When you start to think about the best of the current crop of college guards, names like Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier quickly come to mind.
But, there is a group of collegiate backcourt players who come right after these players that are largely undervalued.
The following is a list of the 10 most underrated college guards in the 2013-14 season.
Many of these players are familiar names. They simply have not received the same amount of recognition that the above mentioned guards have collected.
You may have never heard of California-Davis’ Corey Hawkins, but he is a stat sheet stuffer.
Last year, Hawkins averaged 20.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Against Hawaii, the 6’3” guard scored 40 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out two assists.
He scored 20 or more points 15 times and 30 points in five games.
Hawkins was selected for the Lou Henson All-America Team for players from mid-major schools.
He was also an All-Big West first team selection and the conference’s 2013 Newcomer of the Year.
Just like this year’s NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard came from a smaller school (Weber State), keep an eye on Hawkins in his two remaining years at UCD.
UMass’ Chaz Williams can pretty much do it all.
He is a two-time first-team All-Atlantic 10 selection.
Last year, the 5’9” PG averaged 15.5 points, 7.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game, all of which led the Minutemen in the 2012-13 season.
Williams is an excellent penetrator and passer, the perfect fit for UMass’ up-tempo style and dribble-drive offense.
He enters his senior season as the school’s all-time assists-per-game and steals-per-game leader.
Oakland’s Travis Bader is the NCAA’s No. 2 returning scorer (22.1 PPG) behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
Bader was the nation’s three-point shooting leader, knocking down 4.2 shots from beyond the arc per game.
Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner pointed out:
The Golden Grizzlies’ standout has been an almost omnipresent force in the Summit League for his three seasons, and he’s going to be back for his senior campaign after playing a nation’s best 94.8 percent of available minutes last season.
Being on the floor so much also enables Bader to be the nation’s most eager three-point shot taker. Last season, Bader launched an incredible 360 three-pointers, and has attempted 886 of them in his career. Good for the Grizzlies, Bader is also a very good marksman from the arc. His 38.6 percent success rate last season is the worst of his three seasons. He lit up IUPUI last season for 11 threes on his way to 47 points.
Even though Xavier’s Semaj Christon had a great freshman season, most college basketball fans across the country have probably not heard of him or seen him play.
His 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game created one of the most notable stat lines among returning first-year players.
The 6’3” PG only failed to score in double figures last year three times.
Christon was selected for Collegeinsider.com’s Kyle Macy Freshman All-American team.
His XU bio says that he was Xavier's first-ever Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year.
If Providence’s Bryce Cotton played for someone other than the Friars, he might be a household name.
Cotton was the 2012-13 Big East scoring leader (18.3 PPG) and was selected as a first-team all-conference player.
Last year, Cotton was in the top 10 in the nation in true shooting percentage (59 percent) which is a good indication of a player’s scoring efficiency.
In spite of such solid credentials, Cotton is nowhere to be found in NBADraft.net’s 2014 Mock Draft.
If Cotton can elevate his game even further, watch for PC to make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004.
Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell landed in Bloomington with the reputation of being a true point guard.
He had proven himself in high school to the degree that whether or not he would start as a Hoosier freshman was never in question.
Ferrell did a fantastic job of directing traffic on last season’s third-best scoring team (80 PPG) that featured stars like Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls.
And, with super sixth man Will Sheehey coming off the bench, Ferrell was relegated to the restrictive role of facilitator. Ferrell, the 2012-13 team’s No. 6 scorer, only tallied double figures in 12 of IU’s 36 games.
While the rising sophomore should play a more significant part in Indiana’s scoring scheme this season, there are no guarantees.
Head coach Tom Crean brought in an impressive 2013 recruiting class that will get instantly plugged in. It will be one of Ferrell’s chief continuing objectives for 2013-14 to get all the newcomers involved.
Watching to see if Ferrell’s role expands will be an interesting story to follow.
Michigan State’s Keith Appling is the Rodney Dangerfield of Big Ten basketball. He doesn’t get nearly the respect that he deserves.
Last year as a junior, Appling led the Spartans in both scoring (13.4 PPG) and assists (3.4 APG).
MLive.com’s Diamond Leung stated recently:
Asked to name a breakout player this season for Michigan State, assistant coach Dane Fife immediately identified Keith Appling.
If Appling blows up in his senior year, watch for Tom Izzo and his Spartans to make another Final Four appearance.
He is the forceful floor leader that makes Creighton click. The 6’5” backcourt wizard’s numbers are not staggering (8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists), but his contribution goes beyond simple stats.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Johnson states this about Gibbs:
His creative intuition facilitates everything the Bluejays do on offense, from McDermott’s perimeter penetration to Ethan Wragge’s sterling three-point marksmanship and on down the line.
Gibbs’ 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio demonstrates his proficiency in taking care of the ball.
With him at the controls, Creighton has a legitimate shot at winning the new Big East title.
Duke’s Quinn Cook is an outstanding player who deserves more props than he is currently receiving.
As a freshman, Cook was an irregularly used as a backup who was never at full capacity because of injuries.
The most notable of his first-year stats was his assist-to-turnover ratio, which was an outrageous 3.5 (63 assists with only 18 turnovers).
Last year as a sophomore, the 6’1” PG from D.C. locked down the starting job, averaging a more-than-solid 11.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
In most cases, those are the kinds of numbers that help you stand out and get recognized. However, Cook was no better than the No. 4 (maybe No. 5) option in last year’s Blue Devils attack. When you play with the likes of seniors Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, what do you expect?
Duke’s 2013-14 roster has plenty of star power. All-everything freshman Jabari Parker arrives and Mississippi State-transfer Rodney Hood will now be eligible. Rasheed Sulaimon and Andre Dawkins return to Coach K’s backcourt.
Cook is a vital part to the Blue Devils' success in the upcoming season, but the question lingers: To what degree will he continue to labor in relative obscurity?
You will not find many more dependable guards in college basketball than Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins.
He is a versatile, resourceful player who scores (11.2 PPG), facilitates (5.5 APG) and defends (1.4 SPG).
Atkins plays with a unique instinctiveness and awareness. He is an excellent “coach-on-the-floor.”
During last season, ESPN’s Jay Bilas listed Atkins as one of the five most underrated players in college basketball (Insider subscription required). He said:
Atkins is one of the most efficient point guards in the nation. A junior, he plays with tremendous poise and pace, and it is very difficult to speed him up and force him into mistakes. Atkins is a good shooter, knocking down 49 percent of his field goals and 44 percent of his 3-point shots. He's also an excellent passer who ranks seventh in the nation in assists and has a 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Coach Mike Brey has referred to Atkins as among the best point guards in the country. He is right.
The only real hole in Atkins’ game is an odd shortcoming at the line, where he shot only 65.4 percent last season.