Everyone loves a good, scrappy defender. Hustle should always be applauded. A high basketball IQ is an important asset for a young player. The mid-range game is a lost art form.
There are, however, certain on-court exploits which never fail to deliver an extra heavy dose of blissful adrenaline.
The slam dunk. The alley-oop. The crowd-pleasing ‘posterization’.
The 360-transition-windmill-tomahawk-rim-rattling-power jam, with authority, over two defenders.
The ‘get-that-weak-nonsense-outta-here’ swinging-spike rejection, sending the ball sailing into the twelfth row, and inspiring a jovial chorus of “YOU GOT SWATTED” from a merry assembly of students.
Fans love the sizzle that athleticism provides.
The Mountain West Conference can boast its fair share of spectacular athletes heading into a fresh season.
As part of an ongoing preview of the upcoming MWC campaign, I now humbly attempt to tackle a ranking of the 10 best, high-flying, play-making, crowd-pleasing athletes in the MWC.
10. Afam Muojeke, Wyoming
The talented sophomore is a nifty athlete of the smooth variety. He may not overwhelm with jaw-dropping explosiveness, but he is graceful, quick, and more than capable of rising up and throwing one down.
Muojeke's teammate, Adam Waddell, deserves a nod for providing one of the most incredible dunks in history. Unfortunately, it was an accident and he nearly broke his neck. This list is not for him.
9. Jackson Emery, BYU
The smallest player to make the cut, Emery is also perhaps the conference's most underrated athlete.
Though often regarded as a three point shooter and strong defender, he frequently demonstrated his springiness last year for the Cougars, skying for rebounds, dunks, and an occasional startling rejection.
8. Will Brown, New Mexico
The strapping big man may be the strongest player in the conference. He can muscle an opponent out of his way, and has the nimbleness to harness his brawn effectively.
His unique combination of strength and quickness will make him a force down low for the Lobos.
7. Phillip McDonald, New Mexico
McDonald has big shoes to fill if he hopes to produce the same type of highlight reel plays Lobo fans have come to expect.
NCAA slam dunk champ Tony Dandridge and current Boston Celtic J.R. Giddens, both former Lobos, set the bar extremely high.
While McDonald may not be as outrageously incendiary on a fast break as his predecessors, he too can fly high and inspire some awe.
6. Harvey Perry, Colorado State
Perry has Rams' fans salivating.
The Senior dazzled in an exhibition dunk contest at a fan-friendly season kick off, soaring over the team manager, and twisting and twirling on several spectacular slams.
The high-flying Ram forward hopes to hypnotize foes with his skywalking antics.
5. Chace Stanback, UNLV
Stanback is buttery and agile; a slick rebounder and a wispy slasher.
He has length. He has speed. He is a sneaky, finesse athlete that can lull a defender to sleep, and then erupt with a power move and a malevolent finish.
4. Evan Washington, Air Force
It's fitting that the young Air Force Pilot would feel so comfortable soaring above the court.
Though slight, Washington is one of the best vertical leapers in the MWC. He has a knack for the spectacular finish, and finds a way to score in traffic over bigger players.
When he finds a lane in the open court, or on a trademark back door cut, he knows exactly what to do with the ball. He makes the rim pay and the fans get giddy.
3. Derrick Jasper, UNLV
He's big, strong, fast, and skilled.
Jasper is a contender for the top spot on this list, but still needs to demonstrate his knees are fully healthy. If they are, he'll be an absolute beast.
2. Billy White, Tyrone Shelley, Malcolm Thomas, and Kawhi Leonard; San Diego State
The Aztecs may have the most athletic team in the relatively brief history of the MWC.
The fearsome foursome are an unrivaled combination of speed, strength, and explosive hops. Aztecs fans will be treated to a veritable smorgasbord of dunks, blocked shots, and routinely electrifying shenanigans .
Any one of them, individually, is capable of putting on a face-melting thrill of a show. Together, they're beyond frightening.
There will be fireworks. Jaws will drop. Minds will be blown.
1. Carlon Brown, Utah
Until someone knocks him off the top of the heap, Carlon Brown is the undisputed champion of this list.
Brown is arguably the best fast break finisher , not just in the conference, but in the nation. Last year, he provided numerous, spectacular, open court slams, including a memorable ferocious facial of eventual number one pick Blake Griffin.
With his explosive hops and aggressive determination, Brown is the odds on favorite to lead the conference once again in ridiculous, jaw-dropping , highlight-reel slam dunks.
The MWC is stacked with athletic firepower. The fun begins in a matter of days.
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