Ranking the Best College Basketball Players Under 6 Feet Tall

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

Ranking the Best College Basketball Players Under 6 Feet Tall

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    Massachusetts' Chaz Williams plays far bigger than his 5'9" frame.
    Massachusetts' Chaz Williams plays far bigger than his 5'9" frame.Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    Basketball is a big man's game, there's no denying this. More than any other sport, basketball requires size and height to improve a team or player's chance at success.

    But that doesn't mean there's no room for the little guys.

    Just look at college basketball—there are no shortage of players under 6 feet tall who are excelling for their teams and putting up the kind of numbers that someone with five inches on them would love to produce.

    The diminutive ones even have their own special award in the college game, with the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award each year going to the best senior listed at or below 6'0" (and to the top senior women's player 5'8" or under). Past winners of the men's award include Washington's Nate Robinson, UCLA's Darren Collison and last year's honoree, Peyton Siva of Louisville.

    Our list, though, excludes those "tall" guys so as to give more credit to those under 72 inches. There were plenty to choose from, but here's our take on the 10 best currently in the college game.

    (NOTE: Stats listed are through Tuesday's games)

10. Anthony Hickey, LSU

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Height: 5'11"

    Year: Junior

    Stats: 9.5 points per game, 3.7 assists per game, 37.3 3-point percentage

    Why he plays bigger: Anthony Hickey doesn't score at the rate of other top short players in college, nor does he dish it out as much. He's not much of a driver, either.

    So, what does he do well? He avoids mistakes. With a 3.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, Hickey makes it so the Tigers don't waste possessions with sloppy passing.

19. Kendall Anthony, Richmond

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    Scott Kane/Associated Press

    Height: 5'8"

    Year: Junior

    Stats: 15.7 points per game, 36.4 3-point percentage, 81.4 free-throw percentage

    Why he plays bigger: Kendall Anthony is a pure scorer, belying his small stature to drive and drop dimes in a Richmond system where he doesn't have to be relegated to being a distributor. That's leading scorer Cedrick Lindsay, who is the team's top assist man as well.

    Anthony takes a lot of shots, and when they're not hitting, he heads toward the basket and draws the foul to get his points from the line.

8. Julius Brown, Toledo

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Height: 5'10"

    Year: Junior

    Stats: 15.0 points per game, 6.3 assists per game, 37.3 3-point percentage, 87.4 free-throw percentage

    Why he plays bigger: Toledo's offense not only runs through Julius Brown, it's also run by him. Despite being a good six inches shorter than any of the Rockets' other starters, he's the leading scorer in addition to being their top assist man.

    He has three double-doubles, and when the shots don't fall, he switches up and becomes more of a distributor than a driver, a big reason Toledo is 23-4 and tied for first in the Mid-American Conference's West Division.

7. Sidney Sanders, Fairleigh Dickinson

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Height: 5'11"

    Year: Senior

    Stats: 20.0 points per game, 6.0 assists per game, 3.7 rebounds per game

    Why he plays bigger: Sidney Sanders is his team's leading scorer, and it's not even close. His average is double the next guy on the Knights, partly because he's taken more shots than any two other teammates.

    But while Sanders has made 28 percent of Fairleigh Dickinson's baskets this season, he's also assisted on more than one-third of the field goals his teammates have converted.

6. Johnathan Loyd, Oregon

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    Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    Height: 5'8"

    Year: Senior

    Stats: 7.5 points per game, 5.0 assists per game, 45.6 field-goal percentage

    Why he plays bigger: Johnathon Loyd is not afraid to get tangled up with the big guys in the Pac-12 Conference or even on his own team.

    Though nearly always the smallest guy on the court, Loyd makes up for his lack of size with a speediness that enables him to find open spots on the court to put up a clean, uncontested shot. It's why he's making nearly half his shots despite nearly two-thirds of them coming inside the three-point line.

5. Maurice Watson, Boston University

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Height: 5'10"

    Year: Sophomore

    Stats: 13.6 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 50.3 field-goal percentage

    Why he plays bigger: Maurice Watson is a big reason the Terriers enter the final week of their first season in the Patriot League with a chance to win the regular-season crown.

    Besides leading the team in scoring, his 2.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio makes it so most of Boston University's production comes through him. Combining the baskets he makes with the ones he assists on, Watson is involved in 48 percent of the Terriers' field goals. 

4. Jalan West, Northwestern State

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Height: 5'10"

    Year: Sophomore

    Stats: 18.7 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 86.2 free-throw percentage

    Why he plays bigger: Jalan West is the motor that generates the frenetic pace at which Northwestern State plays. The Demons are second in the nation in scoring at 85.6 points per game, and not only does West provide a big chunk of those points, but he also facilitates his teammates' scoring.

    West has assisted on 167 made field goals, 23 more than he's scored himself. And that's not counting all of the times his passes have led to players getting fouled and then making their free throws.

3. Rodney Glasgow, VMI

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Height: 5'10"

    Year: Senior

    Stats: 18.9 points per game, 5.7 assists per game, 48.4 field-goal percentage, 41.4 3-point percentage, 88.0 free-throw percentage

    Why he plays bigger: VMI has the nation's smallest backcourt, as Rodney Glasgow and 6'0" Q.J. Peterson combine for nearly 44 percent of the Keydets' NCAA-best 89.4 points per game.

    Glasgow is the one who sets things up, though, getting the ball to Peterson and others when he's not making shots from all over the court.

2. Keifer Sykes, Green Bay

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Height: 5'11"

    Year: Junior

    Stats: 20.3 points per game, 5.0 assists per game, 4.4 rebounds per game

    Why he plays bigger: Keifer Sykes isn't your typical little guy who tries to get most of his points from way outside where it's harder to swat his attempts away. Sykes attempts just over three three-pointers per game, making less than one per contest.

    Instead, he's taking it inside and forcing the issue. Sykes is making 52.2 percent of his two-pointers, and he's taking almost 11 per game. He's also drawing contact, resulting in nearly eight free throws per contest.

    Sykes also plays the distributor role well, too, and for a sub-six-footer, his rebounding average is quite impressive.

1. Chaz Williams, Massachusetts

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Height: 5'9"

    Year: Senior

    Stats: 15.5 points per game, 7.2 assists per game

    Why he plays bigger: Chaz Williams is probably the most well-known of the smaller-than-life players in college basketball this season, but he's backed up that notoriety with stellar play. And he's a big reason the Minutemen are on the verge of their first NCAA tournament bid since 1998.

    Williams is UMass' leading scorer, but he's also the guy dishing it to his teammates. He's third nationally in assists per game and first in effective use of a headband.