From the West
West Coast kids in college hoops having success outside of the state.
Is it just me, or has anybody else out there noticed that when ESPN shows its college hoops highlights, a kid with West Coast beginnings, West Coast roots, is getting his share of face time. We’re talking about national exposure on a nightly basis.
It doesn’t matter if the individual is uniform for Duke, North Carolina or Texas. Before ending up in Durham, Chapel Hill or Austin, he learned how to play the game out this way, on the left side of the country, before taking his skills to the next level.
That’s not to say the East Coast doesn’t have its share of talented players, because it does, no doubt. We’d be crazy to think otherwise. Game recognizes game. Same goes for those who got started playing ball in the North and South, and all points in between.
Nevertheless, we thought it was about time to provide SLAMonline readers with some insight on several players with West Coast connections that are making an impact at the Division I level. Here‘s a who’s who list of the cats getting things done.
Kyle Singler | 6-8 | F | Junior | Duke
His high school battles up in Oregon against Kevin Love are legendary. Love has moved on since and it appears as if Singler is heading down the same path. A preseason All-American selection, he’s averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists per game, which proves the experts were onto something when they bestowed the lofty expectations on him before the year began. All signs point to Singler being capable of finishing things the way he’s started them. When all is said and done, he’ll be taking home some hardware.
Craig Brackins | 6-10 | F | Junior | Iowa St.
Lists Palmdale as his hometown. And having been there before, the only thing the relatively small city in California is known for is being a good place to gas up the vehicle before heading through the desert to Las Vegas. All of that, however, could change, especially if Brackins continues improving. As it stands now, he’s one of the top power forwards in the business. Beyond that, he’s projected to be a first-round choice in the 2010 NBA Draft, perhaps a lottery pick. If anyone can put Palmdale on the map, it’s Brackins.
Deon Thompson | 6-8 | F | Senior | North Carolina
Once Tyler Hansbrough bolted for broader pastures, things opened up for Thompson. And he’s taken full advantage, emerging as the Tar Heels top option on the offensive end of the floor. He’s averaging a team-high 17.1 points and 8.1 rebounds a night. For the record, the Los Angeles native is no stranger when it comes to being the man. Back in the day, before life under the watchful eye of Roy Williams, Thompson was one of the premier post players the Golden State had to offer. As you can see, he’s living up to the hype.
Larry Drew | 6-2 | G | Sophomore | North Carolina
Another California kid doing big things inside the Dean Smith Center. But before we move forward, it’s necessary to take a quick look back. He was born and raised a Lakers fan, and really, had no other choice. His dad, Larry Drew Sr., a 10-year NBA veteran, played for the Purple and Gold during his son’s formative years. Not surprisingly, it appears as if junior is following in his father’s footsteps. Drew has been running the show for the Tar Heels since the season opener and is averaging 9 points and 7 assists per game.
Avery Bradley | 6-2 | G | Freshman | Texas
Learned things in his hometown of Tacoma, Wash., before spending his senior season at Findlay Prep in Nevada. There, Bradley worked diligently to polish his skill set, and now, everyone is seeing the fruits of his labor, especially those in Longhorn land. He managed to work his way into the starting lineup for Rick Barnes & Co. and is averaging 11 points on 48 percent shooting from the field every time he steps out on the floor. Our guess is that he won’t be heading back to the bench anytime soon.
Jordan Hamilton | 6-7 | F | Freshman | Texas
Forget about N.W.A., although Easy E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube did leave a lasting impression on the music industry. Nowadays, Compton’s Most Wanted is Hamilton. One of the nation’s top prep prospects among the 2009 class, the small forward committed to Texas and has done little to disappoint since donning the burnt orange colors. With each game, his minutes increase. And the interest from NBA scouts increases. We wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him in the League sooner, rather than later.
Taylor King | 6-6 | F | Sophomore | Villanova
Made headlines after committing to UCLA before ever attending high school at Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei. Ultimately, the phenom ended up turning his back on the Bruins in favor of Duke, and a brief, unsuccessful stint followed with the Blue Devils. Fast forward to the present, King is the consummate sixth man for the Wildcats this season, appearing to have finally found a home. Blessed with unlimited range on the perimeter, he’s knocking down 48 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Jeremy Lin | 6-3 | G | Senior | Harvard
Time and time again Lin has proven that he’s not afraid to mix it up with the big boys. A few weeks ago, he scored career-high 30 points against UConn. Shortly thereafter, in an upset over Boston College, he finished with 25 points. Keep in mind, the Northern California native, from Palo Alto, wasn’t heavily recruited, although the Ivy League schools were all over him. Maybe that’s why Lin goes hard each and every time he’s given the opportunity against the country‘s elite. Revenge is a funny thing sometimes.
Hollis Thompson | 6-7 | F | Freshman | Georgetown
Wanted to make an immediate impact right away, so he proceeded to finish high school in California early to enroll with the Hoyas as soon as possible, which turned out to be in early January. The extra practice time has paid off considering George Thompson III rarely hesitates bringing Thompson into games early in the first half or leaving him in the lineup late, with the starters, during the waning moments. With a Big East Rookie of Week honor underneath his belt already, the sky is the limit for Thompson.
Renaldo Woolridge | 6-8 | F | Sophomore | Tennessee
Grew up in the Valley, the San Fernando Valley that is, a suburb of Los Angeles. That said, it took him some time to adjust to the southern way of life. Alas, he’s starting to make some noise for the Vols, both on and off the court. At night, Woolridge is one of the first guys off the bench, a reliable contributor out on the wing. By day, he’s an aspiring rapper known as Swiperboy. His tracks continue making their rounds on YouTube.