With the 2016/17 NCAA Division I college season now moving into conference play, it is a great time to take a look at who have been the best performing Australian men at the mid-way mark of the season.
We count down from 5 through to 1…
5 | Chima MONEKE | UC Davis
Very few people would have predicted that 6’6 junior forward Chima Moneke would have the breakout season that he has delivered to date after red-shirting last season.
Moneke has not only been consistently good for the Aggies, but he has been brilliant too! Originally hailing from Nigeria before calling Australia home, has been a shining light for UC Davis, averaging 15.1 points per game at 57.6% shooting from the field alongside 8.2 rebounds a contest. He has scored in double figures in all but 2 games, with a season high of 24 points against California headlining five 20 point outings and 6 double-doubles.
After playing alongside Utah Jazz point guard Dante Exum at Lake Ginninderra College before heading to the US, Moneke is fast making a name for himself. across the Aggies’ current winning streak of 4, he has posted 3 double-doubles and has now become the barometer for his team’s success. For his outstanding play, Moneke earned Big West Player of the week honours in the opening week of January.
— Big West MBB (@BigWestMBB) January 2, 2017
4 | Duop REATH | Louisiana State
One of Australia’s most talented players in Division I college this season, Reath has more than adequately filled the black hole left behind at LSU by compatriot Ben Simmons.
Reath opened the season with a bang, making everyone stand up and take notice with an impressive 23 point, 14 rebound, 3 steal and 3 block performance that earned him SEC Player of the Week. Since then, Reath has continued to terrorise opposing forwards with his efficient play at one end and his imposing size and strength at the other. Like Moneke, Reath has only played in 3 games where he failed to score in double-figures, collecting 3 double-doubles and 3 twenty point games.
— SEC (@SEC) November 14, 2016
A reliable threat every game, the 6’10 forward has entrenched himself in the starting line-up, contributing 14.1 points (55.8% FG), 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. When the junior transfer from Western Australia plays well, the Tigers have been in contention to win.
3 | Jo LUAL-ACUIL JR | Baylor
There is no doubting the influence that Jo Lual-Acuil Jr has had in Baylor’s unbeaten run in rising to the number 2 national ranking.
Lual-Acuil Jr is an athletic blocking and dunking excitement machine and a joy to watch. The 7-footer from Melbourne via the Sudan, has been in devastating form and is one of the top shot-blockers in the country at 3.5 rejections per game (3rd in nation). However he is not one-dimensional, demonstrating an ability to also hit the three-ball on one of the hottest teams in college basketball. Adding 10.7 points per contest at 61.9% from the field, Lual-Acuil Jr is also pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game and doing damage at both ends. He posted a season-high 7 blocks against #4 ranked Oregon, and swatted 6 more in wins over #10 Louisville and #7 Xavier.
— Baylor Basketball (@BaylorMBB) December 19, 2016
The center who was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week last week, was forced to sit out last season due to a heart issue. Since his emergence onto the national stage this season, he has started attracting interest from NBA scouts and is one player to look out for as Baylor look to try to maintain their unblemished record.
2 | Xavier COOKS | Winthrop
One of the most versatile Aussie forwards this season is Xavier Cooks who is having an outstanding season with Big South Conference contender Winthrop.
Cooks can do it all, score inside and out, rebound, play good D and set up his team mates. He is posting career-best numbers with 16.1 points per game at 50.3% from the field and 35.2% from downtown. He has also delivered 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game that highlights his value to the team. If he can limit his turnovers (3.2), he is a likely candidate to be named Big South Player of the Year.
He has posted 5 double-doubles and recorded a season-best 27 points with 10 rebounds in the Eagles’ win over Georgia Southern. He opened the season strongly with a performance that earned him Big South Player of the Week, and it would be foolish to think he will not earn the honour again before conference play ends.
— BigSouthMBB (@BigSouthMBB) November 15, 2016
1 | Jock LANDALE | Saint Mary’s
Jock Landale leads a strong contingent of Aussie big men delivering the goods this season. The 6’11 pivot from Melbourne has been a dominant force for the Gales in the post, taking advantage of the swarm of sharpshooters Saint Mary’s has at their disposal to spread the floor.
In almost averaging a double-double, Landale is one of the most efficient scorers in college hoops this season, scoring 18.4 points per game at 64.8% from the field. He has also pulled down 9.7 rebounds per contest while demonstrating his passing ability out of the post with 2 assists per game. He opened the Gael’s campaign with a 33 point and 9 rebound explosion in a win against Nevada that earned him West Coast Player of the Week honours.
— WCC Basketball (@WCChoops) November 14, 2016
Landale has been nothing short of exceptional this season to date, posting 6 double-doubles, scoring twenty or more 6 times and fifteen or more 11 times. He also put on a sublime performance against BYU, consisting of 26 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steals. If Landale can maintain his level of consistency, not only can the #19 ranked Saint Mary’s challenge Gonzaga for the WCC title, but they also have a chance at making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
We should mention the following players who just missed out in consideration for our mid-season top 5:
- Emmett NAAR | Saint Mary’s
- Felix VON HOFE | Eastern Washington
- Sam MCDANIEL | Louisiana Monroe
Season Averages (as at 7 January 2017)
|Felix VON HOFE||EWU||33.9||41.0%||41.6%||82.4%||2.9||0.9||0.5||0.4||0.9||14.4|
|Jo LUAL-ACUIL JR||BAY||25.8||62.1%||40.0%||51.2%||7.6||0.5||3.6||0.5||0.9||11.0|
|Kye DE LAVEAGA||NAU||6.6||38.1%||38.9%||0.0%||0.3||0.0||0.0||0.1||0.3||2.6|