College basketball is off an running. Wednesday night was the first night that truly required a hot TV remote hand, with games like St. Joe’s-Temple, UVA-Ohio State, and Indiana-UNC all worth your time. As the season continues, every fan builds on the number of teams and players they are familiar with, and in turn, have fallen in love with.
It’s early, but my heart is already swooning for a few guys across the great college basketball landscape. After half a month of play, here’s who caught my eye and should catch yours the next time their team is on TV:
Justin Patton, Creighton
Until this season, it was pretty easy to question Creighton head coach Greg McDermott. His only real success came on the back of one special player, who was particularly easy to recruit: his son Doug.
But now, he’s put together something really interesting in Omaha. He’s got guards in Marcus Foster and Maurice Watson who can create for others or score themselves. He has a compliment of shooters and role players who execute within his system. All of that being said, the best reason to watch the Blue Jays right now is to see Justin Patton. The redshirt freshman is listed at a wiry 7’0, 230 lbs. He moves like a gazelle, with a high motor that helps him grab rebounds with his long arms and beat opposing big men down the floor in transition.
Patton has attempted 50 field goals this season and made 4o of them, for a red hot 80 percent, best in the nation. The way he’s making shots is even more impressive. How many 19 year old 7-footers can make both of these plays?
There are still some things for Patton to figure out. He can start with his sub-50% free throw percentage. He has a nice touch, but it hasn’t translated to the charity stripe yet. For Creighton to compete with Villanova and Xavier in the Big East, he’ll need to straighten that out, but his athleticism will cause problems for even the best teams in the nation.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA
I can’t preach the Gospel of Lonzo any more passionately.
Every basketball pundit and writer under the sun has rushed to compare Ball to Jason Kidd, thanks to next-level court vision and a strong point guard body.
These comparisons are flattering, but still don’t fully grasp Ball’s early season success. Comparing him to Kidd ignores Ball’s penchant for finishing alley-oops with authority:
That doesn’t look like Jason Kidd. Neither does Ball’s 47 percent clip from beyond the arc. Kidd developed into a shooter after years as a pro. Ball is already draining step back threes while trash talking defenders.
Now, if there’s one thing to worry about with Ball, it is his outside shot. Yes, he’s making them, and did in high school, but the slingshot motion he uses on his jumper is unconventional and unorthodox. The ball traces from around his hips up to his left shoulder and then up to the rim. Right now, it goes in and he gets it off quickly. Looking at his long-term (read: NBA) future, he’ll need to make some tweaks. Until then, he can continue to drop 9.6 dimes a night, leading the nation, and be just fine. And on top of that, he smells like strawberries.
Obi Enechionyia, Temple
I can’t spell it, I can’t pronounce it, but I now know this name.
The 6’10 junior has been a revelation for Fran Dunphy’s club. He’s averaging 20 points and 9 boards per night in spectacular fashion. Enechionyia is a factor inside and out. He ranks in the top 20 nationally in 3-point percentage and blocked shots, shooting a red hot 56 percent from outside and averaging 3 swats per game. He dropped 26 against both St. Joe’s and UMass, but his most impressive performance this season was a 22 point, 12 rebound outing versus #25 West Virginia.
Enechionyia’s craziest stat so far? In the 120 minutes of Temple’s last three games, he’s played 118. He’s the heart and soul of the Owls right now.
Sing it with me…
Obi, you. You got what I neeeeeeeed.
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.