Ranking the Most Complete Players for the 2016-17 College Basketball Season
Jerry Maguire would be a big fan of these college basketball players.
Playing off Tom Cruise's famous line to Renee Zellweger, there are certain players in the game who manage to do a little bit of everything while on the court. They may not be the best at anything, but they don't have any glaring weaknesses, either, and thus meet our criteria for being considered a "complete" player.
Being able to contribute both offensively and defensively, from inside and out, and to do work on the boards and handle the ball effectively requires a special kind of player. Not everyone can do this; even some of the best players in the game who are elite in a few areas don't push the needle in others.
We've picked 20 such players for the 2016-17 season, based on how they performed last year and what they're expected to do this season. They're ranked based on their ability to shoot, rebound, assist and defend, with extra consideration given to players who have been doing it for longer. The list does not include any of the notable incoming freshmen, though, since they've yet to prove their mettle in college.
The initial list for this ranking included more than 60 names, so we had to come up with some minimum criteria in certain statistical categories in order to whittle the field. These were the benchmarks that a player had to meet in order to remain considered:
- 12.0 points-per-game scoring average
- 40 percent field-goal shooting
- 65 percent free-throw shooting
- 5.0 total rebound percentage
- 5.0 assist percentage
- 103.5 defensive rating or better
We also factored in three-point shooting, but since not every player includes that in their game, it wasn't a requirement to make the list. Even after using these minimums, we still had more than 30 eligible players. Below are the ones who were considered but ultimately didn't make our top 20:
- Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
- Dillon Brooks, Oregon
- Charles Cooke, Dayton
- Nick Emery, BYU
- Josh Hawkinson, Washington State
- Dedric Lawson, Memphis
- Zach LeDay, Virginia Tech
- Kelan Martin, Butler
- Yante Maten, Georgia
- London Perrantes, Virginia
- Melo Trimble, Maryland
- Tim Williams, New Mexico
- Michael Young, Pittsburgh
20. Marc Eddy Norelia, Florida Gulf Coast
The Florida Gulf Coast team that took the nation by storm in 2012-13 was built on drives, dunks and shots from deep, propelling the Eagles to the Sweet 16 with upsets over Georgetown and San Diego State. In returning to the NCAA tournament this past season, FGCU took a more fundamental approach that involved taking full advantage of a proficient big man.
Marc Eddy Norelia has the 6'8”, 225-pound frame that has increasingly been found on wings and stretch forwards who like to shoot from the perimeter as much as inside. He's the exact opposite, choosing to bang around inside and get his points the hard way, but that resulted in a 54.5 percent shooting rate in 2015-16.
A transfer from Tulane, Norelia averaged 17.1 points and 9.3 rebounds while contributing to 7.9 percent of assists. His 96.8 defensive rating came thanks to 39 steals and 28 blocks.
19. Chris Cokley, UAB
Chris Cokley has averaged fewer than 20 minutes per game in his two seasons at UAB, but in that time, he's managed to do a little bit of everything for the Blazers. If the 6'8” forward can manage to stay on the court for longer this season, expect UAB to again be in the mix in Conference USA and get back to the NCAA tournament.
Former coach Jerod Haase spread his minutes out last year, with nine players averaging 12 or more per game. Whether new coach Robert Ehsan decides to stick with that approach might depend on how much he wants to maximize Cokley's efforts, which, in 22.1 minutes per game in 2015-16, resulted in 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
A 57.3 percent shooter last year, Cokley has attempted (and missed) one three-pointer in his career. If that were to be added to his repertoire, along with a strong (96.9) defensive rating, Cokley would be in line for C-USA honors.
18. J.J. Frazier, Georgia
There were times last season when Georgia seemed on the cusp of making the NCAA tournament, which would have been a second consecutive berth. J.J. Frazier would like to get a second chance on that stage, since when he started for the Bulldogs as a sophomore in 2014-15, he failed to score in the second round loss to Michigan State.
What a difference a year makes. In 2015-16, the 5'10” guard averaged 16.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, way up from his rates of 9.5 points, 3.8 boards and 3.3 assists the previous season but in only a few more minutes of court time.
Frazier shot 40.9 percent overall and 38.6 percent from three-point range, his 76 threes eighth in the SEC and only nine behind teammate Kenny Gaines.
17. Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington
The George Washington Colonials began last season with a big win over Virginia and ended as NIT champions, and in between, Tyler Cavanaugh repeatedly established himself as the team's best all-around player.
A transfer from Wake Forest, the 6'9” forward averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. That came on 50.5 percent shooting, with a 41.7 percent three-point rate that really came into play late in the season. Of his 53 made threes, 19 came in George Washington's final 10 games and came on 39 attempts, a 48.7 percent clip.
Cavanaugh is one of just two returning starters for the Colonials, the other being guard Yuta Watanabe, but that just means he'll be taking on even more responsibility.
"A reasonable jump in development should be expected for someone who has already dominated in such a productive way," TodaysU.com's Joseph Nardone wrote.
16. Joshua Braun, Grand Canyon
One of the newest Division I programs, and one that won't be eligible for the NCAA tournament until 2017-18, Grand Canyon has been making waves in its short D-I history. Last year, the Antelopes won 27 games, including at San Diego State, and quickly rose among mid-major rankings.
Joshua Braun had a lot to do with that, his strong balance of scoring, rebounding and defense pacing the attack in all areas.
The 6'4” guard averaged 16.6 points and 5.2 rebounds while making 39.7 percent of his three-pointers. He also made 86.8 percent of his foul shots, getting to the line 234 times and making 203, 12th-most in the country. Along with 99.0 defensive rating, Braun's .236 win shares per 40 minutes was tied for 20th in D-I.
15. Elijah Brown, New Mexico
A disappointing 17-15 season for New Mexico somewhat overshadowed the breakout year Elijah Brown had, especially after sitting out a year following his transfer from Butler. When the Lobos added him in May 2014, they hoped he could make an impact, but they probably had no idea he'd be this good.
Brown struggled mightily in his one season at Butler, getting less than 19 minutes per game. With New Mexico, the 6'4” guard played 33.7 minutes per game and drastically improved his numbers across the board, averaging 21.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. That came on 42.8 percent shooting, including 39.4 percent from three-point range, numbers that can improve even though they were already much better than with Butler.
One of the shorter players on the team, Brown was third in rebounding last season and second in assists, though with point guard Cullen Neal transferring, he might be more involved in distributing in 2016-17.
14. Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee
Michigan State fans, avert your eyes. We're about to bring up some bad memories, courtesy of Giddy Potts.
Potts, a 6'2” guard going into his junior season, was key to Middle Tennessee's shocking upset of second-seeded Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He had 19 points and five rebounds, making three of six three-pointers in the process.
That was 16 games that Potts had three or more triples, giving him 79 for the season, his 50.6 percent efficiency tops among all eligible players in Division I.
Overall, Potts averaged 14.4 points and 5.2 rebounds while posting solid rebounding and assists percentage numbers and a solid 98.7 defensive rating.
13. Evan Boudreaux, Dartmouth
Dartmouth hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1959 and hasn't had a winning record in 17 years. The Big Green were 10-18 with a 4-10 record in Ivy League play last season, though the future looks bright in the form of Evan Boudreaux.
The 6'8” forward averaged 17.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as a freshman, shooting 45.5 percent overall and 40.6 percent from three-point range. Since he didn't have much help around him, his coach, Paul Cormier, was fired after six seasons, but new coach Dave McLaughlin is sure to find a way to put Boudreaux in good situations.
"We want to play with space and pace, want to keep the floor open...the ball is made to move," McLaughlin said, per Kevin Whitaker of NYC Buckets.
That should bode well for Boudreaux, who pulled down 29.3 percent of defensive rebounds when on the court last season, and that could help start Dartmouth's offense through transition.
12. Rashawn Thomas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Do you know Texas A&M has multiple campuses? Unless you work for one of the schools, live in Texas or are really into academia, you've probably never head of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which started its basketball program in 1999-2000 and made an NCAA tournament appearance in 2007. Its team name is the Islanders, for those scoring at home.
Since most of you weren't aware of most of the previous information, you probably also didn't know of Rashawn Thomas, who has the all-around game that warrants more attention.
Thomas, a 6'7” forward entering his senior season, averaged 16.6 points and 8.0 rebounds last year while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. He also chipped in 1.1 assists per game, mostly shooting when the ball got into his hands, but a 10.1 percent assist rate indicates that when he did pass it, good things happened.
11. Rodney Pryor, Georgetown
Georgetown is banking on Rodney Pryor being able to do for it what he accomplished the last two seasons at Robert Morris. The overall competition will be stronger in 2016-17, but Pryor has shown he's been able to be a strong all-around player to this point.
The graduate transfer, who picked the Hoyas in April over Florida and Gonzaga, will be entering his sixth season of college ball. He sat out two of three seasons at the junior college level with injuries before going to Robert Morris for two years, averaging 16.7 points and 6.2 rebounds with the Colonials.
Last year's Robert Morris team was 10-22, but in 2014-15, it made the NCAA tournament and won a First Four game before losing to eventual national champion Duke. Pryor averaged 21.5 points in those two games, going 10-of-19 from the field against Duke.
Pryor struggled shooting last season, making 43.4 percent of his shots, including 29.0 percent from three-point range, but the year before, he shot 48.1 and 42.9 percent, respectively.
10. Henry Caruso, Princeton
Before Harvard and Yale came to prominence, Princeton used to be the team to beat most years in the Ivy League. Henry Caruso may be the guy who's needed to get the Tigers back on top, and his first two full seasons of play indicate he's capable of carrying the team with his complete play.
Caruso, a 6'4” forward—not a lot of big men in the Ivy—who plays as much like a guard as a frontcourt player, broke out for 15 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season as a junior. That included 52.2 percent shooting and a 44.6 percent rate on three-pointers as Princeton went 22-7 for its most wins since 2010-11.
Because the Tigers were relatively small, Caruso was spending a lot of time crashing the boards when most guys his size would be on the wing or working the perimeter. But he didn't mind banging around inside, grabbing 12.6 percent of available rebounds.
9. Emmett Naar, Saint Mary's
Saint Mary's has been pretty good for a pretty long time, riding a streak of nine consecutive 20-win seasons that most power-conference programs would kill for. Randy Bennett, the coach since 2001-02, has turned Australia into his personal recruiting territory with dozens of Aussies filling out the Gaels' roster over the last 14 seasons.
Pros to come from Down Under and through Saint Mary's include Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills, and Emmett Naar might get there some day if he continues to contribute in all areas of the game.
The 6'1” guard averaged 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists last season, shooting 48.7 percent overall and 41.3 percent from three-point range. He also hit 87 percent of his free throws, making 22 in a row in February and March.
More than 31 percent of assists that happened when Naar was on the court came from him, with a pair of double-doubles coming this way.
8. Ivan Rabb, California
A top-10 prospect from the 2015 recruiting class, Ivan Rabb was projected as a potential NBA lottery pick at various times during his freshman season. This continued even after California bowed out early from the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed, with Rabb sitting high on most draft boards.
Then the 6'10” Rabb shocked most people by not only coming back to school for another year but doing so without even testing the draft waters. Instead, he acknowledged that, while he felt he was capable of playing in the NBA after one year with the Golden Bears, he wanted to make sure he (and his game) was completely ready for the pros.
"I know I’m not terrible defensively," Rabb said, per the San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau. "But at the end of the day, I don’t want to be the person people in the NBA go at every time."
A 95.3 defensive rating is, by no means, terrible. It was actually best on Cal among the regulars, and combined with his scoring (12.5 points per game), rebounding (8.5) and shooting (61.5 percent), you see why he's so well-regarded by scouts. Improve the foul shooting (66.9 percent) and add a three-pointer (he was 1-of-2), and he'll be the complete package.
7. Tim Kempton Jr., Lehigh
Tim Kempton Jr. has been toiling in relative anonymity for his career, save for the occasional game against a power-conference opponent in November and December. But regardless of the setting, the 6'10” forward gets the job done no matter what that requires.
His numbers have steadily improved each season, up to 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds last year as a junior. That was on 55.5 percent shooting, and though he only attempted 16 threes, he made five, so he can't be left alone on the perimeter.
Kempton, the son of former Notre Dame and NBA center Tim Kempton Sr., is also one of the best foul-shooting big men in college at 75.5 percent. And though his assist, steal and block numbers are low, he still has a solid 11.2 percent assist rate, and his 100 defensive rating was best on the team.
6. Justin Robinson, Monmouth
Remember all of those Vines and highlight-show clips of the Monmouth "Bench Mob" celebrating during several high-profile wins last season? Well, in many cases, those reserves were getting worked into a frenzy because of the things Justin Robinson was doing on the court.
A big contributor in a small package, the 5'8”, 160-pound senior averaged 19.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game last season as Monmouth won 28 games, including contests against Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rutgers, UCLA and USC. In those five contests, Robinson averaged 18.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 3.0 steals.
Robinson wasn't the best shooter from an overall standpoint (43.9 percent overall), but quite often, he'd draw contact that didn't get called when driving the lane. Still, he managed to get to the line 219 times and make 84.5 percent of his free throws in addition to 39.4 percent of his threes.
5. Josh Hart, Villanova
The best player on the best team in the country—winning a national championship makes the latter as such—is also Villanova's most complete athlete. The 6'5” guard plays much bigger, and he needs to since the Wildcats rarely have more than one big man on the court at any time, which has enabled him to put up strong rebounding numbers.
Hart averaged 6.8 rebounds along with 15.5 points per game in 2015-16 while shooting 51.3 percent overall and a respectable 35.7 percent from three-point range. It was Kris Jenkins who sunk the game-winning three against North Carolina in the title game, but Hart hit one in 30 of 40 games last year.
Rebound and assist percentages of better than 12 percent apiece puts him in select company as one of less than 30 players in Division I last season to have those percentages.
And for good measure, Hart also posted an impressive 94.3 defensive rating.
4. Mike Daum, South Dakota State
South Dakota State moved up to Division I in 2004 and has swiftly developed into a quality mid-major. The Jackrabbits have made five straight postseason tournaments, including the NCAA tourney in 2012, 2013 and this past March, with the most recent team led by a 6'9” forward who stuffed the stat sheet as a freshman.
Mike Daum averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds last season, shooting 55.3 percent overall and 44.6 percent from three-point range. Oh, did we forget that was only in 20.8 minutes per game?
He didn't start once but logged more minutes than two other starters, and with South Dakota State graduating four seniors from its rotation, his minutes figure to go up. It won't be a shock to see Daum average 20 and 10 and continue to maintain his efficiency.
South Dakota State has a new coach, T.J. Otzelberger, who no doubt will be leaning heavily on Daum in his first season.
3. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
It's very possible that Jaron Blossomgame's overall raw numbers are going to drop during his senior year, but that's not a bad thing. With Clemson adding several impact transfers, it means the 6'7” Blossomgame won't have to do everything all by himself for 2016-17.
But knowing he can makes Blossomgame all the more dangerous.
He's coming off a junior campaign in which he averaged 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game on 51.3 percent shooting. That includes a 44.1 percent three-point rate, way up from the 24.8 percent efficiency over his first two seasons.
Blossomgame only chipped in 1.5 assists per game, but since he was often the Tigers' first, second and third options, he wasn't passed the ball very much. Yet he still had an assist percentage of 10.7 percent.
2. Antonio Campbell, Ohio
Most college football fans only hear about players from the Mid-American if their team makes waves during the NCAA tournament. It's how relative unknowns like Earl Boykins (Eastern Michigan), Dan Majerle (Central Michigan), Wally Szczerbiak (Miami, Ohio) and Gary Trent (Ohio) achieved fame.
Since arriving at Ohio in 2013-14, Antonio Campbell hasn't had the good fortune of an NCAA tourney appearance, but he's still done plenty to get noticed. How does 17.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game last season sound?
Those numbers earned him MAC player of the year honors, with the 6'8”, 260-pound Campbell shooting 56 percent from the field. For his career, he's hit more than 60 percent of his twos, while his ability to hit the outside shot keeps getting better, from a paltry 1-of-9 as a freshman to 36.8 percent (43-of-117) last season.
Campbell was one of 27 players in Division I who grabbed more than 20 percent of available rebounds last season, the only such player on our list.
1. Alec Peters, Valparaiso
Alec Peters was second on last year's list of the most complete players, and after another stellar season, he moves up to the top spot. His 2015-16 performance was so good that it's a surprise he not only bypassed the NBA but chose to return to Valparaiso for his senior year despite a coaching change and the ability to transfer as a graduate student.
"Ultimately, I don’t think there’s any better place for me to be," Peters told NBC Sports' Rob Dauster.
The 6'9” forward averaged 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season, shooting 50.5 percent overall and 44 percent from three-point range. His 91 threes were the most of any Division I player of his height or taller. And unlike many big men who can hit contested shots but struggle with the free ones, he was 85 percent from the line.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.