubles on the year. The two most impressive may have come against UNLV (27 points, 10 rebounds) and UC-Santa Barbara (31 points, 16 rebounds, with 27 points coming in the second half).
This season, he should assume an even larger load after two-time all-conference center Vander Joaquim and 10-PPG scorer Hauns Brereton departed.
5. Anthony Drmic, Boise State
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Two seasons into his career, Boise State guard Anthony Drmic has already earned a pair of All-Mountain West honors. Named an honorable mention selection as a freshman, Drmic followed it up with a second-team selection after finishing second in the conference at 17.7 points per game.
The Endeavor Hills, Australia product was the leader of arguably the MWC's most potent backcourt. Drmic's efficient scoring—he ranked in the league's top 10 in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage—opened up looks for fellow guards Derrick Marks, Jeff Elorriaga and Mikey Thompson.
Creighton ranked 11th in the AP poll when Drmic's 17 points helped topple it in November, marking the highest-ranked opponent the Broncos had beaten in program history. Drmic would later score 34 against LSU, and he ended the season scoring at least 20 points in 11 of Boise's final 15 games.
BSU ended the season by falling to La Salle in the opening round of the NCAA tournament despite Drmic's 28 points. With only center Kenny Buckner gone from last season's team, Boise should be expected to contend for the Mountain West title. Don't be surprised if Drmic pushes 20 points a night.
4. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
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Born in Canada to Nigerian parents, Iowa State's Melvin Ejim just missed the chance to represent the country of his ancestors in London last summer. He made it to the final cuts for the Nigerian Olympic team, a group that included NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu of the then-New Orleans Hornets and Ike Diogu, then of the Phoenix Suns.
The experience served Ejim well, as the 6'6" forward went on to lead the Big 12 in rebounding, an impressive feat in a conference that featured glass-eaters like Jeff Withey of Kansas, Baylor's Cory Jefferson and Oklahoma's Romero Osby.
Twice, Ejim has been named an All-Big 12 selection. He didn't discriminate in the teams that he dominated, carding a total of 15 double-doubles and putting up at least one against all nine of ISU's Big 12 rivals.
As a four-year Cyclone, a rarity thus far in coach Fred Hoiberg's tenure, Ejim's leadership mantle will be a heavy one this season. He and sophomore Georges Niang are the only returnees among last season's top six players.
Cyclone fans have one more reason for optimism.
Ejim took a big step forward after the Nigerian Olympic experience. He could repeat the feat after his dual citizenship allowed him to compete for Canada in this summer's World University Games. The Canadians finished fourth—eliminating the United States along the way—and Ejim contributed 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
3. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
A teammate of Melvin Ejim's on that Canadian World University Games team, Kevin Pangos has some experience rubbing shoulders with talent.
The video at left (h/t On Point Basketball) documents a regional championship game in which Pangos' Denison Secondary School team collided with Vaughan Secondary, led by a precocious sophomore named Andrew Wiggins. Vaughan took the win, but Pangos poured in 42 points.
In the two years since, Pangos has become a pivotal figure for a Gonzaga program that experienced a historic season in 2012-13. He finished in the West Coast Conference's top 10 in assists and steals for a second straight year as the Bulldogs stormed to a perfect conference season and the program's first-ever national No. 1 ranking.
Pangos' shooting percentages were nearly even with those from his freshman year, but he did not use as many possessions on a team dominated by senior forward Elias Harris and All-American Kelly Olynyk. His highlights came against Big 12 competition, with a combined 54 points scored in wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State in the final days of 2012.
With Harris and Olynyk gone, look for this season's Zags to lean much more on Pangos and backcourt mates Gary Bell and David Stockton. Pangos scored in double figures only 19 times as a sophomore after doing the same 26 times as a freshman. His 2013-14 season should look much more like 2011-12 than the campaign he just concluded.
2. Dwight Powell, Stanford
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Toronto native Dwight Powell is yet another of those pesky Canadians who squashed American dreams at the World University Games this summer. The 6'10" Stanford senior-to-be finished second on the team in scoring at 12.1 PPG, adding five boards per night to rank third and tying Kevin Pangos for second with nine steals.
For the Cardinal, Powell finished in the Pac-12's top 10 in total points and rebounds. His averages came out to 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, impressive figures for a player who carded fewer than six and five per night as a sophomore.
Powell copped the Pac-12 Most Improved Player award for his efforts, also being named to the all-conference first team. He can pull his opposite number out to three-point range, making 15 of his 33 deep attempts (45 percent) last season.
None of Stanford's Pac-12 opponents could hold Powell to single-digit scoring, a testament to all the ways he's now able to score. If he continues adding muscle to his 235-pound frame, he should be more of a force inside, pairing a post game with his respectable mid-range abilities.
1. Shabazz Napier, UConn
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Like Melvin Ejim, UConn point guard Shabazz Napier had a chance to compete at the 2012 London Olympics, in this case for Puerto Rico. Napier's trials, however, ended voluntarily when he walked away due to nagging discomfort in his right foot.
The decision to avoid further damage proved a wise one, as Napier became one of the Big East's most effective all-around players in his junior season. He ranked top-10 in scoring, assists and steals as well as three-point and free throw percentage.
Under the leadership of both Napier and new head coach Kevin Ollie, a Husky team banned from the postseason for the program's recent academic deficiencies, still won 20 games. Along the way, it toppled high-powered opponents like Michigan State, Cincinnati and Syracuse.
Napier's peak may have come in the Huskies' win over Cincinnati, an overtime game in which he scored 11 of his 27 points in the extra session. He missed a shot that would have won the game in regulation, but finished with authority in the five bonus minutes.
The Husky backcourt of Napier, Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun, freshman Terrence Samuel and George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah may be one of the best in college basketball. Napier has one more season to prove he can be the Huskies' undisputed alpha dog.