While the basketball world drooled over the college debut performance by Ben Simmons, two more wins later the hype continues to build around the potential #1 NBA draft pick in 2016.
Simmons was 1 rebound shy of a double-double in a 91-69 win against Kennesaw State, effortlessly compiling 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 4 steals. South Alabama also posed no challenge to Simmons and Louisiana State, with the Tigers earning a 78-66 win. The 6'10 Aussie was again silky, this time racking up a big 23 point and 16 rebound double-double with 3 assists and 2 steals. What has impressed most is the ease in which Simmons has gone about his performances, and despite attracting plenty of attention, still managing to score at 63% from the field while he has yet to pull the trigger on a three-ball, despite being the primary ball-handler.
After 3 games, Simmons is delivering 18.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. With LSU's senior shooting guard Keith Hornsby yet to play this season, one can only expect Simmons' numbers to continue to climb. Already just the 4th freshman to be named to the pre-season Associated Press All-American team, he has since been named to the Wooden Award watch list, yet one feels the best is still yet to come.
One of the big stories of the season so far is the outstanding performances of Eastern Washington's Felix Von Hofe. The 6'5 sharpshooter has been outshining team-mate Venky Jois, backing up his season opening 21 point outlining with an even better 25 point shooting exhibition in a 76-70 win against Seattle. Von Hofe landed 7/12 from long-range to go with his 4 rebounds and 3 assists. While Von Hofe was reigning three's, Jois was busy compiling a line of 5 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. This backed up his 29 point explosion in a massive 126-64 win over George Fox - a game in which Von Hofe sat out. Freshman Jesse Hunt added 6 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in that same game.
Even though he has only played two games to date, Von Hofe is now averaging 23 points per game and shooting a red-hot 54% from the three-point line. Jois has been good for 15.3 points (71% FG), 7.7 rebounds, 2,7 assists and 2 blocks per game as they both look to lead the team as they look to defend their Big Sky title this season.
After a couple of lean years, Saint Mary's is riding their Australian contingent to a 2-0 start to the season thanks to big performances from Emmett Naar, Dane Pineau, Jock Landale and Kyle Clark. In particular, Naar has been the shining light for the Gael's and doing so with some exceptionally hot shooting from downtown. In their recent 89-63 victory over Manhattan, Naar made 6/8 shots including 3/4 triples on his way to 15 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. This backed up his 27 point explosion in their season opening win that included 7/11 on three's. Pineau added 13 points and 9 rebounds, Landale 8 points and 6 rebounds off the bench, while freshman Clark impressed with 16 points and 3 rebounds in the win.
Naar so far is averaging 21 points per game while connecting on the three-ball at an amazing 67% clip while dishing out 6 dimes per game. His starting companion Pineau is averaging a double-double of 10.5 points (67% FG) and 10 rebounds per outing to be just as impressive. With so many Aussies contributing on their roster, the Gael's are once again a must-watch team for any Aussie hoops fan.
Earning high praise has been sophomore forward Xavier Cooks, leading Winthrop to three straight wins to open the season. Cooks opened the year with a statement performance in a solid 102-95 win over Hampton. He compiled an outstanding line of 22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steal in the win, and then served up more in wins against Truett-McConnell (106-78) and Jacksonville State (80-69). Cooks posted a 19 point and 11 rebound outing with 3 assists and 1 block followed by a game-high 19 points, this time alongside 8 rebounds and 1 block. In averaging 20 points and 9.3 rebounds per game so far, what also impresses is that he has been scoring efficiently, making shots at 61% from the field and 40% from long-range to demonstrate his versatility.
Enjoying a brilliant start to the season has been 6'10 senior power forward Majok Deng in playing for Louisiana Monroe. The big man is averaging 16.3 points (58% FG), 8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2 blocks per game (3 games), including a big double-double in the Warhawks most recent win, an 80-64 victory over Northwestern State. He posted an impressive 19 points on 8/11 shooting, also collecting 12 rebounds and 3 assists as his side improved to 2-1 to commence the season. This win followed a close 56-67 loss to Minnesota, a game in which Deng added 16 points and 6 rebounds. He is playing a leading role for the Warhawks and we can expect to see even better performances over the coming weeks.
Boise State is 1-2 this season after falling short to #12 ranked Arizona 76-88. Anthony Drmic had opened the season on fire, recording back-to-back 20 points games, including a 22 point outing in a 101-81 victory over Northern Arizona. He sizzled in that game, connecting on 4/7 from long-range to help spark the Broncos to a big win. Fellow Aussie Nick Duncan added 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists, however he was only warming up.
Nick Duncan | Credit: Boise State University Media Relations
In the loss to Arizona, it was Duncan who stepped up to the challenge. He connected on 5/11 from beyond the arc on his way to 21 points with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He had great support from Drmic who chimed in with 9 points. Drmic is averaging 18 points per game while shooting better than 44% from the three-point line with Duncan providing 13 points a contest and shooting better than 36% from the same distance. While the loss to Arizona was tough, it is likely to help launch their season after a slow start.
Albany had a tough start to the season, with losses to #2 Kentucky and Boston University. Against Boston, Peter Hooley's shooting stroke deserted him, yet he still managed to gather an equal team-best 15 points thanks to making 8/10 from the charity stripe. Fellow Aussie Mike Rowley was the other Great Dane with 15 points alongside 8 rebounds in the narrow 64-69 loss. Albany would then go on to win their next two games against Colgate (88-67) and Oneonta State. Hooley and Rowley combined for 13 points and 5 rebounds in the win against Colgate. Rowley added 13 points and 9 rebounds in the trouncing of Oneonta State while Hooley chipped in 9 points on 3/4 triples in limited minutes as the bench got a good run. The Great Danes will be hoping to maintain their momentum next against South Florida.
While his side is yet to taste victory this season, junior transfer Matt Donlan has enjoyed a big start to the season with his new side Youngstown State. The 6'7 forward is averaging a career-best 16.5 points per game across three games, including performances of 15 points against Kent State (70-79), a career-best 18 in a 78-100 loss to Toledo, and a 9 points with 10 rebound in a heart-breaking 101-103 triple-overtime loss to Florida Gulf Coast. After seeing precious little court time in his short-lived stint with South Dakota State, Donlan seems to have found a team where his talents are being best utilised.
In making his collegiate debut, Jack McVeigh impressed all with a 16 point effort in Nebraska's 97-51 demolition of Mississippi Valley State. The dynamic forward went a perfect 4.4 from beyond the arc in a near-flawless first game, adding 4 rebounds and 1 steal in just 13 minutes. He then backed up with 5 points and 4 rebounds in the Cornhuskers 63-87 loss to #11 Villanova, and then 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in a 75-60 win against Delaware State.