CSN's college hoops 13-14 watch list

CSN's college hoops 13-14 watch list
July 29, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Presumably, because lists are awesome, Jason McIntyre with the BigLead.com recently created one of the top-50 college basketball players for the 2013-14 season. Because there isn't much going on regarding the upcoming season and apparently I too like formulating lists, I immediately began pondering such a roll call of players in the DMV. McIntyre got the ball rolling by including two locals, though two seems a bit light.

*Jerrelle Benimon (50, F, Towson)McIntyre: "If he played in the ACC or Big Ten, he’d have a much larger profile. Averaged 17-11 for Towson. Was 3rd in the country in rebounding. Using NBA efficiency metrics, he ranked in the Top 10 in college hoops last year."

CSN: Another Beast-imon performance combined with coach Pat Skerry's sideline smarts puts the Tigers atop the CAA standings this season. Another season with nightly double-double puts the Benimon into All-American discussion.

Meanwhile, Georgetown fans are right now gnashing their teeth because:

- At one point Benimon did play in a conference with a large profile, the Big East. Then he left just as the forward tandem of Otto Porter and Greg Whittington were arriving.

- When going for conferences with larger profiles, McIntyre picked two not named the Big East. In the past, nit picking blue-and-gray clad fans would point out this oversight to the author with a how-dare-you tone. Now, what's to say. The sooner you sons and daughters of the original Big East move past this awkwardness, the better.

* Dez Wells (33, G, Maryland). McIntyre: "Transfer from Xavier averaged 13.1 ppg for the up-and-down Terps, but expect those numbers to rise with Alex Len gone to the NBA. If you look at just returning players, Wells is one of the five best in the ACC."

CSN: I could imagine Wells and his powerful frame rocketing into All-American territory. Not sure that can happen - meaning, the accolades - if Terps don't make NCAA Tournament.

Obviously these lists have a subjective quality, which is why there is no point in bashing for oversights, and yet that's exactly what these conversation starters do. The reality is the start of the regular season is still over three months away. Players from coast-to-coast are steadily improving their game, widening their skill set - or watching a Breaking Bad marathon instead of taking 500 shots a day. At this time last year, nobody had Victor Oladipo, Porter and Kelly Olynyk as first-team All-Americans but many projected Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas into that realm. Four freshman are in McIntyre's top-5. Everyone loves Andrew Wiggins and company. Everyone loved Shabazz Muhammad last preseason as well, suspension aside.

With that in mind, here are 10 more Maryland, Virginia or D.C. college ballers in random order with a chance to be listed among the sport's top-50 by season's end or at the least have a special campaign. 

Markel Starks (Georgetown, G, Sr.) - Otto Porter earned headliner status, but the point guard arguably was the Hoyas' most valuable player. The third-team All-Big East performer is Georgetown's emotional and vocal leader. Starks backed up his words as the Hoyas second-leading scorer (12.8 pts), while dishing a team-high 3.0 assists and sinking 41.7 percent of his 3-point attempts. The lone Hoya who showed up offensively against FGCU with 23 points, Starks fouled out three times last season. Georgetown lost all three games.

Isaiah Armwood (George Washington, F, Sr.) - GWU's sleeper status for the upcoming season stems from those four talented freshman starters including Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino turning into sophomores. One reason Colonials head coach Mike Lonergan could start the youngsters last season while still (successfully) aiming for an Atlantic 10 conference tournament berth, the steady and active play of the shot blocking Armwood. After sitting out one season, the ex-Villanova transfer immediately took over the leadership role while averaging 11.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

Joe Harris (Virginia, F. Jr. ) - What's a guy gotta do for some top-50 recognition. Finish second in the ACC Player of the Year race behind Shane Larkin as determined by conference coaches? Average 16.3 points? Shoot 42.5 percent from beyond the arc? Score 36 points in a nationally televised win over No. 3 Duke?  Apparently that's not enough.

Juvonte Reddic (VCU, F, Sr.) - The Rams' "Havoc" defense, created by Briante Weber and other ball-hounding, perimeter pests, overshadowed the offensive mayhem going on inside for VCU. The 6-foot-9 Reddic averaged 14.6 points on 57 percent shooting while grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game. That's the kind of production that has some noticing, enough to imagine him high up in the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year debate.

Marcus Thornton (Wiiliam & Mary, G, Jr.) - Any credible list of the most underrated players in college must include the former Bishop McNamara star, who finished second among CAA scorers with 18.8 points per game while leading the conference in 3-point shooting percentage (43.5). Thornton also reached double-digit points in every game last season. Yet what makes the wing guard special isn't so much the numbers as is the dynamic way Thornton produces as both slasher and shooter, the way he makes plays when needed most. He should battle Benimon for CAA Player of the Year honors.

Sherrod Wright (George Mason, G, Sr.) - Part of me wants to go with a stealthy call for the Patriots, which would be combo guard Bryon Allen. No doubt, Allen found his game when coach Paul Hewitt moved him off the ball to the point where he was George Mason's best perimeter player for a time. Yet most of the time, the 6-foot-5 Wright carried the offense, tallying at least 20 points in 17 games and finishing as the only player on last season's team to average at least 10 points per game. There were also valleys to go with those peaks - nine games Wright finished with 10 points or less. However, George Mason went 6-3 in those games, an indication that a spread-the-wealth scoring effort worked best. So why tout Wright? Because the more help offered from Allen and Jonathan Arledge will help create space for the accurate shooter. No slouch last season, but as sophomore, Wright posted Durant-ian numbers by shooting 53 percent from the field, 86 percent from the free throw line and 40 percent from 3-point range.  

Treveon Graham, G, VCU - An offensive player on a team known for slowing down opposing offenses, the 6-foot-5 swingman averaged 15.1 points with an impressive 5.8 boards. 

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown, G, So.) - DSR showed monster scoring ability in his first season on the Hilltop, including a 33-point outburst against DePaul, the most by any Georgetown freshman in the John Thompson III era. This summer the 6-foot-3 guard has shown better physical form, as in going from stocky to chiseled. On the court, Smith-Rivera is learning the finer points of distributing the ball. Those factors combined with his point-producing ways makes Smith-Rivera a sneaky All-Big East candidate.

And if the list ran longer...

John Schoof (American, G-F, Jr.) - In this information age, it's much harder to spring a factoid on a group interested in a particular subject. However it's hard imagining many college basketball fans outside Ward Circle realize that the Fairfax native (W.T. Woodson) ranked third in DI by sinking 50.7 percent of his 3-point shots. And Schoof wasn't shy about firing, taking the second-most attempts (138) of those in the top-12. The swingman is also AU's leading returning scorer (9.6). Expect that number to rise significantly as new head coach Mike Brennan implements his motion offense.

Briante Weber, G, VCU - Finished fifth nationally with 2.8 steals per game. As long as Shaka Smart's team is known for the defense, makes sense a defender would be among the highlighted.

Shaquille Cleare, C, Maryland - Because last season, the rugged big man who played behind Alex Len as a freshman, looked like this. This summer, the former top-50 recruit looks like this. Even without the lottery-picked Len, the Terps have options inside and none more powerful than Cleare.

Rashad Whack, G, Mount St. Mary's - The Mountaineers were oh-so close to reaching the NCAA Tournament in coach Jamion Christian first season thanks to pressure defense and Whack (13.9 ppg), who scored 26 points in the Northeast Conference Tournament semifinals.

Derrick Williams, F, Richmond - Turned in some dominating performances early, including 26 against Wake Forest. An injury forced the 6-foot-6 forward to miss nine games, but his offense never truly recovered. Should by now.

Patricio Garino, G, George Washington - The Manu Ginobili disciple played with veteran savvy as a freshman and a defensive-minded approach throughout, averaging 2.3 steals per game. Competent offensively, but if the 6-foot-6 guard makes strides with his perimeter shooting and ball-handling improve, look out.

If you made it far and cannot believe a certain someone did not receive mention, vent away. Lists have that kind of effect.