By Tim Donohoo
Five players have stepped up big this season for their squads in vying to reach the post season on a high note in the Big 12 Conference.
Thomas Robinson, Kansas (6-10 junior forward, Washington D.C.)
He dominates in the low post area and is an explosive finisher near the hoop. Kansas is going for its 8th consecutive Big 12 Conference regular season title and this eventual NBA pick is the main cog in getting them there. He is learning from a fine teacher in Danny Manning, a former KU great who hoisted the national championship trophy back in 1988. A pre-season honorable mention All-America pick this season, Robinson is currently second in the country in rebounding with 11 per game and is scoring 17 per contest with 14 double-doubles in 2011-12. Scored 30 tallies and registered 21 rebounds in a game versus North Dakota (Dec. 2011). He averaged 7 points a game and 6 rebounds last season in just 14 minutes of playing time per game. Are you kidding me? This guy is heavy duty and when he makes it to the paint- forget it! Hide the kids. Has hit double figures in scoring in every game this season but one and has 14 double figure rebounding games. He came off the bench last year and will not see much of the pine in the future. The real deal.
J’Covan Brown, Texas (6-1 junior guard, Port Arthur, Texas)
JCB was a role playing guard a year ago as he accumulated 10 points a game and hit 40 percent from the field; however, he has stepped up big this season for the Longhorns. he can play the point or be your shooting guard if need be. He has eleven 20-plus scoring games to his credit with a season high 35 versus Rhode Island (Nov. 2011). He wants the ball in his hands for that last shot and is a very confident young man on the court. A creative player who is fearless. He finished as the Big 12’s highest scoring player that did not start a game in 2010-11. Averaged 22 points per outing in the Longhorns two NCAA Tournament games in 2011. Leads the conference in scoring with 19 points per game. Hitting 84 percent from the charity stripe and dishes out four assists per night for you. Nice player.
Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (6-4 junior guard, Chesapeake, Virginia)
Started 26 of 32 games last year for the Sooners. Averaged 10 per games in 2010-11 along with 85 percent free throw accuracy and 2 rebounds a game. Double figures in scoring this season in all but one Sooner contest. Last December tallied 31 versus Houston along with 10 rebounds (his only double-double of the season). Scored 38 versus Iowa State last year, the fifth most scoring output by a guard in school history. Has the potential to fill it up on a game-by-game basis. He was a streaky shooter in the past but has improved his game greatly. Averages 17 points per game and hits 90 percent from the line. He will grab four rebounds per game for OU and hits on 43 percent from downtown. Coach Lon Kruger likes this kid and he needs 21 wins for 500 coaching victories. Pledger can get him there.
Elston Turner, Texas A&M (6-5 junior guard, Missouri City, Texas)
Transfer from Washington. Averaged 12 points in Huskies two NCAA Tourney wins two years ago. Came off the bench to average five points per game in just 15 minutes per contest. He practiced last season with the Aggies while adhering to his NCAA requirement after the transfer. A good spot up shooter at Washington. Has 17 double figure scoring games this season including a 24 point eruption against Kansas. Averaging 14 points per game with 82 percent free throw shooting and 38 percent from beyond the arc. A good reliable player. Under the radar.
Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas (6-3 senior guard, Hoboken, New Jersey)
From the same neck of the woods as Francis Albert Sinatra, the Hoboken native is singing all the right notes for Coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks from Lawrence, Kansas. Entering his fourth year as a starter, Taylor will be a sure NBA pick in the future. He possesses that quick first step which leaves the defender in the rear-views. Last season he averaged 9 points and four assists per outing while converting 47 percent of his field goal attempts. He has hit the double figure scoring plateau in all but two games in 2011-12 with a 13 assist game versus highly touted, Ohio State. He has scored 28 points twice this season (vs. Iowa State and Baylor) and displays a great work ethic. He is blessed with outstanding athletic ability and has picked it up this year on the offensive end of the court with 16 points per game and five assists. He converts 47 percent of his outside shots and can knock down the three (45 percent of the time). He runs the team well and provides great leadership. KU’s lone returning starter from 2010-11 who could find himself in the Sweet 16 in March 2012.
Only time will tell.