Australians are continuing to increase their presence across NCAA Division I basketball, and with the season about to start, there is no better time than the present to reveal our preseason Top 10 Australian men.
The First Team is a mirror image of the 2017 All-Australian First Team, while a further three players return as Second Team nominees. Let's take a deeper dive into the upper echelon of Aussie talent set to grace the college hardwood in 2017-18.
All-Australian First Team
G | Emmett NAAR | Senior | Saint Mary's
Emmett Naar may not have lived up to the lofty expectations last season after a brilliant sophomore year, his production arguably took a hit due to the Gaels’ back court depth. He was still good for 9.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and an Aussie-best 5.6 dimes in 32.8 minutes per game and remained the floor general of the Gaels offense while shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc for his third straight season (42.4% 3PT). He was tied for first his team and in the West Coast Conference for assists (5.6) and moved into second all time in Gaels history for assists. He posted 11 assists three times during the season, including twice in the WCC Tournament, and posted a season best 19 points in a win against Loyola Marymount. He would finish the season by being named All-WCC Honourable Mention.
Emmett Naar did not take a break during the off-season, instead suiting up for the Australian World University Games team that finished in ninth place over Canada. He added 8 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in the last game, and was a model of consistency throughout the tournament. He will be better off for the experience and playing time alongside some others in the preseason Top 10.
The Gaels are favoured to win the WCC this season and enter the season ranked 22 on both the AP and Coaches polls. While Jock Landale may be the focal point, Naar remains the on-court coach for the Gaels. It is hard to see how the Gaels efficient offense will falter with the likes of the reliable Naar at the helm, a player that will be contending for All-WCC honours. While he will have to play at his best to hold onto the starting point guard role given the depth of his team, just how far the Gaels can go in 2017-18 may well come down to the performance of Naar and his ability to run the show and take care of the ball. We think he can.
G/F | Deng ADEL | Junior | Louisville
Adel elevated his game to new levels in 2016/17, becoming one of the lead players on a very talented Louisville roster that was nationally ranked all season. From his freshman to sophomore year, the 6'7 wing boosted his minutes from 12.1 to 30.1 and his scoring from 4 to 12.1 points per game. He doubled his rebounding output to 4.5 rebounds per outing, and increased his assists to 2.1 per game. Plus, he had a major influence on the success his team had, with a big Adel performance usually a barometer for his team’s results.
Adel also scored in double figures in 22 games, delivering a career-best 22 points against Wake Forest and another 21 points against then #14 ranked Duke. He would also come up with the goods on the big stage, with 16 point efforts against Jacksonville State and Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, a run that finished in the second round.
The Melburnian entered the 2017 NBA Draft this past year before withdrawing his name and deciding to return for his junior year with the Cardinals. This was a great decision, as he will now have the 'keys to the car' following Donovan Mitchell's departure for the NBA, now the leading scorer returning at Louisville this season and has been named preseason All-ACC Second Team and is one of 21 players on the Julius Erving preseason watch list for best small forward in college hoops.
Quentin Snider and VJ King will be looking to step up too, but Adel is primed for a 'breakout' year and become the go-to player at Louisville, a team that enters the season ranked 16th nationally and under a new coach. A big season by Adel will see him a likely 2018 NBA draftee. Now that is something we would like to see!
F | Xavier COOKS | Senior | Winthrop
Cooks delivered an outstanding junior year at Winthrop, and was one of the most versatile Aussies in action, providing 16.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 blocks per game. He became the 24th player in Eagles history to reach 1,000 career points, moved into 8th all-time at Winthrop for rebounding, and became the 25th player in Big South history with 500 rebounds and 100 blocks. He was duly named to the All-Big South First Team, and earned selection to the District 3 Second Team. He was also named to the Big South All-Tournament Team after delivering double-doubles in each of the Eagles three games en-route to the NCAA Tournament.
During the off-season, the forward played an integral role on the Australian World University Games as well. Cooks was outstanding in the win over Canada, piling on 20 points (8-of-15 FG) with 6 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in a dominant performance. He was a class act, and is sure to carry on that form into the Big South.
He is the go-to player on a Big South team looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. With Cooks firing on all cylinders, he is a leading candidate for Big South Player of the Year, and is certainly one of the many Aussie men to look out for this season.
F | Chima MONEKE | Senior | UC Davis
Moneke was nothing short of sensational in his first season of Division I hoops last season as a junior transfer, adding an impressing 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. The 6'6 forward was duly named Big West Newcomer of the Year, added to the All-Conference First Team, and was also named the recipient of the Riley Wallace Award for Top Division I Transfer. Hailing from Canberra, Moneke was the Big West’s top rebounder, and led his team to the NCAA Tournament thanks to his heroics, resulting in him being named Big West Tournament MVP.
Moneke ended his debut season at UC Davis by setting nine new single-season records: double-doubles (14), field goals made (192), total rebounds (341), offensive rebounds (92), defensive rebounds (249), rebounds per game (9.5), offensive rebounds per game (2.6), defensive rebounds per game (6.9) and blocked shots (51). He was also named All-District First Team for his on-court exploits. He season ended with an impressive 20 points (8-of-13 FG) and 9 rebounds in a loss to #1 ranked Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.
If Moneke can go anywhere near replicating-- if not improving-- on his junior year, he will be pushing for All-Conference Team selection and perhaps even Player of the Year honours-- not to mention the opportunity to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. Make sure you catch one or more of his games this season as he is fun to watch too!
C | Jock Landale | Senior | Saint Mary’s
Exciting is not necessarily the word that you would use to describe Landale's style of play, however there is no denying his impact on a game. Landale who not only stood tall as the best Aussie in division I college basketball last season, but he was one of the top 5 centers across all of the NCAA. He is widely predicted to surpass that and become the best pivot across the nation in 2017-18 and one of the top players overall, a prospect that should excite Aussie hoops fans.
The 6’11 center from Melbourne was simply outstanding all season long and went close to averaging a double-double. In registering a staggering 17 double-doubles during the season, including in both NCAA Tournament games, Landale would go on to average an Australian-best 16.9 points on an efficient 61.1% shooting from the field with 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. Such was his ability to use the ball well and make good decisions, despite being the focus of opposition defenses, he logged a player efficiency rating (PER) of 34.35 which was second best across the nation. He also came in second in the KenPom rankings which is no mean feat. He scored in double figures in 32 of the 34 games he played – all as a starter – and led the WCC in rebounding.
With all the on-court feats, Landale was duly named to the All-WCC First Team and WCC All-Tournament Team as the Gaels earned a ticket to the NCAA Tournament thanks to being a top 25 ranked team throughout the year. They were the second best team in the WCC behind eventual national championship runner-up Gonzaga. The accolades kept coming for the junior. He was one of 30 players shortlisted for the Naismith Trophy, named as one of 5 finalists for the 2017 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, was an Associated Press All-American honourable mention, selected to the USBWA All-District IX Team, the Lou Henson All-American Team, and a unanimous selection to the All-Mid-Major Madness First Team.
The 2017-18 preseason awards for Landale have been flowing too, among them being named WCC Player of the Year and to the preseason Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watch list. Sports Illustrated have him pegged as the 10th ranked candidate for National Player of the Year honours, and he has been shortlisted for the Oscar Robertson away for best player too-- and many others have the Australian well inside the top 50 players in the country. Another great year for Landale is more than likely to land him in the NBA. We will hear plenty from Landale in 2017-18, and for (many) good reasons.
All-Australian Second Team
G | Dejan VASILJEVIC | Sophomore | Miami
Playing in the ACC is not easy, yet freshman Dejan Vasiljevic managed to make an impact on an NCAA Tournament team in his first year and he is set to step it up a level in 2017-18.
The sharpshooter from Melbourne played in all 33 games, coming off the bench to average 17.5 minutes on court for 6 points, 1.3 rebounds per game while shooting 34.9% from beyond the arc. He would finish the season with a number of Miami freshman records too, earning top spot for 3-point field goals made (51), 3-point field goals attempted (146), while finishing fifth for 3-point field goal percentage.
Vasiljevic would score in double figures 8 times, registering a career-high of 18 points that included 6 triples in a win against Syracuse, while also racking up 17 points with 5 three’s against South Carolina State. He would score in all but 4 games, and provided good spark as part of the regular rotation in coming off the bench.
As a flat-out scorer, Vasiljevic demonstrated his value on the world stage during the off-season at the World University Games. At times he was near unguardable, hitting shots from all over the court, opening the tournament with back-to-back 28 point games. Clearly the work he has been putting in is paying off, piling on 30 points in a pre-season exhibition win over Newbery. Expect to see more of Vasiljevic this season, and if he can produce, the NCAA Tournament beckons for the number 13 ranked Miami.
G | Sam MCDANIEL | Senior | Louisiana Monroe
As a junior transfer to the Warhawks last season, Sam McDaniel enjoyed a very strong season. The 6'6 guard/small forward was able to adjust to the level of play quickly, taking a lead role to help his side compile a winning 24-9 overall record. He was able to post 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. His ceiling remains high, and if he can improve on his shooting percentages in 2017-18, then he could well finish the year as his team's leading scorer.
The son of former NBL star Wayne McDaniel, he sneaks into the top 10 over the likes of fellow wings Bosko Kostur (Bryant), Saint Mary's marksman Tanner Krebs, and Grand Canyon's Gerard Martin. Athletic and with an ability to finish at the rim, McDaniel is in a great position to elevate his game in the Sun Belt Conference. College Sports Madness have selected McDaniel as their preseason All-Sun Belt third Team selection, and if he has put in the work in the off-season, then we can expect to hear plenty more about McDaniel during 2017-18.
F | Duop REATH | Senior | LSU
On a terrible LSU team following the departure of Ben Simmons, Duop Reath was one of the shining lights in an otherwise forgetful 2016-17 season. In recording 7 double-doubles during the season, the 6’10 forward would average 12 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in starting every game except senior night. He was named SEC Player of the Week for his 23 point, 14 rebound, 3 steal and 3 block opening game. He would go on to score in double-figures in 21 games, ending the season as number 11 in the SEC for rebounding average, third in field goal percentage (51% FG) and eighth in blocked shots as one of the most reliable big men in the competitive SEC.
He has the skill set and physical attributes to be one of the most dominant forwards in the SEC this coming season. In fact it would not be a leap to suggest he has NBA-level tools. However the senior will need to step up a level, take control, and be a consistent force for the Tigers and help them win some games-- as overall-- the Tigers look like they will struggle once again as their exhibition loss to Tulane would attest.
Reath was set to play for Australia at the World University Games this off-season, however injury saw him forced to pull out at the last minute. One can only imagine the type of impact he would have had on that squad, and how it may have translated to the season ahead.
It would not surprise if Reath was able to average close to a double-double, and possibly work himself into the All-Aussie First Team by season end. He just needs to play with the 'eye of the tiger' and hope some of his team-mates are able to step up a gear or two. Reath's ceiling is high, and just how high he can go, will entirely be up to him.
F | Jack MCVEIGH | Junior | Nebraska
Jack McVeigh proved to be one of the best 6th men across the Big 10 last season, averaging 7.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. When he is on, he is deadly from beyond the arc, second on the Huskers squad for made three's last season (47) while shooting 34%.He also had eight double-figure outputs, including 21-point efforts against Louisiana Tech and Purdue.
In many regards, McVeigh did not live up to expectations last season, unable to consistently deliver. However when he did, he scored in bunches, and quickly. Like a number of other fellow countrymen on this list, McVeigh joined the Australian UniRoos during the off-season and performed admirably. He will be hoping to carry that experience and level of play into the 2017-18 season.
Standing at 6'8 and possessing a deadly three-ball, he can also slash to the basket and finish. That makes him a dangerous offensive threat and posing match-up problems for his opponents. If he can lift his output and level of consistency this season, he should be a permanent fixture in the starting line-up and a barometer for his team's success.
C | Jo Lual-Acuil Jr | Senior | Baylor
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr was a key reason why Baylor won 15 straight games on their way to becoming the number 1 ranked team in the nation last season. He was the anchor in the middle on the hottest team in college basketball not named Gonzaga, and while he experienced some ups and downs, ended the season with averages of 9.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
Standing at 7-feet tall and super-athletic, Lual-Acuil Jr was outstanding, notching a career-best 7 blocks in wins against #4 Oregon and Oklahoma, while he swatted away 5 or more shots in a game 6 times. He also posted a career-high 17 points against Jackson State, showed he had range out to beyond the arc by draining 8 triples for the season (33.3% 3PT), and managed 3 double-doubles. He was duly named to the All-Big 12 Defensive and Newcomer Teams for his achievements.
If it were not for a fellow Aussie named Landale, Lual-Acuil Jr would be in our first team. Alas, the Baylor pivot will need to become a consistent force this season if he is to get near Landale, particularly on the offensive end. While he has demonstrated he can shoot the three-ball, with improved play in the post, he could become a dominant force at both ends. His length is sure to trouble opposition players, and if he can put it all together, the Aussie big man is set to be one of the best centres in a quality Big 12 conference.
Australia is well represented by a huge number of quality forwards littered across NCAA Division I basketball. The ever reliable Fabjian Krslovic should once again do well at Montana in his final year, while Keanu Pinder is threatening to break out with Arizona. Jack Purchase is also set to feature prominently for Hawaii, and is yet to be seen what kind of impact Harry Froling will make in his first season at Marquette! Just how much opportunity is given to Jack White in Duke could also make things interesting.
Gerard Martin at Grand Canyon was on the cusp of selection to our preseason team as a guard, as was Saint Mary's perimeter threat Tanner Krebs.
All are players who could definitely have big year's and force their way into our top 10 by the end.
Preseason Player of The Year: Jock Landale
Was there ever doubting this selection? It is hard to look past our reigning Australian Player of the Year, and the only one in preseason polls as contending for national player of the years honours! His resume for last season was impressive, and with the Gael's boasting a seemingly endless supply of deadly three-point threats, it is hard not seeing the big man from Victoria dominating the paint again in 2017-18.