When college basketball analysts discuss which players make the biggest impact on their teams, the names Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle are mentioned a majority of the time.
All of those players are extremely talented and there is certainly an argument to be made that each of them is the best player in the nation.
There is one name that fails to be mentioned in this discussion nearly every single time, however, despite this player making a huge impact on a team that competes in one of the best conferences in college basketball every year. That player is Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant.
Grant doesn’t have the same freakish athletic ability as Wiggins and Randle, the overall skill of Smart, or combination of size and talent that Parker has. Yet, due to Grant's continued development as not only a scorer, but also as an overall player, he is playing at the same level as these players.
Let us start by looking at Grant’s performance last season.
Anybody remember the five-overtime game between Notre Dame and Louisville last season, which was the last game Louisville lost before winning a championship?
Without Grant’s 12-point scoring run in 44 seconds, the game would have never gone into overtime.
That game seemed to mark a turning point for Grant. After the Louisville game, Grant’s scoring average went from 12.7 to 14.4 points per game, which gave him a season average of 13.3 on 40 percent shooting (34 percent from three-point range).
The scoring improvement has carried over to this season as Grant is averaging 19.4 points per game on 54 percent shooting (46 percent from behind the arc). His free throw percentage has also improved from 74 percent last season to 88 percent through this year's first five games.
He also averages 5.8 assists per game and 2.4 steals.
19, 8 assists, and 6 steals for Jerian Grant as Notre Dame beats Army 93-60. 14 and 5 off the bench for Zach Auguste.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 25, 2013
Last season, Grant averaged 2.9 turnovers per game. In 2013, he has cut that in half, turning the ball over just 1.4 times per game.
College basketball’s most polarizing player, Andrew Wiggins, has gotten more hype than any other player in the nation; yet many players, including Grant, have been more productive this season. Wiggins averages five less points per game than Grant with 14.3, is shooting 49 percent from the field and has only hit 63 percent of his free throws.
The following shows how Grant’s output compares to Marcus Smart's, who is regarded as the best 2-guard in college basketball.
|PPG||Field Goal %||Assists per game||Turnovers per game|
As you can see, despite being one of the least talked about stars in college basketball, Grant’s contributions are along the same level as some of the most talented players in the sport.
If Grant continues to produce at the same level all season, I believe that he has a strong chance of being selected in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, assuming he decides to forgo his final season of eligibility.
One thing Mike Brey told me the other day that I completely forgot was that Jerian Grant still has another year left. Redshirted as frosh.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) September 17, 2013
Where Grant can be dangerous at the next level is with his quickness, growing consistency with his jump shot, and continued overall improvement throughout his career. Also, taking into consideration that he is a senior leader with a large amount of playing experience, he is going to draw some interest from NBA teams.
For the rest of the season, keep an eye out for Grant and the Fighting Irish. They are looking to make a name for themselves in their inaugural season in the ACC, and, with the talent on the roster surrounding Grant, they could be a team that makes some noise in the NCAA Tournament this season.