Williams And Smith Are Carving Turkey Opponents

Team USA seems to be rolling toward Gold during the World University Games in Izmir, Turkey. And a couple of major reasons why are two players, Shelden Williams and Craig Smith, who should be in contention for a lot of post-season hardware as seniors for Duke and Boston College, respectively.

Here is a handy litmus test for the legitimacy of any of the preseason college basketball magazines that will be hitting the news stands over the next couple of months:

 

Scan their All-America teams and be very wary if Shelden Williams and Craig Smith aren't first-team selections.

 

The Duke and Boston College seniors have been playing to All-America and John R. Wooden Award front-running form for the U.S. team during its run for gold medals in the World University Games in Izmir, Turkey.

 

Williams has averaged 14.9 points (shooting .683 from the field), 8.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots during the first seven games for the U.S., which faces Ukraine in the Sunday final.

 

Smith – who missed one game (against China, because of a back strain) – is shooting .627 from the field while averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

 

 They, along with Williams' teammate at Duke, J.J. Redick, will also be frontrunners for Atlantic Coast Player of the Year honors in March.

 

The trek to Turkey has also done wonders to enhance the national perception – at least among those who read the wire service or USA Basketball website reports – of a couple of players on the team, Vincent Grier of Minnesota and Randy Foye of Villanova.

 

The 6-foot-5 Grier, one of the reasons the Gophers should return to the NCAA tournament next March, is scoring 11.3 points per game (with a .580 shooting percentage), grabbing 4.3 rebounds per game and leads the team with 26 steals. He's also gotten to the free-throw line (where he is 21 of 31) than anyone on the team.

 

"He is quietly our MVP," Team USA Coach Jay Wright (Villanova) said.

 

Foye has been the team's most consistently sparkling backcourt player. He's averaging 13.7 points (second to Williams) and 4.0 rebounds per game.

 

What's mildly surprising about the way the team is crunching its opposition (only two of the victories have come by margins of fewer than 20 points; 15 against Slovakia and 10 against German) is that it's doing so despite the lack of perimeter productivity of Gerry McNamara and Patrick Sparks.

 

The Syracuse and Kentucky senior guards, widely considered among the deepest (and best) jump shooters on the college level, are a collective 26 of 90 from the field, including 19 of 75 from behind the 3-point arc.

 

BOUNCING AROUND THE COUNTRY:

*OK, let me see if I've got this straight: Those who run the NIT sued the NCAA and, during court proceedings, tried to paint the NCAA as a monopolistic organization bent on driving the NIT out of business.

 

Then, before allowing the case to proceed to its fruition and letting a jury decide if those allegations were based in fact, officials from the five metropolitan New York colleges (NYU, Manhattan, St. John's, Fordham and Wagner) reach a settlement in which they sell, for $56 million, both the preseason and post-season versions of the NIT to . . . the NCAA?

 

I guess there were some real principles at stake in that lawsuit, eh?

 

*Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell, who underwent surgery that removed most of his cancerous right lung in March, held his 28th Big Man Camp at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas Aug. 8-12.

 

The camp, which drills players on low-post play and all facets of footwork, had more than 60 players. Most of those are currently in college. But a handful of them are earning NBA paychecks, including 17-year-old L.A. Lakers' rookie Andrew Bynum.

 

Among the college players drawing the most interest from some of the NBA talent evaluators on hand were: Patrick O'Bryant (sophomore center, Bradley), Rick Cornett (senior forward, Notre Dame), Louis Amundson (senior forward, UNLV), Marcus Arnold (junior swingman, Illinois; a transfer from Illinois State who will be eligible to play for the Illini this season) and Caleb Green (junior forward, Oral Roberts).

 

*Add Pittsburgh to the list of teams that I think will end up being a lot better in February and March than I anticipated they would be while I was assembling the national ratings for the Lindy's Preseason College Basketball Magazine over the past couple of months.

 

Jamie Dixon's Panthers lost a lot – most notably, starting post players Chevon Troutman and Chris Taft – but return, and add, enough to make a strong push for a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

 

A 24-year-old point guard (Carl Krauser) is back after averaging 16.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists as a junior and then finding out that he wasn't exactly a hot commodity in the eyes of those who make draft-night decisions for NBA teams.

 

Six-nine junior forward Levon Kendall, who averaged about 14 minutes of playing time in 22 games as a sophomore, dropped 40 points on the U.S. while leading Canada to a Under-21 Championship quarterfinal upset in Argentina. Obviously he's capable of contributing more than the 3.5 points per game he averaged for Dixon last season.

 

But here's the Panther who will be a real load for defenders to cope with: forward Sam Young (Hargrave Military Academy) who will not only be one of the most productive freshmen in the country but also maybe the oldest. He turns 21 on March 1.

 

Force me to project a Big East Freshman of the Year and I'll opt for that guy.

 

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com


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