Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jimmer, Bruce and Damian

The following was also posted on Kyle Whelliston's Midmajority Report:

The title “Nation’s Leading Scorer” is odd, it doesn’t mean you’re the best player in the country although sometimes it can be -- see Jimmer Fredette a year ago, and  Stephen Curry of Davidson  who led the nation in scoring in 2008 and 2009, each of which were at least in the discussion as the best player in the country as seniors.   Also note the accomplishments of arguably the two greatest players in college basketball history, Pete Maravich who led the nation in scoring in 1968, 1969 and 1970 and Oscar Robertson who did the same in 1958, 1959 and 1960, each of which should come up on the greatest college players of all time list.  Additionally, a player need not have a brilliant career, it only takes one season.  One season of scoring more than anyone else.  Sometimes, the players scoring can become larger than the game.  Maravich was scoring over 40 points per game, still the only player on the list to average over 40 AND he did it three years in a row.   His father Press was his coach, accordingly Pete shot often and shot a lot - some would argue at the expense of the team doing better.  

The most intriguing account of how one player can dominate a team and a season can be found in Shooting Star, The Bevo Francis Story, a recap of Bevo Francis’ remarkable career at tiny Rio Grande College who once scored 116 points in one game written by Kyle Keiderling.  Francis’ did most of his scoring against schools below the black line as we call it now and his own program was a below the black line program.   However, for a time, Rio Grande did step up and play schools like Providence, Villanova and North Carolina State.  Bevo’s scoring much like Maravich was an example of how a player can become bigger than the team.  

The complete list of the nation’s leading scorers for each year is shown below.  Please note that prior to 1948, scoring statistics for regular season games was not available.  I have included the leading scorers in the NCAA Tournament in the list for a few years for the sake of getting to 1943, the year the Wyoming Cowboys won the national championship.    

Adam Morrison in 2006 and Glenn Robinson who put up 30.3 in 1994 also were probably the best player’s in the country during their senior seasons.    More often though, following the list, the leading scorer in the nation is aided by his situation, a team that lacks other scorers and allows him to shoot more than other players at other schools – see  Kevin Houston of Army who averaged 32.9 in 1987 and once remarked that he had been passed over being picked when eleven guys were organizing a pickup basketball game at West Point.   The most obscure leading scorer was likely Greg Guy who led the nation in 1994, yet played on the team with the worst record.  Texas Pan American went 2-20 that year.  

With the advent of so many midmajor and lower level division I programs, leading scorers in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 70’s were more likely to be the best players in the country while more recent decades, it’s just a great player at a smaller program.   I have spent time at both Pepperdine University where Bird Averitt worked his magic and Portland State University where Freeman Williams starred.  Both schools fielded division I programs at the lower level long before there was “mid-major” or a “red-line” and their star players did it before college basketball became a mainstream sport.  

Williams was a first round choice of the Utah Jazz who once score 83 points in a college game.   Averitt’s coming out party was legendary.  As a freshman he scored 43 and 44 points against a UCLA freshman team that included Bill Walton.  Averitt went on to play for the San Antonio Spurs and for the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA where he played for one time Niagara standout Hubie Brown (see below for much more on Niagara and Hubie).

A year ago Jimmer Fredette led the nation in scoring while leading Brigham Young into the top 10, he scored 28.6 points per game.   Tonight I sit in the building where Fredette scored a majority of those points watching his old teammates struggle to find scoring opportunities that he made look so easy a year ago in leading the Cougars to the Sweet 16.   The Cougars opponent tonight, Weber State features the current “Nation’s Leading Scorer”  Damian Lillard.  Accordingly, tonight’s game is all about individual performance of both last year for Fredette and this year for Lillard. 

Lillard’s play is not surprising, a year ago he received a medical redshirt and as a sophomore in 2009 he averaged 19.9 points per game and was named the Big Sky MVP.  In 2008, as a freshman, Lillard put up 11.5 points per game.  I have seen him play numerous times and Lillard strengths are his quickness combined with shooting.  At times, his three point shooting can be unstoppable.  Keep in mind, Lillard is only a junior, he’s likely to become the all time leading scorer in Weber State history passing legendary Bruce Collins. 

I am not happy about this.  Collins is from Rock Springs, Wyoming.  I see Bruce a couple of time per week now whenever I am in Rock Spring, Wyoming.  He works as a recreation director at the Rock Springs rec center.  I have not asked him yet if he know Lillard will likely break his scoring record.  I’m sure I will, just looking for the right time. 

Leading Scorers

Year    Player                             School                                          Points per Game
2011  Jimmer Fredette              BYU                                                   28.8
2010   Aubrey Coleman           Houston                                              25.6
2009   Stephen Curry               Davidson                                            28.6
2008   Stephen Curry               Davidson                                             32.0
2007   Reggie Williams           Virginia Military                                 28.1
2006  Adam Morrison              Gonzaga                                             28.1
2005  Keyden Clark                 St.Peters                                             25.8
2004  Keyden Clark                 St.Peters                                             26.7
2003  Ruben Douglas              New Mexico                                        28.0
2002  Jason Conley                 VMI                                                      29.3
2001  Ronnie McCollum         Centenary                                             29.1
2000   Courtney Alexander     Fresno State                                          24.8
1999  Alvin Young                 Niagara                                                  25.1
1998  Charles Jones                Long Island                                           29.0
1997  Charles Jones                Long Island                                           30.1
1996  Kevin Granger              Texas Southern                                      27.0
1995  Kurt Thomas                 Texas Christian                                      28.9
1994  Glenn Robinson            Purdue                                                    30.3
1993  Greg Guy                      Texas Pan American                              29.3
1992   Brett Roberts                Moreghead State                                   28.1
1991  Kevin Bradshaw            U.S. International                                  37.6
1990  Bo Kimble                     Loyola Marymount                                35.3
1989   Hank Gathers                Loyola Marymount                               32.7
1988   Hersey Hawkins            Bradley                                                 36.3
1987   Kevin Houston              Army                                                     32.0
1986   Terrance Bailey             Wagner                                                  29.4
1985    Xavier McDaniel          Wichita State                                        27.2
1984    Joe Jakubick                 Akron                                                    30.1
1983   Harry Kelly                   Texas Southern                                      28.8
1982   Harry Kelly                   Texas Southern                                      29.7
1981   Zam Frerick                   South Carolina                                      28.9
1980   Tony Murphy                 Southern University                             32.1
1979   Lamar Butler                  Idaho State                                            30.1
1978   Freeman Williams          Portland State                                       35.9
1977   Freeman Williams          Portland State                                       38.8
1976   Marshall Rogers             Texas Pan American                            36.8
1975   Bob McCardy                Richmond                                              32.9
1974   Larry Fogle                    Canisius                                                 33.4
1973   Bird Averitt                    Pepperdine                                            33.9
1972   Dweight Lamar              Louisiana-Lafayette                              36.3
1971   Johnny Neumann           Mississippi                                            40.1
1970   Pete Maravich                LSU                                                       44.5
1969   Pete Maravich                LSU                                                       44.2
1968   Pete Maravich                LSU                                                       43.8
1967   Jimmy Walker               Providence                                             30.4
1966   Dave Shellhase              Purdue                                                   32.5
1965   Ollie Johnson                San Francisco                                         36.0
1964   Howard Komives          Bowling Green                                      36.7
1963   Nick Werkman              Seton Hall                                              29.5
1962   Billy McGill                 Utah                                                        38.8
1961   Frank Burgess              Gonzaga                                                  32.4
1960   Oscar Robertson          Cincinnati                                                33.7
1959   Oscar Robertson          Cincinnati                                                32.6
1958   Oscar Robertson          Cincinnati                                                35.1
1957   Grady Wallace            South Carolina                                         31.2
1956   Darrell Floyd              Furman                                                     33.8
1955   Bob Patterson              Tulsa                                                        28.5
1954   Frank Selvy                  Furman                                                    41.7
1953   Frank Selvy                 Furman                                                     29.5
1952   Clyde Louvellette        Kansas                                                     28.6
1951   Bill Mikvy                   Temple                                                     29.2
1950   Paul Arizin                  Villanova                                                 25.3
1949   Tony Lavellie              Yale                                                         22.4
1948   Murray Wier                 Iowa                                                         21.0
1947   George Kaftan            Holly Cross                                               21.0*
1946   Bob Kurland              Oklahoma A & M                                      24.0*
1945   Dickie Wilkins           Oregon                                                       22.0*
1944   Nick Buzolich            Pepperdine                                                 22.5*
1943   John Hargis                Texas                                                          29.5

Damian Lillard wears number 1 for Weber State, he’s number 1 in the country in scoring.  I’ve seen Lillard play on numerous occasions before.  He sat out last year due to an injury, but in prior seasons he has been a remarkably good player.   He also benefits by having a good set of role players around him.   Weber State is the classic midmajor looking at a good year.    They are the Big Sky favorite. 

Weber State has never won at the Marriott Center.  Tonight’s game, like all games involving Utah schools will count towards the Oquirh Bucket – a traveling trophy awarded to the team with the best record against all other Utah school during the year.    The court seems funny.  The West Coast Conference logo on opposite ends doesn’t quite fit yet, and as a long time follower, not fan of BYU, I’m used to thinking of them as a Mountain West Conference school.   It will be hard to adjust to thinking of BYU in the same league as Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland. 

The Marriott Center does not possess the atmosphere that it did when Jimmermania was in full force.   The excitement level has gone down and it easier for the opposition to remain focused.  It’s also easier for opponents to remain close in the foul count.  When players are leading the nation in scoring as Fredette did last year, they seem to get more calls from especially when playing at home.   Lillard who wears number 1, is on the road tonight, so I’m anxious to see if he can get any calls or how the road game will affect his performance.

Weber’s leading rebounder and a fellow Wyoming native – Kyle Bullinger – is apparently out with a dislocated elbow and he’s not in the starting lineup and does not play which is odd because he’s noted for being a tough hardnosed player who has started almost his entire career for the Wildcats, he gives them an element of toughness that makes them the Big Sky favorite.

Lillard misses his first attempt, a long three.  Lillard Misses another long three and gets checked on a drive to the basket (the first time he has not gotten a whistle while attacking, but could have).  Brock Zylstra of BYU scores ten early points and the Cougars open up a 22-15 lead at the ten minute mark.   

At this point, someone in front of me points out that Jimmer Fredette is in attendance tonight.   I’m surprised as I thought he would be in Sacramento, his NBA home. 

Weber State’s second leading scorer picks up two quick fouls and has to sit out, but BYU opens up a thirteen point lead and Weber coach Randy Rahe is forced to bring him back in with five minutes left in the first half.  It doesn’t help that Lillard has only four points during the first fifteen minutes and has not hit an outside shot.  Bullinger’s absence is felt as BYU controls the paint and is able to get the ball inside and gets multiple second chance opportunities.  Lillard finally hits a long three at the three minute mark, but then gets called for a questionable travel shortly thereafter.  He misses a long three at the end of the first half and is struggling to get into rhythm that the great scorers all seem to have.  Yet at the half he still has nine points in a mediocre performance.  BYU leads by thirteen at the half. 

At the start of the second half, Charles Abouo hits two three pointers and the Cougars open up a twenty point lead and Weber is forced to take a time out.   The only question is what the final score will be and can Damon Lillard hold onto his national scoring lead.  Coming into the game Lillard led Boston University’s Darryl Partin by almost five points per game, but with so few games played even one subpar night can have a huge impact.  Lillard finishes with only fifteen points.   But BYU looks impressive and appears to have more depth and  size than they had when Fredette carried them over the past couple of seasons.  BYU wins easily 94-66.   

Next up for the Cougars is a showdown in the Marriott Center against tenth ranked Baylor meanwhile I can tell Bruce Collins that his Weber State scoring record is safe for another game.     

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