October 28, 2008

Smith ranked as NCAA's best swingman

You don't have to go far to find good players who operate on the wings in college basketball.

Rivals.com's top 10 swingmen come from seven conferences the ACC, Big East, SEC and the Pac-10 along with Conference USA, the Mountain West and the Ohio Valley.

The Mountain West produced two selections BYU's Lee Cummard and UNLV's Wink Adams to tie for the most with the ACC (Miami's Jack McClinton and North Carolina's Wayne Ellington) and the Big East (Marquette's Jerel McNeal and Louisville's Terrence Williams). Cummard and Adams were voted the MWC's preseason co-players of the year.

Rivals.com will put out lists of the top 25 shooting guards and top 25 small forwards separately in November when it releases its complete preseason Power Rankings.

Rivals.com's Top 10 2008-09 Swingmen

1. Tyler Smith, Tennessee, Jr., 6-7/215
When Smith chose not to enter the NBA draft, Tennessee immediately became the favorite in the SEC. The Vols lost their two leading scorers (Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith), but Tyler Smith, who has athleticism and a great feel for the game, was their MVP last season, ranking first on the team in rebounding (6.7) and assists (3.4) and third in scoring (13.4 ppg) and steals (1.4). He also proved to be a clutch shooter, hitting game-winning jumpers in the final minute to beat Ole Miss and then-No. 1 Memphis.

2. James Harden, Arizona State, Soph., 6-5/218
No team may have improved more last season than Arizona State, which went from two Pac-10 wins to nine, and Harden was the main reason. Whenever the Sun Devils needed a key basket or a big play, they turned to Harden and he usually came through. He led the Sun Devils in scoring (17.8 ppg) and was second in rebounding (5.3) and assists (3.2).

3. Lee Cummard, BYU, Sr., 6-7/190
BYU became a legitimate threat to get back to the NCAA tournament the instant Cummard pulled out of the NBA draft. He may be the most versatile player in the nation and is without a doubt one of the most productive. He ranked fifth in the Mountain West in scoring (15.8 ppg) last season, sixth in rebounding (6.3), seventh in assists (3.5) and first in field-goal percentage (56.9 percent) and free-throw percentage (85.7 percent).

4. Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin, Sr., 6-2/190
Meet the only player in Division I history to have a quadruple-double. In just his third college game (last season was his first), the lightning-quick Hudson scored 25 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out 10 assists and made 10 steals versus Central Baptist. Hudson doesn't just rack up gaudy numbers against inferior competition, either. He scored 36 at Vanderbilt and had 35 at Memphis.

5. Jerel McNeal, Marquette, Sr., 6-3/200
McNeal may be the best perimeter defender in the nation. In 2006-07, he was voted the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year and he has racked up 216 career steals. McNeal also has developed into a dangerous scoring threat. He scored 28 points in a victory over Notre Dame in the semifinals of the Big East tournament last season and finished with a career-high 30 points in an overtime loss to Stanford in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

6. Jack McClinton, Miami, Sr., 6-1/185
Every scouting report on the Hurricanes should lead with, "Don't leave McClinton open." He shot 42.7 percent from 3-point range and made 91.9 percent of his free-throw attempts, which ranked third in the nation. He exploded for 38 points in a first-round NCAA tournament win over Saint Mary's.

7. Terrence Williams, Louisville, Sr., 6-6/215
He's ultra-athletic and plays with an unselfish style. He led the Cardinals in assists (4.5) for the second consecutive season and was second in scoring (11.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.2). He recently had knee surgery and will miss the preseason, but should return in late November.

8. Robert Vaden, UAB, Sr., 6-5/205
The new 3-point line could be another foot deeper and it wouldn't bother Vaden. Only one returning player (Davidson's Stephen Curry, who was Rivals.com's No. 7 point guard) made more 3-pointers than Vaden, an Indiana transfer who has great range and a quick release. He hit 142 shots from beyond the arc, many coming from NBA range.

9. Wayne Ellington, North Carolina, Jr., 6-4/190
This former five-star recruit is coming off a breakthrough season and gave the Tar Heels a steady No. 2 scoring threat to pair with Tyler Hansbrough. He scored in double figures in 34 of 39 games and averaged 16.6 points while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. He'll need to have a similar campaign for the heavily favored Tar Heels to win the national title as expected.

10. Wink Adams, UNLV, Sr., 6-0/200
No single player has been more responsible for the turnaround of UNLV's program. Adams is a three-year starter and has been a key part of Rebels teams that have won 57 games over the past two seasons. His strength is attacking off the dribble and finishing around the basket. He's also a superb defender.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.




 

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