With teams like Colorado, Saint Louis, VCU, Memphis, and Nebraska - teams with players whose dreads are much easier to notice - all not making it past the first weekend of the tournament, I figured the drought would continue for yet another year. But then I saw Young during Kentucky's 3rd round game against Wichita State.
Throughout the season Young had been letting his hair grow; but the same as with Colorado F Xavier Johnson last year, it hadn't grown enough for me to suspect he was going to convert it to dreads. In fact, as late as the Wildcats' loss to Florida in the final of the SEC tournament on Mar. 16 he still hadn't converted it yet.
But there he was a week later scoring 13 points and grabbing 8 rebounds - and causing me to do double and triple takes (are those really dreads?) - as UK handed top-seeded Wichita State their 1st loss of the season. There he was a week after that hitting 5 of 7 from the field and scoring 13 points in a 75-72 victory over Michigan that sent the Wildcats to the Final Four. There he was with 17 points and 5 rebounds to help Kentucky edge Wisconsin 74-73 in the semifinals. And there he was - at 6-foot-6 - dunking in the face of Connecticut 7-footer Amida Brimah in the championship game (photos below), a play that sparked an 8-0 run the Wildcats needed after the Huskies had pulled ahead by 9 midway through the 2nd half. Young scored 6 of the 8 points in that run, which made the score 48-47 with 8:13 to play, and finished with a team-leading 20 points; but UConn never gave up the lead, hanging on to win 60-54.
Hopefully James is planning on keeping the dreads for a while. But we won't be watching them get longer in a Kentucky uniform. Young, a 2nd team all-SEC selection, decided to forgo his final three college seasons and entered the NBA draft - and he was picked in the 1st round (17th overall) by the Boston Celtics. Young waited too long before debuting his dreads to be eligible for my 2014 all-America with dreads team. But even without him, this year's team is likely the best ever in the 6 years I've done this report - led by a trio of outstanding guards .....
During the first three seasons of his career Jordair Jett served as the super sub of the Saint Louis Billikens. But this year the team needed him to do more - to which he replied, "Don't worry, I got this." Moving into the starting lineup (and averaging a career most 32 minutes) Jett, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound point guard, not only played well enough to repeat as a starter on the all-America with dreads team, he did so well that he was named the Atlantic 10 player of the year. Not that he was a one-man show - he had a very strong supporting cast - but Jett contributed more than his fair share to the team's considerable success. SLU fans had plenty to cheer about, including a 19-game winning streak that boosted the Billikens to 25-2 and into the top 10 of the AP rankings for a couple of weeks in February.
Unfortunately Jordair and his teammates once again couldn't get over the hump in the NCAA Tournament. For the 3rd straight year they won their 2nd round game before being eliminated in the 3rd round - this year losing to Louisville 66-51. Please click on the link below to read a late-season article featuring Jett from St. Louis Magazine.
Of course, if you've been following this blog regularly, at least you haven't been totally in the dark about Smith. As a freshman in 2012 he averaged an impressive 4.2 assists per game and made my freshman all-America with dreads team. Last year he averaged 5.0 APG and was a reserve on the 2013 all-America with dreads team. And this season he moves into the starting lineup after improving to a second-best-in-the-nation 7.7 APG. Eight times during the season Speedy had double figures in assists, including back-to-back games with 13 against UNC-Charlotte and Marshall in January. Later on (Feb. 8-Mar. 14) he had a streak of 9 games in a row with 8 or more assists. And all this he did while turning the ball over just 2.4 times per game. I mean, there aren't very many (and maybe not any) guards playing 30 minutes a game that average more assists than points; but Smith just about did that this season.
I was pulling so hard for Louisiana Tech in the CUSA championship game against Tulsa on the morning of Mar. 15, but it just was not meant to be. The Bulldogs had routed UNC-Charlotte and Southern Mississippi in the quarter- and semifinals but had their hands full with the Golden Hurricane. Through the first 32 minutes of the game neither team led by more than 5 points. And then the Bulldogs suddenly went ice cold - scoring on just 1 of 11 possessions (0-10 FG and 2 turnovers) as Tulsa went on a 13-2 run to take a 10-point lead with 1:02 to go. Realizing the urgency of the situation, Smith actually shot the ball on three straight possessions (and missed) near the end of that span. It was so disappointing. The Bulldogs then had a strong showing in the NIT, but that had a finish equally as disappointing. After surviving Iona in a thriller and winning at Georgia, they lost a 78-75 heartbreaker at Florida State, falling barely short of making the trip to NYC for the semifinals.
Speedy will get one last chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. And if he continues to improve, he just might get a shot at reaching the NBA after that. The first link below is to an article featuring Smith on the Lafayette Advertiser website from late January. Below that the second link is to an article singing Smith's praises from the Louisiana Tech website. And on the bottom is a link to a video where Speedy answers fans' questions in an episode of "Talking Tech."
CRUEL AND USUAL PUNISHMENT
For some teams the season is considered a failure if they don't at least make it to the NCAA Tournament. For others getting to the "Big Dance" doesn't come so easily. But it shouldn't be as hard as it has been for the College of William & Mary. If you don't remember writing (or typing) W&M as you have filled out your tournament brackets over the years, it's because you haven't. Not this year, not last year, not five years ago, not ever. Astonishingly the Tribe are on a list of teams - notoriously dubbed the "Forgotten Five" - who have been in Division 1 every year since the inception of the tournament in 1947 but have never played a single game in it. It looked like the drought was going to become a thing of the past for W&M fans, who have grown accustomed to the disappointment year after year. But what happened this year was downright cruel.
After avenging two regular season losses to CAA runner-up Towson with a 75-71 victory in the semifinals of the CAA tournament, the Tribe were one victory away from the Big Dance. I was unable to make it home from work in time to see the finish of the CAA championship game on Mar. 10; and after finding out what happened, I was glad I wasn't - because I might have died right then and there. W&M was 80 seconds away from that one victory, leading regular season champion Delaware by 6 points. But just as Tribe fans were getting set to pop the corks from their champagne bottles ......
...... It was like a race car running out of gas inches away from the finish line. Or a hurdler stumbling and falling over the the last hurdle. Delaware scored on three straight possessions to take a 1-point lead, a last-second shot was missed, the game was lost, the plane fight to one of the NCAA Tournament sites cancelled. Now I'm not familiar with the history of William & Mary basketball, but that had to be the most crushing defeat in program history. I hope nobody committed suicide.
William & Mary has improved from 6-26 to 13-17 to 20-12 during Thornton's three seasons on the team. Maybe in his last chance next year (please!) Marcus will make that last-second shot to nail down that ever so elusive tournament bid.
2014 COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-AMERICA WITH DREADS
Nine players with dreads earned all-conference honors in their respective leagues, and eight of them made the team. As mentioned earlier, I'd consider this season's team the best ever. I mean, these 13 guys could go out and have a very successful season. Picking the starting lineup was kind of obvious; but there were a lot of candidates for the reserve spots, and several had to settle for honorable mention.
FYI: An asterisk in parenthesis (*) next to a player's name indicates he was on the team last year. An (HM) means he was honorable mention last year. The team is comprised only of players with dreads I know about. If I omitted somebody that I don't know about, please let us know about them.
- Shaq Goodwin (left photo below) - 6-9 SOPH F - Memphis - 2nd team all-AAC; 11.5 PPG, 58.4 FG%, 6.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.8 BPG
- Jordair Jett (*) - 6-1 SR G - Saint Louis - Atlantic 10 player of the year, Atlantic 10 all-defensive; 13.9 PPG, 49.0 FG%, 4.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.5 SPG
- Terran Petteway (right photo below) - 6-6 SOPH F - Nebraska - 1st team all-Big 10; 18.1 PPG (led Big 10), 42.6 FG%, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG
- Kenneth Smith (*) - 6-3 JR G - Louisiana Tech - 1st team all-CUSA, CUSA defensive player of the year; 7.8 PPG, 42.3 FG%, 3.8 RPG, 7.7 APG, 2.5 SPG
- Marcus Thornton (*) - 6-4 JR G - William & Mary - 1st team all-CAA; 18.7 PPG, 43.5 FG%, 2.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.1 SPG
- Chris Anderson - 6-6 SR F - Louisiana Tech - 11.9 PPG, 43.6 FG%, 5.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.1 SPG
- Korey Billbury - 6-3 SOPH G - ORU - 2nd team all-SLC; 15.3 PPG, 46.0 FG%, 6.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG
- Quincy Diggs - 6-6 SR F - Akron - 2nd team all-MAC; 12.8 PPG, 42.2 FG%, 4.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.7 SPG
- Rod Hall (HM) - 6-1 JR G - Clemson - 9.7 PPG, 43.3 FG%, 2.5 RPG, 4.0 APG
- Xavier Johnson (left photo below) - 6-7 SOPH F - Colorado - 12 PPG, 46.4 FG%, 5.9 RPG
- Dominique McKoy - 6-8 JR F - Duquesne - 9.7 PPG, 59.5 FG%, 7.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.2 BPG
- Maurice N'dour (right photo below) - 6-9 JR F - Ohio - 2nd team all-MAC; 13.8 PPG, 51.1 FG%, 7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 BPG
- Michael Qualls - 6-6 SOPH G - Arkansas - 11.6 PPG, 42.9 FG%, 4.5 RPG, 1.9 APG
- Northwestern JR G JerShon Cobb
- Northern Arizona JR Aaseem Dixon
- Towson SR G Rafriel Guthrie - 3rd team all-CAA
- East Tennessee State SR F Hunter Harris (*)
- Campbell JR F Reco McCarter (HM)
- Alabama JR G Levi Randolph (*)
- Vanderbilt JR F James Siakam
- Tulane FR G Jonathan Stark
- Penn State SOPH F Brandon Taylor
- Lamar SR F Amos Wilson (HM)
JUST SAY MO
There were two freshmen with dreads on the Virginia Commonwealth roster this season. While G Doug Brooks had a quiet season (averaging 4 minutes played per game) typical of most freshmen, there was nothing typical about F Mo Alie-Cox. You won't find many 260-pound freshmen basketball players; and even fewer that weigh 260 and stand only 6-foot-6. But make no mistake. He may look like a defensive end, but his talent lies in defending on a basketball court - as several of VCU's opponents found out this season.
Figuring somebody that short and that heavy would be no threat to block their shot, unsuspecting players took it to the rim - and ended up getting an earful of "Mo says no!" from VCU fans after being rejected by Alie-Cox. Blessed with a 36-inch vertical jump and long arms, Mo definitely knows blocked shots. He led the team and ranked #8 in the Atlantic 10 with a 1.4 average despite playing only 14 minutes a game. As mentioned in the article (link below) from the Pickin Splinters blog, Alie-Cox came on strong toward the end of the season. And with the improvement he figures to make in the seasons ahead ..... well, VCU opponents are going to get very tired of hearing Mo says no.
2014 FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICA WITH DREADS
The last two seasons featured bumper crops of freshmen with dreads; but they kind of have fizzled out. Of the 20 players on the 2012 and 2013 teams, only 4 made the all-America with dreads team this season, and 6 of them are now ex-dreads. This season there weren't many freshmen with dreads who had good seasons, so this will have to be a 6-man team.
- Mo Alie-Cox - 6-6 F - VCU - 14 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 51.9 FG%, 3.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG
- James Currington - 6-6 F - Mississippi Valley State - 24 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 54.2 FG%, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG
- Marcus Owens (left photo below) - 6-1 G - Lamar - 14 MPG, 4.0 PPG, 34.3 FG%, 1.9 RPG
- Aaron Ross - 6-8 F - Texas Tech - 10 MPG, 3.7 PPG, 48.6 FG%, 1.9 RPG
- Jonathan Stark (right photo below) - 6-0 G - Tulane - 37 MPG, 14.5 PPG, 41.7 FG%, 2.6 RPG, 4.2 APG
- Tony Wills - 6-3 G - Illinois State - 16 MPG, 3.6 PPG, 39.4 FG%, 2.8 RPG
2014 COLLEGE BASKETBALL DREAD ALL-AMERICA
We come now to the most subjective part of this report, because my opinion of who were the players with the best dreads this season is likely to differ from yours. Length of dreads is the most important criteria I use for selecting this team; but having long dreads is meaningless if you've got them stifled or reduced all the time (are you listening, Terran Petteway?). I know it's necessary to band your dreads to keep them from interfering with your sight, but you can band them in such a way that they're still flowing nicely on the court. Here are the players who I thought accomplished that the best this season.
- Aaseem Dixon (left photo above) - Northern Arizona JR G
- Cameron Dobbs (*) (right photo above) - Mississippi Valley State SOPH G
- Fred Garmon (left photo below) - Austin Peay JR G
- Tevin Moore - Mississippi State JR G
- Tavares Sledge (*) (right photo below) - Wright State JR C
- Justin Childs (*) (left photo above) - Tennessee-Martin SR G
- Rod Hall (*) (right photo above) - Clemson JR G
- Jordair Jett - Saint Louis SR G
- David Rivers - Nebraska JR F
- Richie Spiller - FAMU FR G
- Ervin Thomas (*) (left photo below) - Mississippi Valley State SR F
- Marcus Thornton (*) - William & Mary JR G
- Devin Wilson (right photo below) - North Florida JR G
- Mo Alie-Cox - VCU FR F
- Donnell Minton (*) (photo below) - Lamar SOPH G
- Parris Massey - UMass-Lowell SR F
- Nate Rucker - Kennesaw State JR F
- Amos Wilson (*) - Lamar SR F
Now, if you want to see dreads the way they're meant to be on the basketball court, please click on the link below and check out part or all of Marcus Thornton's 13-minute highlight video from this season.
DREAD DUOS (and trios)
There were approximately 65 players with dreads on Division 1 rosters this season, but they did not represent 65 different teams. Several players with dreads had a fellow dreadhead (or two) as a teammate. Here are the 8 teams with at least two players with dreads, ranked by the sum of the players' points per game averages.
- LOUISIANA TECH (27.1 PPG) - Chris Anderson (11.9), Kenneth Smith (7.8), Cordarius Johnson (7.4)
- NEBRASKA (21.1 PPG) - Terran Petteway (18.1), David Rivers (3.0)
- LAMAR (18.9 PPG) - Amos Wilson (11.4), Marcus Owens (4.0), Donnell Minton (3.5)
- MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE (17.1 PPG) - James Currington (10.4), Cameron Dobbs (4.8), Ervin Thomas (2)
- BETHUNE-COOKMAN (15.3 PPG) - Malik Jackson (10.8), Travis Elliott (4.5)
- WRIGHT STATE (5.3 PPG) - Steven Davis (2.7), Tavares Sledge (2.6)
- VCU (5.2 PPG) - Mo Alie-Cox (3.3), Doug Brooks (1.9)
- MISSISSIPPI STATE (2.0 PPG) - Tevin Moore (1.2), De'Runnya Wilson (0.9)
27 of the 81 points that Louisiana Tech scored every game were scored by players with dreads - (left to right in photo on left) Speedy Smith, Chris Anderson, and Cordarius Johnson. Five players with dreads were on the court when LA Tech routed Central Arkansas on Nov. 20. All five appear at least once in this 2-minute video of some of the game highlights.
The per game averages for the leading players with dreads. I'll list the top 15 in scoring and the top 10 in the other categories.
Marcus Thornton - William & Mary - 18.7
Terran Petteway - Nebraska - 18.1
Korey Billbury - ORU - 15.3
Jonathan Stark - Tulane - 14.5
Jordair Jett - Saint Louis - 13.9
Maurice N'dour - Ohio - 13.8
Quincy Diggs - Akron - 12.8
Reco McCarter (photo on right) - Campbell - 12.7
JerShon Cobb - Northwestern - 12.2
Xavier Johnson - Colorado - 12
Chris Anderson - Louisiana Tech - 11.9
Michael Qualls - Arkansas - 11.6
Shaq Goodwin - Memphis - 11.5
Rafriel Guthrie - Towson - 11.4
Amos Wilson - Lamar 11.4
Maurice N'dour - Ohio - 7
Korey Billbury - ORU - 6.9
James Currington - Mississippi Valley State - 6.8
Shaq Goodwin - Memphis - 6.5
Xavier Johnson - Colorado - 5.9
Chris Anderson (photo on right) - Louisiana Tech - 5.6
Hunter Harris - East Tennesee State - 5.4
Amos Wilson - Lamar - 5.4
James Siakam - Vanderbilt - 5.3
Kenneth Smith - Louisiana Tech - 7.7
Jordair Jett - Saint Louis - 4.8
Jonathan Stark - Tulane - 4.2
Rod Hall - Clemson - 4.0
Marcus Colbert - Montana State - 3.0
Marcus Thornton - William & Mary - 2.8
Quincy Diggs (photo on right) - Akron - 2.6
Korey Billbury - ORU - 2.5
Reco McCarter - Campbell - 2.4
Russell Wilson - Samford - 2.3
Kenneth Smith - Louisiana Tech - 2.5
Quincy Diggs - Akron - 1.7
Jordair Jett - Saint Louis - 1.5
James Currington (photo on right) - Mississippi Valley State - 1.5
Justin Childs - Tennessee-Martin - 1.4
Shaq Goodwin - Memphis - 1.3
Cordarius Johnson - Louisiana Tech - 1.2
Reco McCarter - Campbell - 1.2
Chris Anderson - Louisiana Tech - 1.1
Korey Billbury - ORU - 1.1
Moussa Gueye (photo on right) - Valparaiso - 2.1
Shaq Goodwin - Memphis - 1.8
Maurice N'dour - Ohio - 1.5
Mo Alie-Cox - VCU - 1.4
James Siakam - Vanderbilt - 1.3
Hunter Harris - East Tennessee State - 1.2
Dominique McKoy - Duquesne - 1.2
Brandon Taylor - Penn State - 1.1
Parris Massey - UMass-Lowell - 1
BLAST FROM THE (RECENT) PAST
To wrap up this report I thought I'd very briefly update the pro careers of a couple of players who've been on my all-America teams the past couple of seasons. These players haven't made it to the NBA yet but have begun their careers in one of the several minor pro leagues around the world.
Former FGCU star Sherwood Brown (photo on right), whom you probably remember became well known in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, signed to play with Israeli team Maccabi Haifa but was released before the season started (when a player who was with the team the previous season suddenly decided to return). He ended up with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League and averaged 7.2 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 22 minutes per game. Like Brown, former UNC-Wilmington star Keith Rendleman was a starter on my all-America with dreasds team last year. He played this season in South Korea, averaging 9.5 PPG (63.4 FG%) and 5.0 RPG in just 17 minutes in 52 games for Dongbu Promy. It's great to see former Arizona F Jesse Perry (left photo below) still has those awesome dreads that earn him a place on my dread all-America teams in 2011 and 2012. After playing the 2012-13 season in Lebanon, he played most of this season for Lapuan Korikobrat in Finland and averaged 18.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG in 35 minutes a game. And slam dunk specialist Kwame Alexander (right photo below) is still dreaming of playing in the NBA (story on link below), but he needs to play in a league much tougher than the one he played in in Bosnia this season, where he averaged 14.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG in 30 minutes for HKK Capljina-Lasta.
Although I didn't save nearly as many photos of this season's action as I did last year, I did save quite a few. It's going to be tough whittling them down into only two dread galleries, but I won't have enough time to do any more than that. But before I do those .....
NFL teams are beginning their preseason training camps this week, and that means it's time for my annual DG on all the rookies with dreads who will be in those camps. I hope to have it posted by next weekend.