Wooden Watch: Week 2
The John R. Wooden Award, given out at the end of each college basketball season to the best player in the nation, is the most prestigious title for any collegiate ball player. Last year saw high-flying Duke freshman sensation and first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft Zion Williamson take home the award after an absolutely insane season of rim-rattling delight. While this season of college basketball does not feature a player as captivating (or as polarizing) as Williamson, there are still plenty of tremendously talented players hitting the hardwood this year. Let’s look at five of the favorites to take home the award in 2020.
Cole Anthony, North Carolina
Starting off this list is Tar Heels freshman point guard Cole Anthony. Son of former NBA point guard Greg Anthony, Cole possesses an extremely well-polished game for such a young freshman. Offensively, Anthony has an extremely tight handle on the ball that allows him to create a lot of his own looks. He can pull up for a three off the dribble or break down the defense and get to the rim easily. Anthony is incredibly dangerous in the transition game, being able to push the pace and attack the rim with ease. While his game is rather lacking as a passer, it is something that Anthony has been working on improving. Anthony’s scoring ability, handle, work ethic and pedigree as a blue-chip talent have him primed to have a standout year at UNC.
Markus Howard, Marquette
Steph Curry Lite: that’s the best way to describe Marquette guard Markus Howard. In his three years for the Golden Eagles, Howard has been nothing short of a sharpshooter, improving his scoring each year from 13 points per game, to 20 points per game, to a whopping 25 points per game during his junior campaign. Howard is an incredibly gifted shooter and scorer, being able to light up opposing defenses from deep with ease and efficiency. Averaging eight 3-pointers per game and making 43% of them a season ago is absurd, but not nearly as absurd as Howard’s ability to simply take over big games. Such an example is last season’s overtime win over Creighton, in which Howard quite literally willed the Golden Eagles to a win with 43 points and 10 made 3-pointers. Howard’s scoring and leadership is going to be the driving force behind a solid Marquette team in a very competitive Big East.
Myles Powell, Seton Hall
The Big East is quite loaded with shoot-first guards who can hit shots from anywhere on the floor, and Myles Powell is among the best. After flying under the radar coming out of Trenton Catholic, Powell arrived in South Orange, New Jersey, overweight and out of shape. But a will to be great possessed Powell, and, after transforming his body, he has turned himself into one of college basketball’s biggest stars. Shooting 44% from the field, 36% from 3 and averaging 23 points per game last season, Powell carried the Pirates all the way to the Big East Tournament championship, where they fell by a slim margin to Villanova. After a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Wofford, Powell tested the NBA draft waters but ultimately decided to return for his final act as a Pirate. With a penchant for making big shots and an ability to pull up from anywhere on the floor (such as the logo at the Prudential Center), Powell will be an absolute game-wrecker on a retooled and reloaded Pirates.
Cassius Winston, Michigan State
There’s a lot to say about Cassius Winston and what he’s done during his time in East Lansing. His tenure there has been magnificent both on and off the court. Now entering his senior year and final year of eligibility, Winston will look to lead the Spartans through a softer Big Ten conference and deep into March. With a keen ability as a playmaker and a deadly combination of 3-point-shooting and driving ability, Winston is the perfect modern point guard package. After scoring 18 points per game while dishing out seven assists per game as well, Winston can and should improve those numbers in 2019-20. Michigan State opens this season ranked at No.1 largely due to the talent of Winston and his ability to make others around him better.
James Wiseman, Memphis
Capping off this list is college basketball’s most intriguing youngster, freshman center James Wiseman: Penny Hardaway’s prized recruit. Wiseman combines a 7-foot tall frame with the offensive capabilities of a wing, including an improving 3-point shot. If Wiseman can put it all together this year, look for him to be the next college basketball freshman sensation.
David Saggio is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.