NCAA Spotlight on the Aussie Men: Majok and Bairstow come up big (8-Jan-14)

Damian Arsenis checks back in with all the latest on the Aussie men playing Division I college hoops over the past week.

Just Briefly...

After the big catch-up last week, things are back to normal again, and that means a certain Lobo power forward has maintained his dominance and a Broncos sharp-shooter continues to nip at his heels. However there have also been some other standouts this week so in keeping it brief this week, let's get stuck into things as conference play gets underway . . .

Player of the Week

There were a few candidates for this award this week, including Anthony Drmic, Peter Hooley and Corey Maynard (more later on these guys), but there were two players who stood out this week and I could not separate them; two big power forwards in Majok Majok of Ball State and once again the big beast, New Mexico Lobos power forward Cameron Bairstow. Both started 2014 with performances to remember . . .

Majok Majok | Ball State

Imposing 6’10” forward Majok Majok is a walking double-double waiting to happen, and against James Madison he did just that. Majok racked up an equal team-high 18 points on 7/10 shooting to go with 14 rebounds and 1 block in 35 minutes; however it was not enough to prevent his team from falling 68-73. However the best was yet to come.

Majok in action - Courtesy Ball State Athletics

Majok continued his outstanding form by recording his 5th double-double of the season as he powered Ball State to a 94-58 win over Division II School Oakland City. Intimidating his inferior opponents, Majok scored 18 of his season-high 25 points in the first half to go with a new career-high of 18 rebounds. He shot 7/12 from the field and an impressive 11/12 from the charity stripe, collecting 2 assists and 2 blocks in just 27 minutes of action. Following his outstanding two games for the week in which he averaged 21.5 points and 16 rebounds in Ball State’s past two games, Majok was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week. Ball State Head Coach James Whitford explained the importance of Majok to his team after the win against Oakland City:

“Majok has responded really well post-Christmas. He is really playing like a physical force. We all know talent-wise he is a first-team all-conference player. He has to be that way performance-wise for us to win.”

Senior Majok is now just one of 15 players in the country to average a double-double on the season, with 10.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, ranking him 11th in the country for rebounds. With those kinds of numbers, he is likely to be gaining some attention from professional teams from all around the world.

Cameron Bairstow | New Mexico

New Mexico only had one game over the past week, and that was their Mountain West opener at home against Colorado State in which they won 80-73. Hugh Greenwood tried hard to steal the limelight away from Bairstow in returning from injury after missing 3 games. He was immediately reinserted into the starting line-up and showed little sign of rust in logging 8 points including 2/3 from long-range along with 2 rebounds and 3 assists without a single turnover. And while it may be a New Year, it was just the same, if not an even better Cameron Bairstow that turned up to ensure a Lobos victory.

Bairstow in the post against Charleston Southern - Courtesy New Mexico Athletics

The 6’9” power forward was once again unstoppable, mixing it up in the post, off the dribble and with mid-range jumpers in matching his career-high of 29 points on 8/13 shooting. He also pulled down a new career-high 14 rebounds to go with 1 assist and 1 block in 34 minutes on court. The Rams had no answer for Bairstow as he drew an incredible 14 fouls and made 13/20 from the charity stripe (all career-highs) as a result. Colorado State’s Head Coach Larry Eustachy had to say about Bairstow after the game:

“I don’t think he’s a pro, I think he’s a guy that might start for an NBA team.”

Bairstow has fast gone from the third best player on his team to one of the top 10 seniors in college basketball, and one of if not the best power forwards in the nation. He has scored 20 or more points 9 times this season already, and now has 4 double-doubles against his name. With impressive averages of 20.8 points and 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 blocks per game, and shooting percentages of 55.3% from the field and 78% from the line, he is making NBA scouts sit up and take notice.

Team of the Week

While all three of the Australians making an impression on the game, I just could not go past the Boise State Broncos for team of the week once again.

Drmic scores against Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic - Courtesy John Kelly via Boise State Athletics

Boise State opened their Mountain West conference schedule with a solid 86-79 win over Fresno State, and it was once again Anthony Drmic pacing the Broncos. Drmic scored a team-high 19 points including a perfect 8/8 from the line to go with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal in 33 minutes. However it was not just Drmic getting in on the action, with freshman forward Nick Duncan turning some heads in coming off the bench as he connected on 3/4 from beyond the arc to score 9 points with 3 rebounds and 1 assist in just 14 minutes. Starter Igor Hadziomerovic did not wish to be left out either and chimed in with the same line as Duncan but in 27 minutes of action.

Hadziomerovic on the move vs Fresno State - Courtesy John Kelly via Boise State Athletics

Drmic has been enjoying a career year with the Broncos and continues to also impress on the defensive end. He now averages 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game as a junior, and will continue to attract the attention of NBA scouts ahead of his senior year given his outstanding form.

Best of the Rest

There were some other outstanding performances over the past week that would have otherwise potentially grabbed one of the weekly awards, and they deserve calling out.

Despite the best efforts of Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley, Albany was not able to account for Pittsburgh, eventually falling 46-58. Rowley contributed 10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block, while Hooley chimed in with 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. It was an admirable effort by the Great Danes, but the last 8 minutes before half-time ultimately proved the difference as they went scoreless in that time.

Albany was able to put aside the loss to open their America East conference slate with a commanding 81-56 demolition of Hartford in a game that boasted 7 Aussies. However it was Hooley that emerged as the standout, going 7/11 from the field range in scoring a new career-high of 25 points. He also collected 5 rebounds and 6 assists in 35 minutes. Albany shot a sizzling 16/23 from beyond the arc, with Hooley nailing 6/9 of those on his own. Hooley is now averaging 14.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, whilst Sam Rowley averages 12.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

Bryant earned a thrilling win after a making the go-ahead basket within the last 2 seconds to prevail 70-68 over Lehigh. Corey Maynard made a lay-up to edge Bryant in front 67-66 with 1:12 remaining in what proved to be close contest, and he then had a crack at the game winner too. However his shot with less than 3 seconds to go rimmed out but was followed up successfully by a team-mate to ensure a 2-point win. While he may not have made the game-winner himself, Maynard had a cracking game in racking up 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal, taking good care of the ball in going without a single turnover.

Starting Big Sky conference play on the road, Eastern Washington lost a close one to Weber State 67-74. After going scoreless in the first half due to foul trouble, Venky Jois tried to put his team on his shoulders and edged them to within 3 points with just over 1:40 remaining, but on the following possession he was blocked and Weber State held on to eventually win by 7. Jois finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds in 27 minutes, an outstanding effort considering being restricted in the first half due to foul trouble.

The Eagles who were a popular choice as a contender for the Big Sky championship dropped their second straight conference game in going down to Idaho State 72-83. Jois was the Eagle’s best player, compiling his 4th double-double of the season to finish with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 32 minutes. Despite Jois’ 10 rebounds, the Eagles struggled in the paint and were outdone on the boards 33-42 as they lost their 6th straight. The 6’7” Jois now averages an impressive 12.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game and will be keen to help his team break the drought and recording their first conference win against Montana State.

Daniel Trist scored 13 points to go with 5 rebounds and 1 steal but it was not enough as Lafayette dropped their Patriot League opener 66-85 to Army. The Leopards then recorded their second straight loss in conference play to Navy 71-79. Trist was once again at the forefront in attempting to halt the slide and managed 14 points on 6/11 shooting to go with 9 rebounds and 1 assist in just 23 minutes on court. Lafayette only managed 4 points from their bench and therefore now finds themselves with a 0-2 record in the patriot League. With averages of 12.9 points, 6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, Trist is certainly doing his best to get his team back on track.

And in rounding out this week's Aussies in college recap, there were a couple of other noteworthy performances:

  • UC-Davis took on Simpson University and easily dispatched them 93-69. Forward Igor Nujic was in fine form, scoring 14 points to go with 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 28 minutes.

  • Freshman forward Joshua Oswald compiled a new career-high of 12 points as a starter in helping Miami (OH) push #23 ranked Massachusetts all the way before succumbing 65-73. Oswald also managed 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals in 31 minutes as he continues to impress in his first season of college hoops.

Has Damian left out any performance of note? Do you agree with his selections? Please share a comment!