Under the Radar,Into the Spotlight?

14 Jan

Offense is definitely on the uptick this season and there are a number of guys having good years.  There are some that may not be household names but are having seasons that make them appointment television when they play.

The American Athletic  Conference is having a down year but that doesn’t mean the talent cupboard is bare.  Tubby Smith’s Memphis Tigers have gotten off to a 2-2 start in conference and are 12-5 and are led by sophomore guard Dedric Lawson.  The Memphis native averaged nearly 16 points and over nine rebounds per game in his first season making an immediate impact.  This season Lawson has taken the reigns of the Tigers and run with them.  This season Lawson ranks second in the country in double doubles with 13, just one behind Caleb Swanigan of Purdue.  The 6-9 guard is averaging 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds to go along with nearly four assists per contest.  He had a career-high 35 points in a win over Iowa and has pulled down a season-high 15 boards twice in wins over UT-Rio Grande and South Carolina.

Speaking of South Carolina, another guy having a nice year is Clemson’s senior forward Jaron Blossomgame.  It is early in ACC play but the Tigers have gotten off to a 1-3 start in a loaded field leaving them with a very uphill climb.  A player like Blossomgame that has progressed from just four point his freshman year to over 18 in the last two deserves to see more than just one post-season game, an NIT game four years ago, in his college career.  Jaron really took off last season cracking the 30 point plateau three times including 33 in a win over N.C. State.   Unfortunately that team went just 17-14 and 10-8 in the ACC missing out on the post-season.  This year outside of a loss to Georgia Tech on Jan. 12 the Tigers losses have all been by  six points or less and with such a strong conference in Clemson’s remaining 14 games there are plenty of chances against teams that will be in the Tournament and those fighting to get in for them to build a strong enough resume to get Blossomgame to the big stage in March.

Staying in the state of South Carolina sophomore guard P.J. Dozier’s stats of 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.2 steals may not jump off the page but it is the work he did during the six-game  suspension of Sindarius Thornwell that made Dozier an even more important piece to Coach Frank Martin’s puzzle. During that time the hometown Dozier averaged 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.  After averaging 6.7 points last season the 6-6 Dozier has taken advantage of his bump in minutes and had a career-high 26 points in a two-point loss to Blossomgame and Clemson.  Dozier’s emergence has the Gamecocks positioned to battle Florida for 2nd place in the SEC behind Kentucky both of whom South Carolina gets a shot at this week.

For the final two stars that we head to the west coast where the first stop is in Moraga, CA at the campus of St. Mary’s for junior center Jock Landale.  The 6-11 Australian has burst onto the scene this season averaging nearly a double double for the 15-1 Gaels whose lone loss came at the hands of Texas-Arlington in early December.  Besides that game St. Mary’s has been dominant, all but one of their victories has been by double digits and that is in large part to Landale’s 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds.  Landale started the season with 33 and nine in a win over Nevada, who may be the Mountain West’s best team, and never looked back.  He has failed to score at least 13 points just once and that was in their win over Portland on Jan. 12 which the Gaels won by 41 points.  Offensively Landale is one of the most efficient scorers in the country, his 64.2% from the field ranks 8th nationally.  St. Mary’s is almost certainly an NCAA Tournament team and will once again battle Gonzaga for the West Coast Conference title so we should all get a good look at Landale deep into March.

Staying in the West Coast Conference the final under-the-radar star to take a look at is BYU’s Eric Mika.  In 2014 Mika averaged 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a freshman.  This season he has returned from a two-year Mormon mission and blossomed into a big man that is putting up over 21 points and nine rebounds per game.  In conference play has been averaging 22 and 10 and is coming off a career-high 31 points and 12 rebounds in a win over San Francisco.  BYU might be the conference’s third best team but Mika is having a season worthy of attention.

These are just a handful of the players from across the college landscape that are having very good seasons but might not have the spotlight shined upon them.  Perhaps in March, should they make it, they will have their one shining moment.


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