“Dude, you have my same name. *That* is neat.”
With the basketball season over a quarter of the way through, those who have to fill tons of space on hoops writing (which is a lot of us) have started considering Player of the Year candidates.
There’s the usual results: Doug McDermott, Trey Burke, and that goofball Plumlee, but a dark horse out west has come on strong to make up some surprising ground: former Kentucky recruit Anthony Bennett. Jason King (and others) took a look at the versatile forward and wondered if he could follow in his namesake’s footsteps:
Labeling Bennett as the top freshman in the country — ahead of highly regarded prospects such as Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel — is hardly a stretch. If anything, the debate should be about whether Bennett is the best player in the country in the early going.
A freshman (Kentucky’s Anthony Davis) won the Wooden Award a season ago. There’s no reason it couldn’t happen again.
While Bennett is certainly good, saying “there’s no reason it couldn’t happen” isn’t nearly the same as saying it should happen again. While Bennett is averaging 19 and 8, he’ll have to make sure the Rebels keep winning for the team, and his candidacy, to keep a head of steam.
For a little perspective, the same column ran a little poll to see the BEST college players of the last decade-plus. The results? Not very surprising.
Ranking the best college players since 2000 (NBA accomplishments not considered), in order of total points, with number of first-place votes in parentheses (voters: Eamonn Brennan, Andy Katz, Dana O’Neil, Myron Medcalf and me):
1. Tyler Hansbrough North Carolina (3) — 45
2. Kevin Durant, Texas (1) — 39
3. Jay Williams, Duke (1) — 38
4. Anthony Davis, Kentucky — 20
5. Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph’s — 16
6. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse — 15
6. Michael Beasley, Kansas State — 15
8. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma — 13
9. J.J. Redick, Duke — 11
10. Shane Battier, Duke — 10
Of the ten, four (Durant, Davis, Melo, and Beasley) were freshmen. John Wall was just outside the top ten. Is Anthony Bennett good enough to make that list? Is he better than John Wall? Considering that many of those guys are now NBA All-Stars, and the others played for UNC or Duke, that seems unlikely.
But Anthony Davis, superstar that he is, can now add another title to his impressive resume: Trailblazer. I know he doesn’t play for Portland, but even just a year removed, he’s already setting the bar high for freshmen, and Anthonys, everywhere. Whether or not this is the year a first-year player with his same name follows his suit remains to be seen, but it’s good company to be in, even if it’s just a passing mention.