Washington has been home to some of the legends of college basketball over the years. Patrick Ewing, Len Bias, Allen Iverson and Juan Dixon all made names for themselves in the D.C. area before joining the pro ranks. The gaps between these legends have been filled with plenty of solid players, including Steve Francis, Alonzo Mourning, Walt Williams, Jeff Green, Joe Smith, Roy Hibbert, Steve Blake, Dikembe Mutombo and countless others.
Most recently, Greg Monroe and Greivis Vasquez shared the title of Washington's finest, but now that they've both moved on to the pros, it's time to find a successor. Mid-term elections are only a month away, and there are several players in the area who have a shot at being Washington's next college hoops legend. Let's take a look at the candidates.
Typically, two names emerge early in the election process and begin making the media rounds in order to get their names out to the public. In college basketball, the best way to get your name out their is to be named to the Wooden Award Watch List, as both of our front-runners have.
Austin Freeman: Freeman has several things going for him this season that should make him the early favorite.
- On paper, Georgetown has the best team headed into this season.
- Freeman was the leading scorer for said team last season and should be again this season.
- Experience helps. People know who he is and what he can do. Half of the battle is getting your name out there, and Freeman has done a better job of that than anyone else playing college hoops this season.
- You know what else helps? Being local. Freeman grew up in Maryland and played his high school hoops at DeMatha.
- It's hard to not root for someone who is able to play at such a high level while dealing with diabetes.
Jordan Williams: Like most elections, Williams provides yin to Freeman's yang. Freeman delivers steady performance after steady performance. Williams makes headlines by shattering backboards and giving Jon Scheyer nightmares:
He had his ups and downs over the course of the season, but began to steady himself out at the end of the season. He had five double-doubles in his last ten games and was only one point away from having a sixth against Virginia Tech. If he can continue to build on that momentum, he'll make a strong run for that top spot.
It won't be easy, however. Williams won't have Vasquez, Eric Hayes or Landon Milbourne around to help out, which will means he'll be receiving a lot more defensive attention this season. If he can adjust properly and keep Maryland in the ACC's upper tier, he could give Freeman a run for his money.
After the front-runners make themselves known, a swell of less-experienced candidates throw their hats into the ring. Most of the time, these candidates need a little more experience before they can make a serious run at office, but every once in a while, a true phenom comes along that can flip the script.
Moses Ayegba: He's still a bit of an unknown quantity at this point, since he only played one season of high school basketball in the U.S. Odds are, he'll be a little bit too raw to make a major impact this season. But even if he's a little wet behind the ears, he can still be a force in his freshman season.
Don't believe me? Consider what Steve Yanda reported about Ayegba:
- He can touch the rim with his elbow.
- John Thompson said "I haven't seen anybody block shots like that since Ewing."
- In addition to Georgetown, he was recruited by Maryland, Connecticut, UCLA, Kentucky and Texas.
If he can rack up some double-doubles early in the season, it won't take long for him to be touted as Georgetown's next great big man. If he can start drawing some early comparisons to Ewing, Mourning, Mutombo and Hibbert, he'll be on the fast track to college stardom in Washington.
Mychal Parker: If there's one thing the Terrapins have lacked over the past few years, its a dynamic wing player who can light up opposing defenses with a diverse offensive game. This year, that could all change.
Depending on who you ask, Parker was either the 12th or 13th best player at his position in the nation last season and should be able to get some burn this season. Sean Mosley and Cliff Tucker will make it difficult for Parker to win a starting spot this season, but if he can show off some of his dynamic scoring ability in his freshman year, he'll give Terps fans plenty of reason to be excited.
Most of the time, elections are won by someone from one of the two major parties, in this case, Georgetown and Maryalnd. But every once in a while someone not affiliated with either of the two juggernauts can come in and crash the party, like David Robinson and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. If you're looking to vote independent this season, here are your best choices.
Vlad Moldoveanu: It you weren't paying attention to Patriot League games last season, it might surprise you to know Austin Freeman did not have the highest scoring average among D.C.-area players returning this season. That honor belongs to Moldoveanu, who averaged 18.1 points per game last season, connecting on 38.7 percent of his three point attempts and snagging 6.5 rebounds per game.
More impressively, he was able to pile up these robust numbers despite missing the first nine games of the season after transferring from George Mason the year before. After struggling to a 1-8 start without Moldoveanu, American went 10-12 the rest of the season, including 7-7 in the Patriot League. Now that he's had a full off-season to adjust, he should be ready to put American back in contention for a Patriot League title this season. And if he keeps having performances like the one he had against Navy last season, where he scored 37 and pulled in 15 rebounds, it won't take long for him to become a household name in the D.C. area, even it it's not the smoothest name rolling off the tongue.
Cam Long: If Long can finally take the sparks of brilliance he's shown while at George Mason and turn them into a consistent senior season, he'll put the Patriots in contention for a CAA title this season. Last year, during GMU's seven game winning streak, he averaged 19.3 points per game, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists, but was up and down for most of the rest of the season, culminating with a suspension in the team's final game last season.
Long should have plenty of motivation to rebound after a disappointing end to last season, and when he's motivated, bad things happen to opposing defenders. Just ask Larry Sanders:
Tony Taylor: The Colonials improved for a disastrous 2008-09 campaign to finish tenth in the Atlantic 10 (remember, there's 14 teams in the A-10, so they weren't the worst team in the conference). Tony Taylor's improved play was one of the keys to GW's improvement, leading the team in assists and three point percentage, and finishing second on the team in scoring. An upset or two over A-10 powerhouses Xavier and Temple would help Taylor gets some publicity this season.
Jordan Sugars: If you're looking for basketball players who break the mold, take some time this season to check out some games featuring the Midshipmen this season. It's not often you'll find player who can shoot over 40 percent from deep and still grab eight rebounds per game. It's even harder to find player who do that under 6-4. But that's what Navy has in Jordan Sugars. He led the nation in rebounds for players under 6-4, tallying seven double-digit rebounding performances, including a 16 rebound game against Radford in the season opener last year.
In addition to his glass cleaning, he shot 42.2 percent from deep last season and averaged 15.8 points per game. Now, that Chris Harris and his 21 points per game have graduated, Navy will need Sugars to take on an even bigger role this season. If he can lead the Midshipmen to the NCAA tournament, it would be their first appearance since 1998.
Calvin Thompson: New head coach Kevin Nickelberry has a daunting task ahead of him, as he tries to rebuild a Howard program that only has 15 wins over the past two seasons, but Calvin Thompson could make things a little easier this season. The junior led the Bison in scoring last season, averaging 12 points per game and was named a preseason All-MEAC 2nd team selection
It won't be easy, but if Nickelberry can spark a dramatic turnaround at Howard this season, Thompson will be at the forefront of the resurgence.