The junior class is a special one. This is when elite, but raw, recruits typically find their groove. Some players already have graduated so there’s movement in this class. And then there are the JUCO transfers, and every year a few make their mark. But this team has nothing to do with how well players are integrated onto their teams. This team is about the best 3rd year players in the nation. Here goes.
Thomas Robinson, Kansas (Junior of the Year)
After two relatively quiet seasons behind Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins, Robinson has turned into a beast. His role had been to come off the bench, fly around the court for a few possessions at warp speed, and wreck shop. Now he’s asked to do that for 30 minutes a game. He’s the best defensive rebounder in the nation, grabbing 32% of opponents misses when he’s on the floor. He blocks 3.6% of their shots, and he draws fouls at a higher rate than any other Jayhawk. Against North Dakota he had 30 points and 21 rebounds. He’s had double-doubles in 11 of 16 games. In conference play (3-0) he’s averaging 17.3 points, 11.7 boards, and has made 65% of his 2s.
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
The 6’11 Moultrie, a transfer from UTEP, is the 2nd double-double machine on this list. He’s had double digit rebounds in 11 of 13 games, and double digit points in 8. He’s one of two SEC players grabbing at least 15% of their own team’s misses. He rarely commits fouls, draws them at the highest rate on the team, and makes 87% once he gets to the line. He’s versatile. He can face up, he’s got moves on the block, and he can go by you. He makes 56% of his 2s and has an offensive rating over 121. On the season he’s averaging 16.2 points and 11.3 boards.
Damian Lillard, Weber State
A month ago I wrote about Lillard as an early Player of the Year candidate, and nothing has changed since then. For players who use at least 24% of their team’s possessions, Lillard has the highest offensive rating in the nation. Weber State is undefeated (4-0) in the Big Sky Conference and has a huge showdown this Saturday versus Montana. Lillard is the nation’s leading scorer (26.3) by nearly 2 points a game, and he’s converting 50% of his 2s, 47% of his 3s and is 91% from the line. He also averages 6 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while rarely turning the ball over.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Need a player who can fill up a statsheet? Look to Wolters. He’s scored at least 14 points in every game this season. Three times he’s gone for more than 30. He’s had at least 5 rebounds eight times, at least 5 assists twelve times, and has had multiple steals in nine games. On the season he’s averaging 21.5 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds. The Jackrabbits are 5-1 in the Summit, and Wolters is attempting to lead them to their first NCAA Tournament Appearance at the Division I level.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Murray State is looking for an undefeated season, and the 6′ Canaan is a big reason why. Canaan has moved around quite a bit in his career. He’s been used at the point, and he’s been used off the ball. He’s been a starter. He’s been the sixth man. But wherever coach Prohm has used him he’s been effective. He was the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, and last season he was 1st Team All-OVC despite starting only 20 games. This season he’s playing 79% of the team’s minutes, and has an offensive rating of 129.7. He commits the fewest fouls on the team and is second to Ed Daniel at drawing them. He shoots 51% on 2s and 3s, and 83% from the line. He’s averaging 18.7 points, 4.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds.