Big Ten’s Top 5 Improvements in 2011-12
By Tim Donohoo
Five players have observers of Big Ten basketball mesmerized with their play this season. A conference which has its fans stopping to take notice of the league’s best and improving athletes.
A good rebounder and long distance shooter. Multi skilled and versatile player. A good inside-out player with Final Four credentials. A good indication prior to this season was his triple- double performance (23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) against UCLA during the final game in 2010-11. He is a very emotional player. Wears his heart on his sleeve for the Spartan Nation. Nineteen double figure scoring contests this season with a season high 34 versus Gonzaga last December. Had 13 point-18 rebound game versus North Carolina (Nov. 2011). 2011-12: 14 points per game, 10 caroms per game and dishes 3 assists per outing for MSU 2010-11: 12 points per game, 8 rebounds per game and 4 assists per contest.Cody Zeller, 6-11 freshman forward from Washington, Indiana (Indiana):
A great passer for a big man. Turned down offers to play at Butler and North Carolina. Younger brother of Tar Heels standout, Tyler Zeller. McDonalds All-American who is a threat at the post position and runs the floor exceptionally well for his size. Third meber of his family to win Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball” Award. Has hit double figures in the scoring column 21 times this season with a high game of 26 versus Iowa a month ago. Also grabbed 12 rebounds in game against Michigan. Very skilled and hits 64 percent from the field. 2011-12: 15 points per game, 6 rebounds a game for the Hoosiers.
Meyers Leonard, 7-1 sophomore center from Robinson, Illinois (Illinois):
A definite potential 1st round NBA pick. Great size and athleticism. Competed for the red, white and blue last July at the Under 19 World Championships. The main reason why the Illini should make it to the Big Dance festivities next month. Sixteen double figure scoring outputs this season with a 16 rebound game versus Cornell this past December. Has scored 21 twice in 2011-12 (vs. Gonzaga and Northwestern). 2011-12: 13 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, 2 blocks per outing and shoots 56 percent from the floor. 2010-11: 2 points per game and 1 rebound per contest.
John Shurna, 6-9 senior forward from Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Northwestern):
One of the top scorers in all the land a year ago before he suffered a severe high ankle sprain in December 2010. Averaged 24 per game before the injury. Coupled with a concussion ailment later last season caused his numbers to drop. On the Wooden Award radar, Shurna is a great shooter and his quest is to deliver the Wildcats first berth to the NCAA Tournament in school history. A potential All-America candidate, he has scored in double figures in 21 games and can really fill it up from anywhere on the hardwood. He is worth the price of admission alone. Believe me! Scored 37 versus Louisiana State (Nov. 2011). 2011-12: 19 points per game, 5 rebounds a game and 2 assists per contest. 2010-11: 16 points per contest, 4 rebounds a game and shot 43 percent from long distance.
Tim Frazier, 6-1 junior guard from Houston, Texas (Penn State):
Came on strong near the end of last season. Can break down any defensive pressure with his lightning quick speed. A great point guard. Excellent defender and playmaker. Tallied 30 points versus Big Ten newcomer, Nebraska, last month. Has four double-doubles and two 11 rebound efforts (vs. Saint Joseph’s and Cornell). 22 double figure scoring games with an 11 assist game against Youngstown State this past November. 2011-12: 18 points per game, 4 rebounds a night with 6 assists and 2 steals per outing for the Nittany Lions. 2010-11: 6 points per game, 3 rebounds a game and 5 assists per outing.
The Big Ten is always enjoyable to watch on an annual basis and you are sure to find a “sleeper” team in the conference tournament final every year. Who will it be? Well, I am sure of one thing. One of the five before mentioned athletes will be a key in getting “that” team in that position.