Leader of the Pac-10
An inside look at the conference’s player of the year race.
Marques Johnson and David Greenwood back in the 70′s. Sean Elliot and Gary Payton in the 80‘s. Jason Kidd, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry in the 90‘s. And Brandon Roy, Kevin Love and James Harden at the turn of the century.
All these cats have something common. We’ll give you a second to make an educated guess as to what it might be… Time’s up. Each was named Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year before moving onto bigger and better things in the NBA.
True to form, there’s plenty of talent in Pac-10 play these days. And as the midway point of the college basketball season approaches, now is a good time to take a look at several of the conference’s top players that are making an impact.
One of the individuals on the list below will emerge as the best the Pac-10 has to offer, and ultimately, take home the player of the year hardware. Beyond that, there is a good chance he’ll land a gig in the League, like so many others before him.
Jerome Randle | 5-10 | G | Senior | Cal
Before things got started, Randle was the front-runner to win the POY honor. And he’s done little to disappoint. He‘s been automatic at the stripe, shooting 93 percent from the free-throw line. Randle is fourth in the conference in scoring, averaging 19.1 points per game, and third in assists, with 4.7 per outing. It’s his award to lose. Nothing’s changed.
Quincy Pondexter | 6-6 | F | Senior | Washington
When it comes to upside, no one possesses more than Pondexter. He’s got game, serious game. Scouts at the next level have been keeping a watchful eye on him for a while now, and no doubt, are impressed with the fact that he‘s among the conference’s top 5 players in scoring, rebounding, free-throw and field goal percentage, as well as steals.
Landry Fields | 6-7 | F | Senior | Stanford
Puts up great numbers, nearly posting a double-double every time out. Then again, when you’re in the lineup for 35-plus minutes per game, production is expected. Landry averages 22.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, a pair of totals ranking him No.2 in conference play. Expect him to give Randle and Pondexter a run for their money.
Mike Gerrity | 6-1 | G | Senior | USC
No one expects the Trojans to win the Pac-10 championship. And when the time comes to narrow down the conference’s player of year candidates, no one expects Gerrity to be mentioned. But hey, we absolutely love the underdog, and if he can keep USC in the hunt for a title, the dark horse could put a real scare into the heavy favorites.
Nic Wise | 5-10 | G | Senior | Arizona
Similar to Bibby and Terry, Damon Stoudemire won the prestigious Pac-10 honor during his days with the Wildcats. All signs point to Wise being capable of keeping the tradition alive and well in Tucson. He’s one of the nation’s premier point guards and we like his chances of adding his name to the list of fine floor generals in Wildcat lore.
Alex Stepheson | 6-9 | F | Junior | USC
The Southern California native spent two years at North Carolina before transferring closer to home. And the Trojans couldn’t be happier. He’s been a beast on the boards, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game and a conference best 3.6 on the offensive end. If that wasn’t enough, he’s blocking 1.6 shots each time he steps out on the floor.
Klay Thompson | 6-6 | G | Sophomore | Washington State
Can score with the best of them and his 23 points per game, tops in the conference, is a good indication of that. His size and sheer athleticism creates match-up problems for opponents all over the court. Coaches haven’t figured out a way to stop him yet. Crazy thing is, Thompson could very well be a year away from realizing his full potential.
Malcolm Lee | 6-5 | G | Sophomore | UCLA
For those who thought the cupboard was bare in Bruin land, think again. Lee is as talented as they come, the No.1 option on offense for Ben Howland. He‘s scoring 13.9 points a night, to go along with 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists. With continued improvement, by the time 2011 rolls around, don’t be surprised if Lee ends up being a first-round pick in the NBA Draft.
Michael Dunigan | 6-10 | C | Sophomore | Oregon
Reminds many of Kevin Garnett and there’s plenty of similarities, most notably, both were selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game after playing high school ball at Farragut Academy in Chicago, Ill. Nowadays, Dunigan is averaging 12 points per game for the Ducks while shooting an impressive 60 percent from the field. Once he gets around the basket, down low in the low block, he’s unstoppable. And double-teaming him doesn’t help.
Derrick Williams | 6-8 | F | Freshman | Arizona
He’s the baby of the bunch, a rookie, in his first year playing Division I ball. That, however, hasn’t prevented Williams from coming in and making a statement right off the bat. His 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 57 percent shooting from the field rank among the conference’s top 10 totals. Best believe he’s only going to get better.