College Basketball: 30 Mid-Major Underclassmen You Need To Know

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2011

College Basketball: 30 Mid-Major Underclassmen You Need To Know

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    Whenever a mid-major team makes a name for itself in the NCAA Tournament, it is generally the seniors, or at least upperclassmen, who lead the team and get the highlight reel. This slideshow will explore who those players will be within the next couple of years.

    Including freshmen and sophomores, here are the top 30 mid-major underclassmen in Division I basketball.* 

    *All stats are recorded as of January 26, 2011.

Honorable Mentions

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    Luke Hancock, Sophomore (George Mason)

    11.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.5 APG

     

    George Beamon, Sophomore (Manhattan)

    15.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG

     

    Christian Webster, Sophomore (Harvard)

    13.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 88.9 FT%

     

    Amin Stevens, Sophomore (Florida A&M)

    14.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG

     

    D.J. Cunningham, Sophomore (UNC-Asheville)

    10.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG

     

    Isaiah Canaan, Sophomore (Murray State)

    11.3 PPG, 2.7 APG

Nos. 30-26

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    30. Jamal Olasewere,  Freshman (Long Island)

    Stats: 12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.50 PPS

     

    29. Greg Gantt, Sophomore (Florida Atlantic)

    Stats: 15 PPG, 4.4 RPG

     

    28. Logan Aronhalt, Sophomore (Albany)

    Stats: 14.8, 4.5 RPG

     

    27. Isaiah Philmore, Sophomore (Towson)

    Stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 44.8 3P%

     

    26. Colt Ryan, Sophomore (Evansville)

    Stats: 15.3 PPG, 2.4 APG, 41.2 3P%

Nos. 25-21

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    25. Will Weathers, Sophomore (Troy)

    Stats: 12.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 6.4 APG

    The UCF transfer has been very strong in his first year with Troy. Despite being only six-foot, Weathers has solid leaping and rebounding ability. He also has strong court vision, shown by his 6.4 APG. He scored a career-high 32 points against Louisiana-Lafayette on January 6.

     

    24. Ian Hummer, Sophomore (Princeton)

    Stats: 13.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 56.8 FG%

    Ian Hummer, son of former NBA player John Hummer, is emerging as the next star at Princeton. He has already recorded two double-doubles this season and has also scored in double-digits in all but two games.

     

    23. Markeith Cummings, Sophomore (Kennesaw State)

    Stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG

    Markeith Cummings is having another great year, although his numbers have slightly dropped since his freshman season. Cummings has scored in double-digits in all but one game. On seven occasions, he has scored 20 or more points.

     

    22. Alex Francis, Freshman (Bryant)

    Stats: 13.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG

    Alex Francis could be the key to transforming Bryant into a top team in the NEC. The New Yorker has recorded five double-doubles in 19 games and has surpassed the 20-point mark in three games.

    Despite being only 6-foot-6, Francis is one of the top rebounders in the NEC.

     

    21. Jake Cohen, Sophomore (Davidson)

    Stats: 12.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG

    Jake Cohen is working hard to put Davidson back on the map. The sophomore who led Davidson in scoring as a freshman is back and ready for more.

    Although Cohen's scoring average has dropped a small amount, he has boosted his other statistics. He now shoots a full two percent better than he did last year, more than 80 percent on free throws and is respectable from beyond the arc at 34 percent.

20. Chris Harriel, Sophomore (Portland State)

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    Stats: 15.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG

    Chris Harriel is on his way to becoming one of the most productive mid-major scorers. He has scored in double digits in all but one game when he has played more than 20 minutes. 

    In addition, Harriel is a solid rebounder, especially considering he is a backcourt man. He has recorded a pair of double-doubles with points and rebounds. 

    Although Harriel is definitely more of a shooting guard than a point guard, he would definitely benefit from becoming a better distributor.

19. Stephon Carter, Sophomore (Cal State Bakersfield)

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    Stats: 16.6 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.5 SPG

    Stephon Carter will most likely never get onto the national landscape, due to being at a small school like Cal State Bakersfield, unless he becomes one of the top scorers in the nation. However, Carter will still do damage on the mid-major level.

    He has scored in double figures whenever he has played more than 23 minutes. He has reached the 30-point mark twice this season; the second time he reached that mark, he shot an astounding 14-for-18 from the field.

18. John Brown, Sophomore (Liberty)

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    Stats: 11.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG

    John Brown started the season off with a bang with an 18-point, 17-rebound performance on opening night. Although he has not been able to put up numbers that great on a consistent basis, Brown has still been a dominant force his first year at Liberty.

    After scoring 5 PPG and 6.3 RPG at Citadel two years ago, Brown chose to transfer to Liberty. So far, that decision has payed off.

    With Liberty, Brown has recorded 10 double-doubles this season. Even in the games when he does not record a double-double, he still tends to come fairly close.

17. Shane Gibson, Sophomore (Sacred Heart)

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    Stats: 17.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 41.5 3P%

    Shane Gibson has come back strong after an injury last season. Gibson stands at No. 3 in scoring in the NEC. In the Pioneers' most recent game, Gibson scored a season-high 34 points on 12-for-15 shooting. He also had a solid four assists in that outing.

    Gibson consistently scores in double figures, and he has solid shooting numbers—43.7 percent from the field—for a guy who is relied on to do most of Sacred Heart's scoring. 

16. Michael Williams, Sophomore (San Francisco)

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    Stats: 16.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 48 3P%

    Michael Williams most recently helped his team to an upset over Gonzaga with 16 points and six rebounds. However, that was an off night for the San Francisco star.

    Williams has shown off his ability to score, especially from beyond the arc, in his 20 games this season; he has made multiple 3-pointers in 14 games.

    In addition, Williams has shown his ability to overcome his height disadvantage, grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds against Montana in mid-December.

    The one area where he has to improve though is turnovers. Williams turns the ball over 2.1 times per game while only averaging 1.4 assists per game.

15. Will Cherry, Sophomore (Montana)

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    Stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.02 A/T

    Will Cherry has been a main part of Montana's success this year. Cherry has had a few very impressive performances, with his most impressive being against Northern Arizona in late December. In that game, Cherry scored 27 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out six assists. 

    In addition to being a great scorer, Cherry has also been a strong point guard and gets more than two assists for every turnover.

    If Cherry stays at Montana, he will lead them back to the NCAA Tournament. If that does not happen this year, expect it to happen within the next two years.

14. Augustine Rubit, Freshman (South Alabama)

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    Stats: 13.1 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 1.57 PPS

    Augustine Rubit has been outstanding in his first year with South Alabama.

    The freshman from Texas is averaging a double-double to this point in the year. In 18 games, Rubit has recorded nine double-doubles, with his best overall performance coming against Alcorn State, where he had 20 points and 17 rebounds in 32 minutes.

    Rubit is a great offensive rebounder, averaging 4.5 offensive rebounds per game. In three games this season, he has had at least eight offensive rebounds.

    Rubit also manages to get a lot of points from the charity stripe. He generally manages to capitalize from the line, shooting 71 percent.

13. Mike Muscala, Sophomore (Bucknell)

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    Stats: 15.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 85.4 FT%

    Mike Muscala has been a consistent inside force for Bucknell this season and is the main reason the Bison are in first place in the Patriot League.

    Muscala has scored 20 points on many occasions this year, putting himself at sixth in the Patriot League in scoring.

    Abolishing a stereotype of big men not being good free throw shooters, Muscala makes nearly 86 percent of his free throws; in 96 attempts, he has made 82. 

12. Matt Dellavedova, Sophomore (St. Mary's)

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    Stats: 13.2 PPG, 5.9 APG, 38.9 3P%

    Matt Dellavedova continues to be a strong force on a nationally ranked St. Mary's team in his sophomore season. He has good court vision and can also score when needed. He is also a great free throw shooter and has never missed more than twice in a single game this season.

    Dellavedova is surrounded by a bunch of good players, which I think lowers his scoring numbers. If he was on a mid-major team where he was the only talented player, it would not be surprising to see him averaging closer to 20 PPG. 

11. Elias Harris, Sophomore (Gonzaga)

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    Stats: 12.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 51.8 FG%

    Elias Harris continues to live up to expectations. He has played great for the Bulldogs, although some might think his numbers are a little lower than expected. 

    Harris has been able to come through for the Bulldogs by doing little bit of everything when he is on the floor. The sophomore from Germany might not have the stats to win a WCC Player of the Year award this year, but that does not take away the fact that he is an excellent basketball player.

10. Karon Abraham, Sophomore (Robert Morris)

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    Stats: 15.4 PPG, 41.0 3P%

    Karon Abraham got on the national map with a strong 2010 NCAA Tournament performance against Villanova as a freshman, scoring 23 points and hitting five 3-pointers

    Abraham has had some explosive games, similar to his game against Villanova last year, but his scoring inconsistencies bring down his numbers.

    Abraham has scored in double digits in many games and has even scored as many as 32 points at Wagner a few weeks ago. However, he has also had some pretty terrible games where he seems to be unable to hit anything from the field.

9. Dewayne Jackson, Sophomore (Morgan State)

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    Stats: 15.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG

    A few games ago, Dewayne Jackson might have been a little higher on this list. However, Jackson's numbers have dropped after three straight mediocre performances.

    In his last three games, Jackson is averaging only 7 PPG. Before that stretch, his scoring average was more than 17 PPG. 

    Earlier this season, Jackson had some extremely strong outings. He scored a season-high 31 points against Loyola Marymount at the start of the season and also scored 29 points against Baylor. In his performance against Baylor, Jackson shot 11-for-15 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.

    Jackson is not an outstanding 3-point shooter, but his best performances seem to come when he shoots well from the outside.

8. Kevin Foster, Sophomore (Santa Clara)

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    Stats: 19.3 PPG, 3.8 APG, 38.5 3P%

    Kevin Foster got a little bit of national attention after scoring 36 points in a win over Gonzaga on ESPNU. In that game, he simply manhandled the Bulldogs; in addition to making six 3-pointers, Foster also had five assists. 

    This season, Foster has scored in double digits in all but one game. In the one game where he missed out on that accomplishment, he still scored nine points. In eight games, Foster has scored more than 20 points. 

    If he keeps up the good work, it is possible Santa Clara could compete for first place in the WCC this year.

7. Stan Okoye, Sophomore (VMI)

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    Stats: 19.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG

    Sophomore Stan Okoye leads the Big South, a very offensive-oriented league, in scoring this year. Although scoring stats get inflated when playing for VMI, Okoye would still be having a very strong year for any mid-major team.

    Okoye has scored as many as 30 points and recorded seven double-doubles. He has scored in double digits in all but one game this year. 

    It is still early in Okoye's career, but there is a chance VMI could once again have the nation's scoring leader in two more years.

6. Chris Fouch, Sophomore (Drexel)

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    Stats: 16.0 PPG, 39.0 3P%

    What makes Chris Fouch's numbers more impressive than they appear?

    He is a bench player.

    The sophomore from New York City plays 29.2 MPG as a sixth man for the Drexel Dragons. In those 29.2 minutes, Fouch is putting up fairly impressive numbers. 

    His season-high came against Binghamton in Drexel's home opener. In general, Fouch played much better early this season. Through the end of December, Fouch was averaging over 19 PPG. It has only been in the last few weeks where he has had some struggles.

5. C.J. McCollum, Sophomore (Lehigh)

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    Stats: 21.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.4 SPG

    C.J. McCollum has dominated his competition as a pure scorer. He averages nearly 22 PPG, and he has scored as many as 42 in a single outing. That game was at Kent State, where he shot 15-for-25 from the field.

    Despite being listed at only 6-foot-3, McCollum is also a strong rebounder. He stands at third in rebounding in the Patriot League. McCollum most recently recorded a career-high 14 rebounds at Lafayette. 

    He is also a strong defender, recording at least one steal in all but two games this season. 

    If Lehigh can find a way to go to the NCAA Tournament this season, McCollum could put a scare into some good teams. 

4. Nate Wolters, Sophomore (South Dakota State)

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    Stats: 18.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.0 APG, 50.8 3P%

    Nate Wolters is putting together a season that will most likely put him on the first team All-Summit League. 

    Wolters has the skills of both a distributor and a scorer.  Only behind Alex Young of IUPUI, Wolters is second in the Summit League in scoring. The sophomore has scored in double digits in all but one game this season.  The one game where he did not score in double digits, he only played 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, he scored seven points, six rebounds and six assists.

    In a single game, Wolters' best scoring mark was 36 against North Dakota State. He has also dished out as many as 11 assists, which came in a double-double effort at Minnesota. In addition to his double-double at Minnesota, Wolters also had a double-double at Western Illinois, where he recorded 18 points and 10 rebounds. 

    As a distributor, Wolters picks up six dimes per game. While leading the Summit League by more than a full assist per game.  He only turns the ball over 2.2 times per game, for a remarkably strong 2.73 A/T ratio.

3. Trey Zeigler, Freshman (Central Michigan)

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    Stats: 17.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 37.7 3P%

    All eyes were going to be on Trey Zeigler this season. The highly-ranked recruit passed up the opportunity to play for a big-time school in order to stay at home and play for his father.

    Although his team is not having success, Zeigler is having plenty of personal success this year.

    The freshman is currently fourth in the MAC in scoring and has had a few exceptionally strong outings. Zeigler's career-high is 30 points at Toledo, and his best overall performance came at Northern Illinois where he had 27 points and nine rebounds.

    A few more good recruits for Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler could be all Trey needs to lead his team to a MAC championship.

2. Ray McCallum, Freshman (Detroit Titans)

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    Stats: 14.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.3 APG

    And here is Ray McCallum Jr., another coach's son who made a similar decision to Zeigler's. Ranked even higher than Zeigler in the ESPNU 100 last season, McCallum passed up some good offers to stay at Detroit. 

    McCallum has been extremely strong as a point guard, considering he is only a freshman. He is efficient on offense, scoring 1.40 PPS and averaging close to two assists for every turnover he commits. 

    Despite being barely over six-feet tall, McCallum is also a solid rebounder, averaging close to five rebounds per game. He has had one double-double with points and rebounds. In that game, he came only three assists away from his first career triple-double.

1. D.J. Cooper, Sophomore (Ohio University)

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    Stats: 18.0 PPG, 7.9 APG, 5.6 RPG, 2.5 SPG

    It is hard to put any other mid-major underclassman above D.J. Cooper. Even though he is only a sophomore, he is putting together a season that could result in a MAC Player of the Year award. 

    Cooper has scored in double digits in all but two games this season. He has also recorded five double-doubles to this point in the year. 

    His best game came at Saint Bonaventure on December 18; Cooper scored a career-high 43 points, while also dishing out 13 assists. He had realistic chances of a quadruple-double in that game, also recording eight rebounds and eight assists. 

    Another stat which is very impressive is Cooper's assist to turnover ratio. For every turnover, Cooper picks up 2.24 dimes. While dishing out nearly eight assists on average every game, Cooper only commits 3.5 turnovers per game.