Jimmer Fredette—BYU Cougars
Very few players in the Mountain West can score like this guy. In fact, few players in the country can score like Fredette.
After being edged last year by New Mexico’s Darington Hobson, Fredette has to be the unanimous preseason pick for POY in the conference. He led the team in scoring, assists, and three-point shooting with 44 percent, and returns after a brief flirtation with the NBA.
The Cougars have lost some parts but have capable replacements and another big year from Fredette will land them at or near the top of the league.
Kawhi Leonard—San Diego State Aztecs
Returning every significant contributor, the Aztecs will contend for top spot in the conference.
However, no player is as significant as Leonard, who led the team in scoring, rebounding, and steals as a freshman, making him a stats-stuffer similar to New Mexico’s Hobson last year.
Because of the expectations, Leonard will get much more attention this season—on the court and in the media. And because the team remains intact, he should be able to flourish.
Tre’von Willis—UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Having pled no contest to felony charges, Willis is eligible to rejoin the Rebels after serving a three-game suspension (insert scathing remarks here).
If he does play, Willis is the key to the Rebels’ success. He scores, passes, is an excellent free throw shooter and capable defender. UNLV has enough depth to compete in the Mountain West without him, but they are contenders with him.
If there is one area that Willis needs to improve it is shooting the three. He averaged only 29 percent from behind the arc last season.
Dairese Gary—New Mexico Lobos
Leader. This is the best one-word description for Gary, who can score some, distribute some, and play defense—much.
With Hobson and Roman Martinez gone, it will be Gary’s team. He is a tough, hard-nosed player who will be the right guy to make sure everyone on his team knows that they DON’T lose at the Pit.
He might be a bit of an outsider in this list but he has some intangible qualities that will make others follow his lead.
Drew Gordon—New Mexico Lobos
This is a flyer because Gordon won’t play until December, but he will be there for the Mountain West Conference schedule.
No one is quite sure what he can do, but he was highly recruited and just didn’t find his niche at UCLA. He played in six games last season and had decent numbers, so the Lobos hope he finds a comfort level that he hasn’t apparently had in college to date.
He could the key to a top three finish for the Lobos if he can come close to matching Hobson’s numbers from last year.