While we were spoilt with a talent-laden class of 2017/18, this season a number of lesser-known Aussies have been making an impact across NCAA Division I ranks.
There may be no Jock Landale or Xavier Cooks, but we may well be unearthing a next generation of college stars from down under this season, with Cameron Healy the most impressive of the freshmen to date. Kouat Noi and Jack White are standing out on major programs, while a host of others have stepped up to experience career-best years. Subsequently we count down the Top 10 Aussies at the mid-point of the 2018/19 season.
10. Tanner KREBS | Guard | Junior | Saint Mary’s
While team-mate Jordan Hunter could be considered unlucky for this spot given his meteoric rise this season, Saint Mary’s is a far more dangerous team with Tanner Kreb’s dead-eye three-point shooting on the court.
The junior guard is shooting a career-best 42% from beyond the arc and 90% from the charity stripe this season, forming a deadly duo with the Gael’s leading scorer Jordan Ford. After a slow start to the season by his lofty standards, Krebs has worked his way back into the starting line-up and providing valuable contributions, both in scoring (9.1ppg) and with his rebounding (4.2rpg). The 6’6 Tasmanian hit a season-high 20 points that included six three-pointers in a big win against San Jose State to close out 2018, and has registered 5 games where he has pulled down 7 or more rebounds, including a career-high 13 rebounds in their last start win against San Diego.
Tanner Krebs has been named the Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week following his 20-point performance
— Saint Mary's Gaels (@smcgaels) January 3, 2019
Krebs is an important part of the puzzle for the Gaels who have opened conference play with a 5-1 record, to have any chance of challenging Gonzaga for the WCC title and a possible trip to the NCAA Tournament, and the scary thing is for the Gaels WCC rivals, we have perhaps not yet seen the best of the Tasmanian this season just yet.
9. Jack PURCHASE | Forward | Senior | Hawaii
With a balanced scoring attack that includes three players providing 11 or more points per game, Hawaii’s success in the Big West may well be determined by the on-court play of senior stretch forward Jack Purchase. The senior has proven himself to be an effective offensive weapon for the Rainbow Warriors, averaging 11.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, all career-high’s for the Melburnian.
With a versatile all-round game, Purchase has lifted his scoring by more than 4 points per game from 2017/18, shooting almost 35% from deep and an impressive 83.8% from the free throw line. He has scored in double figures 12 times this season, with a season-best 24 point outing in which he dialled long distance four times coming in their most recent outing, a narrow 71-75 loss to UC Riverside. He also moved into third all-time on the Rainbow Warriors three-point shooting list, and is on track to break the record prior to the end of conference play to leave a lasting legacy on the program.
— HAWAII BASKETBALL (@HawaiiMBB) January 20, 2019
Despite the first Big West loss, Purchase is a barometer for Hawaii’s success.
8. Dejan VASILJEVIC | Guard | Junior | Miami
Miami has fallen victim to injuries this season, including a season-ending ailment to fellow Aussie Deng Gak. Riding a four-game winning streak into ACC play, the Hurricanes tough opening saw them lose three straight, including two losses against nationally ranked teams NC State and Florida State. Yet through all the adversity, Dejan Vasiljevic has managed to remain unscathed to deliver career-best numbers.
The 6’3 guard from Melbourne has been good for 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game – all career-high’s. His 44% shooting from three-point territory and almost 90% from the free throw line rank him first on the team, while his long-distance accuracy has him ranked third in the ACC. Consistency has ben the theme of 2018/19 for Vasiljevic, with the junior hitting double figures 11 times, with a season-best of 20 against Bethune-Cookman. He has connected on four or more triples in a single game 7 times, draining a season-best 5 against Louisville.
Go Dejan. That's their Dejan.
— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) January 12, 2019
With a loaded ACC to contend with, the undermanned Hurricanes will find going tough during conference play. However with Vasiljevic patrolling the perimeter, he will receive opportunities to use his sharpshooting to cause an upset or two.
7. George BLAGOJEVIC | Forward | Senior | Hartford
Opportunity and consistency are two words that go hand-in-hand with senior George Blagojevic this season. The 6’8 forward from Geelong has been impressive for Hartford in his final year, more than trebling his scoring average while also collecting an America East Player of the Week award.
✅ 27.0 ppg
✅ 76.0 FG%
✅ 11.0 rpg
✅ 4.0 apg
— Hartford Men’s Basketball (@HartfordMBB) December 17, 2018
While he leads the Hawks in rebounding with 7.5 per game, he is also delivering a career-best 13.3 points per game, and while third best on his team, has him placed fourteenth in the conference. After two big back-to-back performances in December when he launched a 30-point and 15-rebound onslaught against Bryant followed by a 24-point, 7 rebound and 5 assists haul against Oakland, Blagojevic was named America East Conference Player of the Week, and due recognition for the growth and talent of one of the conference’s most underrated players.
With 12 games where he has scored in double-digits and 3 double-doubles to his name, a fit and firing Blagojevic could be the key to unlocking a dream conference tournament run in 2019.
6. Jesse HUNT | Forward | Senior | Eastern Washington
With five of his six career double-doubles delivered so far this season, Jesse Hunt has certainly lifted his game to a new level with the Eagles in his senior year.
Ranked second in the Big Sky for rebounding, Hunt is delivering career-high’s across a host of statistical categories, including points (14.4), rebounds (8.4), assists (2.9) and three-point shooting (44.6%). In fact Hunt’s improvement has been nothing short of phenomenal, with his three-point shooting blasting him into second in the Big Sky, making him a more versatile and dangerous scoring threat which was evident when he drained 4-5 from deep for 15 points in the Eagles’ last start win against Montana State.
2nd, 15:59 | @JesseHunt08 hits the three pointer and gets himself into double digets totaling 11 points this game so far!!
— EWU MBB (@EWUMBB) January 19, 2019
The 6’7 forward from Geraldton has posted three 20-plus scoring games this season, including a new career-high of 32 in a victory against UMKC. He only missed scoring in double-figures four times to date this season, and was the undisputed engine room behind Eastern Washington’s start to the season as he helped cover for the absence of fellow Aussie forward Mason Peatling who missed the first 10 games of the season as he recovered from injury.
5. Midseason Freshman of the Year: Cameron HEALY | Guard | Albany
Not only is Cameron Healy the front-runner for the Australian Freshman Player of the Year, but he is a leading contender for the America East version as well.
— UAlbany Basketball (@UAlbanyMBB) January 17, 2019
On a very young Great Danes team, Healy is eighth in scoring across the America East, delivering an impressive 16 points per game while shooting 41.1% from the field, a league-best 40.4% from beyond the arc and 90% from the free throw line! Those are heady figures for a freshman, and when you throw in 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game, it is hard not to get excited by the potential of the 6’3 guard from Sydney.
While Albany has only won five games this season and is yet to taste victory to open America East play, Healy has taken on the mantle as the team’s on-court leader. He only failed to reach double figure in just one of Albany’s 19 games this season, a loss to Providence. Having scored a career-high 24 points twice this season, he has hit the twenties five times while he has connected on four or more three-pointers in a single game ten times already and promises to add more. Along with Blagojevic, he is in the top 10 in conference for minutes played, and on his learning trajectory is well placed to close out the remainder of the season in just as good form – if not better – and help Albany earn a few more wins.
4. Mason PEATLING | Forward | Junior | Eastern Washington
Despite having his start to the season delayed by 10 games due to injury, Mason Peatling made an immediate impact upon his return to help buoy Eastern Washington ahead of Big Sky Conference play. After easing back into things in playing 17 minutes off the bench in his first game back, Peatling followed up with a 25-point explosion in his very next game, and has not scored any fewer than 13 points since. The 6’8 forward from Melbourne has been exceptional for the Eagles, quickly assuming the mantle as of one the most important players on the roster.
Peatling now leads the Eagles in points (15.9ppg), field goal shooting (57.1%) and three-point shooting (50%), and together with compatriot Hunt, has formed one of the best and most versatile front-line tandems in the Big Sky. He has also dished out 2.3 assists per game, while coming up with 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per game.
2nd, 5:29 | Mason Peatling scores his 10th point of the game on a lay up assisted by @JesseHunt08
— EWU MBB (@EWUMBB) January 19, 2019
With Peatling and Hunt on the prowl, the Eagles took down conference favourites Montana before backing up to consolidate the win with another over Montana State. It is this kind of form that has the Eagles faithful believing that they can challenge for the conference title in 2019.
3. Jordan HEADING | Guard | Senior| California Baptist
The Division I debut of Jordan Heading has mirrored that of the CBU Lancers who this season made the step up to top flight college basketball. Returning as the team’s leading scorer and assists man, Heading has been able to translate that form to the next level as the Lancers have surprised many. In fact, the Lancers carried a 5-game winning streak into the New Year, and that success can be attributed to the leadership and on court exploits of Heading.
In providing 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3 assists per game, the 6’2 guard from South Australia is second on his team in scoring and assists. He has scored in double figures twelve times this season, including five outings where he has scored more than 20. He recently matched his season-high of 24 in a win against Chicago State, for his second straight 20-point outburst.
— CBU Men's Basketball (@CBUmbb) January 12, 2019
There is a reason for the Lancers immediate impact at Division I level, and Heading can take a lot of the credit for that success.
2. Jack WHITE | Forward | Junior | Duke
Is there a better glue-guy than Jack White in college basketball this season? Duke’s Aussie captain has been the ‘Jack’-of-all-trades that the talent-laden Blue Devils needed as one of the must-watch teams across all of Division I.
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) January 14, 2019
Playing alongside the talented trio and projected Top 10 NBA Draft picks Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cameron Reddish, White has been outstanding, having earned the trust and respect Coach K and everyone else on one of the most talented rosters in recent memory, having been ranked number one in the nation for most of this season, and recently knocking off number four ranked Virginia.
Looking across his statistics of 6.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game, it would be easy to overlook and understate the influence White has on the Duke roster on game day. There is no ego, no demand to put up 20 shots per game, rather White does what his team needs to be successful – whether it is taking a key defensive assignment, diving on the floor for a loose ball, or setting the screen to help free up an open team-mate. Plus it is the calming, mature influence he has with the freshman stars that is just as important.
Playing alongside talents like Williamson, Barrett and Reddish, White is arguably the best defensive player on the team, as evidence by his 5 block and 10 rebound performance against Wake Forest. Played 42 minutes in a thrilling overtime loss to Syracuse, and played every minute of their last start 2-point win against Virginia. Just how far Duke goes this season may well be determined by how good White is as the glue guy.
1. Midseason Player of the Year: Kouat NOI | Forward | Sophomore | TCU
After missing the first three games of the season due to injury, Kouat Noi returned to action in his second year at TCU with an impact. He broke out with a 27-point explosion in his second game back, and has since gone on to deliver double-digit scoring in all but one game.
The Pick and Roll’s pre-season selection for Aussie Player of the Year, Noi has continued to back up his potential with performances on the court for the Horned Frogs. The 6’7 forward from Newcastle impressed in TCU’s successful run at the Diamond Head Classic on their way to a 9-game wining streak. However TCU then faced then #7 ranked Kansas and #23 Oklahoma in back-to-back games. And while the Horned Frogs dropped both, it as not without Noi’s effort.
Kouat Noi against OU 👇
– The most by a TCU player in 6 seasons.
— TCU Basketball (@TCUBasketball) January 13, 2019
In his best outing yet, Noi was on fire against the Sooners, pouring in a new career-high 30 points, shooting a red-hot 10-14 from the field which included a blistering 8-12 from downtown. Averaging 14.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting better than 41% from beyond the arc, Noi’s value is not only his scoring punch, but his defensive ability, using his athleticism and long reach to come up with 1.3 steals per game.
TCU’s success in the Big 12 this season may hinge on Noi’s ability to make a big impact on both ends of the court. So far he is delivering on that potential.
While Healy is a standout freshman Player of the Year candidate, he is not without competition. Great Danes team-mate Adam Lulka has also impressed, giving 9.3 points and 7 rebounds per game in starting alongside Healy. UC Riverside guard Dragan Elkaz is also impressing to, with the 6’5 guard providing 8.4 points while shooting better than 44% from three-point territory, recently torching Hawaii for a career-high 25 points on 7-10 triples.
Others in contention for the Top 10 included San Francisco’s senior forward Matt McCarthy who is having a career-best year for the Dons. The 6’9 Melburnian has been posting 9.9 points on 64% shooting alongside 6.8 rebounds in just 19.1 minutes per game. A trio of sophomore guards were also in line, including New Mexico’s Makuach Maluach, Winthrop’s Kyle Zunic and Quinnipiac’s Jacob Rigoni. All three are averaging around 10 points per game and could well work their way into the end of season awards.