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Draft conversation seems to be dominated by big school prospects, and with great reason. Playing for a Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse, Michigan State, UCLA, etc. often indicates that a player is of a certain talent level.
However, big schools don’t have a monopoly on NBA talent, and the past drafts throughout the years have shown that NBA teams will not discriminate based on school if they think a player has what it takes to play in the league. The past two lotteries have had Damian Lillard, who is already one of the NBA’s rising stars, taken from Weber State, and CJ McCollum chosen from Lehigh.
I’m not saying that any of the players below are future lottery picks, but I want to highlight some of the players from smaller schools who are making some noise early on this year (Not included are players such as Aaric Murray and Jason Brickman who I have discussed earlier this year):
- North Carolina Central guard Jeremy Ingram has been quietly putting up one of the best scoring seasons in the country, though after this past Sunday, it may not be quiet for much longer. Ingram scored 37 points against a Wichita State defense which is one of the better ones in the country. Ingram was 12-21 from the field, including 7 of 13 from behind the arc. For the season, Ingram is averaging almost 25 points per game on 46% from the field and 35% from 3-point range. He has also had games of 27 points against Cincinnati and 29 against North Carolina State.
- Troy Huff, North Dakota’s senior shooting guard has had 3 games over 30 points already this season, including 37 points against Wisconsin’s defense. Huff has also had a 20-point game against Butler and a 25-point game against Oregon this season. Through 11 games, Huff is averaging 22.7 points per game on almost 52% from the floor, including 36% from 3. To add to his scoring, Huff also averages almost 7 rebounds per game.
- Oakland’s Travis Bader has been one of the more prolific three-point shooters in the country for the past four years, and he may be on track for his best year yet. Bader is scoring just over 21 points per game, including 65 of 158 from 3 (41%) and 62 of 66 from the free throw line (94%). Though Bader is shooting below 40% from the field on the season, his ability to put up points quickly should help Oakland stay in contention in the Horizon League.
- South Alabama forward Augustine Rubit may be only 6-7, but he is among the top rebounders in the country and a strong scorer around the basket. Two weeks ago, Rubit scored a career high 35 against Gonzaga, including 11 of 16 from the field, 10 of 10 from the free throw line, and was perfect on 3 attempts from behind the arc. On the season, Rubit is averaging 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, including almost 5 offensive rebounds per game.
- Princeton surprised many early on this season with a 9-2 record to start the year, including wins over George Mason, Rutgers, and Penn State. One of the leaders of the Tigers, senior guard TJ Bray, has been putting up strong numbers during this start. Bray is averaging 17 points and 7 assists per game, while shooting 51.4 % from the field. In the wins against George Mason, Penn State, and Rutgers, Bray had 31 assists versus just 5 turnovers.
This list is far from complete, but it does show that strong talent can be found anywhere in the country in any conference. I’m sure as the weeks roll on, some of these names may become more familiar, while many new names will rise along with them.
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