Upon wondering who may emerge as National Player of the Year candidates, the media favorites appear limited. It’s easy to imagine the front-runners for the award being Cody Zeller, Doug McDermott and James McAdoo for returning players. With Zeller and McAdoo coming from historical powers with McDermott possessing the mid-major buzz after having been part of the conversation for most of last season. It should also be expected to see and hear a lot of media love given to the incoming #1 and #2 freshmen; Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad. Noel will be stepping into the shoes of Anthony Davis while Muhammad tries to re-energize UCLA.
A consensus Top 25 prospect in High School, BJ Young put together one of the best freshman campaigns in the country and can be argued he was the best freshman guard in the country. (I would certainly argue and say it with confidence) Young only played 25 minutes a game and started 7 contests yet still posted 15 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal a game. Young also shot 50% from the floor, 41% from three and 74% from the free throw line. Those numbers resulted in an offensive rating of 110 and a true shooting percentage of 60.3. Despite often times playing off ball, Young still topped Arkansas in assist rate at 22%.
At 6’3 and possessing blazing end to end speed, Young is an elite talent in the college game and a likely lottery pick next June after flirting with the NBA draft this spring. His ability to score the ball may emerge as second to none in the college game this winter. Young’s scoring outbursts were often times unparalleled as a freshman. Versus Mississippi State, Young scored 12 points in a 3 1/2 minute 2nd half stretch. In a road game against Connecticut, Young scored 11 straight Arkansas points in a 3 minute first half stretch and then in the 2nd half had a 17 point outburst over a 6 minute span (only Arkansas points, again). In a 10 minute 2nd half stretch against Florida, Young tallied 21 straight Arkansas points.
This leads to an issue Young and Mike Anderson must solve in order for Arkansas to be at their best and Young to make an All-American push. He has to stay on the floor and has to have the ball in his hands. While Mike Anderson’s system certainly is physically taxing, Young is a 19 year old who is an elite athlete – personally, I do not see a reason that Young should not be logging in the range of 32-35 minutes a game in SEC play next year, which will assure Young’s numbers to be All American caliber with likely averages over 20 points per game. Also with the transfer of Julysses Nobles, it is obvious that Anderson made one thing clear, that this will be Young’s team as he is now poised to take over the point guard position. While he certainly can carry a rep as a big time scorer, Young does so in an efficient manner and never turns into a ‘gunner’. He is able to score while also keeping his teammates involved and should not be viewed as an undersized scoring guard when he moves up a level to the NBA. I believe he can successfully play point guard in college and in the NBA and by doing so this season it can enhance his individual and team success.
For this season, Marshawn Powell comes off of injury to go along with Young, Hunter Mickleson, Ky Madden, Mardracus Wade and Rickey Scott. Arkansas should field a competitive team that makes the NCAA Tournament and again will be an extremely difficult challenge to play in Bud Walton Arena. Young will be at the forefront, and as a college basketball fan – do yourself a favor and watch the young man play before he departs to the NBA.