This week Division 1 College Basketball programs across the country begin formal practices. More than any other area in the country, Philadelphia has produced some of the best “Bigs” since Dr. Naismith hung up that first peach basket while teaching at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wilt Chamberlain, Ray “Chink” Scott, Mike Brooks, Gene Banks, Eddie Griffin, Rasheed Wallace and many others have represented Philly on college hardwoods and beyond. However, casual fans, college basketball coaches and independent scouts frequently rave about “Philly guards.” Often overlooked and under appreciated, Philly guards usually find a way to infiltrate the nation’s conscience. Tyrone Garland’s “Southwest Philly Floater” captivated the nation’s attention during March Madness earlier this year. South Philly’s Dion Waiters shocked the so-called experts when he was the 4th player taken in the NBA draft after NEVER starting a game in college.
Here, I want to shine some light on the “Philly Bigs” currently plying their trade at the collegiate level. My earlier ranking of Philly College Guards sparked a lot of heated debate. I fully anticipate a similar level of disagreement over these rankings. Please note that guys in JUCOs and current redshirts are NOT included because they will NOT be playing NCAA basketball this season. So guys like Savon Goodman, UNLV and Jamir Hanner, Buffalo are not listed even though their talent level clearly warrants inclusion.
1. Ronald Roberts, Senior, Saint Joseph’s, 11.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 0.9 bpg last season.
At 6’ 8” 220 lbs., Roberts is the most explosive player in the city and, perhaps, on the eastern seaboard. A determined rebounder with a relentless motor, he competes every single play of every game. One of the most prolific dunkers in recent memory, Roberts has gradually added subtlety and nuance to his game each off-season. While he relies primarily on sheer athleticism, he has developed a nice short range jump shot and added it to his offensive repertoire. If he can become a consistent mid-range jump shooter, he will be almost impossible to guard at the collegiate level.
2. Jerrell Wright, Junior, LaSalle, 10.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg last season.
Jerrell is a very strong low-post presence. Standing 6’ 8” and coming in at a solid 240 lbs, he provides great balance to a LaSalle team that relies heavily on excellent guard play. Jerell is very good at establishing himself on the block. He is solid rebounder and shot-blocker as well. He has a variety of moves that enable him to be an effective scorer. If he can add an ability integrate countermoves finishing with his right hand, he will be a real problem for A10 defenses over the next 2 seasons.
Tie 3. JayVaughn Pinkston, Junior, Villanova, 13.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.5 bpg last season.
At 6’ 7” and 240 lbs., Pinkston is powerful athlete with solid ball-handling skills that allow him operate on the interior or the perimeter. He is good jump shooter who can hit an occasional 3-pointer. His forte, however, is using his strength and agility near the basket.
Tie 3. Rakeem Christmas, Junior, Syracuse, 5.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg last season.
By far, the most difficult player to assess. Undoubtedly, the most physically gifted player on the list. He only played 20 mins per game. His production has been well-below what was expected coming out of High School as a McDonald’s All-American. Blessed with great size and very good athleticism, I look for Christmas to establish himself as a dominant force in the ACC over the next two years.
4. Halil Kanasevic, Senior, Saint Joseph’s, 8.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.7 bpg last season.
A high skilled basketball player at 6‘ 7” and 258 lbs, Kanasevic brings a variety of assets to the Saint Joseph’s attack. A very capable ball-handler, Kanasevic brings the ball up the floor when needed. He is the best passer among all the “Bigs” on the list, as evidenced by his 3.5 assists per game. A capable scorer, Halil has outstanding footwork in the low post. His jump shot is respectable and he shoots 27% from the three point line. An very effective position defender, Halil averaged 1.7 blocked shot per game last season. If he can control his emotions and maintain focus this season he should be one of the better Bigs in the A10.
5. Gene Teague, Senior, Seton Hall, 11.2 ppg, 7.2, 0.5 bpg last season.
An imposing physical presence at 6’ 9” and 270 lbs, Teague is traditional low-post, back to the basket “Big.” Blessed with soft hands, Teague is able to establish himself in the low post and finish with a variety of moves. A good athlete, Teague is able to run very well for a player of his size. A very good outlet passer, he is depended upon to ignite the Seton Hall fast break. If he can maintain his physical conditioning, he will be one of the premier “Bigs” in the Big East Conference this season.
6. Anthony Lee, Junior, Temple, 9.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.8 bpg last season.
Possessing a very long wingspan and a deft touch around the basket, Lee scores on a variety of hook shots and short jumpers. At 6’ 9” he’s a little on the thin side, but he will continue to add muscle while maintaining his athleticism. With the departure of one the most prolific scorers, Khalif Wyatt, in Temple’s illustrious history, Lee will be asked to provide more scoring this year for the Owls. I look for Lee to more than hold his own against Louisville, UConn and Memphis when they make their way to North Broad Street this season.
7. Steven Zack, Junior, LaSalle, 6.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg last season.
A true center, Zack has a tremendous upside. Still filling out his 6’11’’ 240 lb. frame, Zack provides a great front court compliment to Jerell Wright for the Explorers. A little raw offensively, Zack does his scoring very close to the basket. He runs the floor and battles for position every single play. If he can avoid foul trouble on a more consistent basis, I look for his production to increase substantially. It would not be a surprise to see his name mentioned as an NBA prospect, if he continues to develop over the next 2 seasons under the tutelage of Dr. G and the rest of the Explorer coaching staff.
8. Eric Copes, Junior, George Mason, 5.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg last season.
Another traditional back to the basket big man, Copes provides a strong presence in the paint for George Mason. He started all 34 games last season and led the team in rebounding and blocks. While his offensive game is still unrefined, he very capable of finishing close to the basket. Copes has exceptional timing and consistently forces defenders to alter their shots at the rim. A very young (20 years old) college junior, Copes could evolve into a high level player in the A10 over the next 2 seasons.
Tie 9. Daniel Ochefu, Sophomore, Villanova, 3.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 bpg last season.
While backing up Mouphtaou Yarou last season, Ochefu was limited to 17.5 minute per game. Look for his production to increase substantially with Yarou’s departure. At 6’11” and 240 lbs, he possesses all of the physical tools to be a dominant big man in the Big East. Still learning the game, he will play an important role for the Wildcats this season.
Tie 9. Amile Jefferson, Sophomore, Duke 4.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg last season
Where will Amile play? How much will Amile play? No one can argue against the fact that he is one of the MOST talented Philly kids in college basketball. But a player has to actually play. At Duke, Jefferson played less than 13 minutes per game. Will he play on the wing? Will he play in the post? “I think Amile can play any number of positions. He’s a guy that can play both frontcourt positions, he can play on the wing, he’s a basketball player,” associate head coach Steve Wojciechowki said. I’m including Amile here because he has made an effort to gain weight over the summer. Duke has landed the highly recruited Jabari Parker and he expected to play heavy minutes in the front court. Amile supporters recall his days as a McDonald All-American. College basketball fans are anxiously waiting for the potential to manifest itself in the ACC.
10. Daniel Stewart, Senior, Rider, 10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 0.7 bpg last season.
Coming in at 6’6” and 215 lbs, Stewart is an undersized Big who relies on quickness and exceptional athleticism to compete against much larger opponents. An outstanding leaper, he is known for finishing with power and force at the rim. Stewart does an exceptional job rebounding and defending the basket for Kevin Baggett’s Rider Broncs. If Junior Fortunat can continue to develop as a low post presence, look for Stewart to expand his game and flourish as an offensive force during his senior season.
11. Marcus Kennedy, Sophomore, SMU, redshirt last season.
12. Dartaye Ruffin, Senior, Drexel, 6.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.7 rpg last season.
13. Fran Dougherty, Senior, Penn, 12.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg last season.
14. Will Barrett, Senior, Princeton, 9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg last season.
15. Shaquille Duncan, Junior, Morgan State, 7.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg last season.
16. Malcolm Gilbert, Junior, Fairfield, redshirt last season.
17. John Davis, Freshman, Towson, high school last season.
18. Jeremiah Worthem, Freshman, Robert Morris, high school last season.
19. Carl Baptiste, Senior, Delaware, 4.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.4 bpg last season.
20. Junior Fortunat, Junior, Rider, 4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.6 bpg last season.
21. Xavier Harris, Junior, Fairleigh Dickinson, 4.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, o.4 bpg last season.
Others to watch:
Julian Moore, Penn State
Quadir Welton, Saint Peter’s
Jai Williams, Saint Joseph’s
Darian Nelson-Henry, Penn
Darryl Reynolds, Villanova
Zac Tillman, Monmouth
Yohanny Dalembert, James Madison
Dominique Reid, Niagra
Xavier Lundy, Rider
Steve Smith, Fairfield
Contact Delgreco K. Wilson at email@example.com