10 Players under-the-radar players that can win National Player of the Year

Drew Timme – Gonzaga

The Sophomore from Richardson Texas, played a bench role for the Bulldogs last season, behind Filip Petrusev. With Gonzaga likely being the best team in the country, and Drew Timme likely to be the leading scorer sets up a good recipe for winning the award. Timme had a 5.6 Box-Plus-Minus while averaging 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, he will now be sprung into a big-time role for Gonzaga. While Oumar Ballo will play a role, I liken it to what Timme did last season, and what Timme will do to what Petrusev did last season.

Marcus Garrett – Kansas

Garrett is known as an elite defender he was the defensive player of the year in the country. Garrett averaged 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game while having to guard the best player on the opposing team. While not being seen as a great scorer, which is fair, he can score around the rim. Garrett shot 44% from-the-field and his top-notch athletic ability allows him to be good at getting to the basket and finishing. Garrett isn’t much of a shooter, only shooting 33% from three. On a team with newcomers like Bryce Thompson and Tyon Grant-Foster being able to play big parts will allow Garrett to get some buckets. Garrett will run the point this season while guarding 1-4 on the defensive end.

James Bouknight – UConn

The talent level on Bouknight may be near the tops in the nation, he averaged 13.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, while shooting 46% from-the-field, and 34% from three. It took some time for the Freshman guard to get into the fold after an early-season suspension, but once he got going it looked nearly impossible to stop. On this Huskies team, Bouknight will be handed the keys to the offense. The Howard transfer, R.J. Cole will likely split reps at the one with Bouknight but, it almost doesn’t matter who plays where, as both will have tons of time with the ball in their hands. Bouknight scored 16+ Points in 9 of his last 10 games, including three games where he scored in the 20s. That production led the Huskies’ to a late-season surge as to where had there been an AAC Tournament, they certainly would’ve had the chance to get an automatic bid. 

Jay Huff – Virginia

While it will be tough for any Virginia player to ever win NPOTY due to the style they play, I think that if anyone can do it Huff can. The 7-Footer who is an elite defender has also shown his ability to be a force on offense also. I know his 8.5 point, 6.2 rebound average doesn’t make you think he can win this type of award but, he’ll be put into a different role this season. With the loss of Mamadi Diakite, the main focal point of the team will be the 5th-Year Senior, Jay Huff. The scoring versatility makes Huff a force, he’s able to use his strength inside, the ability to hit threes, especially from the corner. 

Remy Martin – Arizona State

The Sun Devils received some huge news when the Senior, Martin opted to return to the program. He’s going to end up being an All-Time great for Bobby Hurley’s squad with his name without a doubt going up in the rafters one day. During the 2019-20 season, Martin averaged 19.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Martin was a tad inconsistent at times, only shooting 43% from-the-field, 33.5% from three. He had some struggles late in the season that hurt his overall shooting percentages. Having Alonzo Verge back while adding Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley can alleviate some of the pressure on Martin, and force him to press so much. With having the most talented roster in the PAC-12, things are looking positive for Martin as he should fit firmly into the Player of the year race, while he will likely be the Preseason PAC-12 Player of the Year.

Will Richardson – Oregon

So, I just spoke of Martin and called him the likely PAC-12 Player of the Year. I think Richardson has just as good of a chance as Martin to win the award, so I had to include both. As a Sixth Man last season, Richardson averaged 11.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, while playing stellar defense. His efficiency numbers were through the roof. He shot 47% from-the-field, 46% from three which was the biggest improvement last season. As a Freshman, Richardson struggled mightily and showed as much improvement as anybody in College Hoops last season and he should keep that steady trend moving.

Jacob Gilyard – Richmond

We had an A-10 Player win the award last season, in Dayton’s Obi Toppin. The Spiders are a top-10-15 squad in my eyes and as the leader of the team, Gilyard will fit firmly into the race to become not only an All-American but a Player of the Year candidate. If you could pick a quality in a point guard, one of the tops would be unselfishness and that’s the epitome of Gilyard’s game. In 2018-19, Gilyard led the Atlantic-10 in scoring 16.2 points per game on 12.1 shots-per-game but, the Spiders were a measly 13-20. He took three fewer shots-per-game in 2019-20 while averaging 12.7 points per game with nearly identical efficiency numbers, with elevated assists numbers jumping from a 5.2 per game average to 5.7 per game. With the Spiders going 24-7 one of the least talked about things is how Gilyard sacrificed his own stats to help the team. Now with the announcement of a four-team MTE, between Kentucky, Detroit-Mercy, Hartford that gives the-chance for Gilyard to show his skill-set on a National Stage. Another vital part of Gilyard’s game is his elite defense, he led the country in steals at 3.2 per game and had a 4.4 Defensive Box-Plus-Minus, those are the an-elite numbers that Gilyard needs to have National Recognition.

David Johnson – Louisville

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-around Point guard than David Johnson, the 6’5″ guard who is a supreme athlete with top-notch passing ability and defense. The only bad part of Johnson’s game is his shooting ability from the line and deep. The fact that he only shot a measly 60% from the stripe doesn’t show much of an opportunity for improvement. Johnson also shot 21.7% from deep, if he can at the least make that go up to 30% that can be some sort of improvement. One of the things I enjoy most about Johnson’s game is his 49.3% from-the-field. Even though he’s a terrible shooter, the fact he’s a point guard who is efficient is huge. On a team with Malik Williams, Charles Minlend Jr, and Carlik Jones as the top three outside of Johnson, that could give Johnson the chance to put up some good stats. I think Louisville will be a top-3 team in the ACC, which bodes well for Johnson to put his name in the conversation.

Scottie Lewis – Florida

One thing that needs to happen in order for this to have a chance will be for Mike White to let Scottie Lewis flourish by running a faster offense. This isn’t Virginia, it’s Florida. At Louisiana Tech, White played a much faster pace than he does now, and hopefully, he gets back to playing that way. One thing that I would like to see from Lewis is the ability to create his own shots on the perimeter, Lewis shot 36% from deep and was assisted on 95.5% of them, I want to see him create more. He’s not a lead guard, he’s a guard/ wing hybrid, but I think he has the ability to make more chances for himself if Coach White let him. Lewis averaged 8.5 points per game and made the surprising decision to return to Florida for his Sophomore Season. This team is loaded with talent, with Keyontae Johnson, Tre Mann, Noah Locke, Ques Glover, Omar Payne, Anthony Duraji, and Collin Castleton, the Gators’ will look to contend for the SEC title in 2020-21.

Kofi Cockburn Illinois

The massive 7’0, 290-pound Sophomore from Jamaica had a very good Freshman season. He averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 53% from-the-field. I would like to see that be a bit more consistent overall from-the-field as a 7’0″ player. With all the focus on Ayo Dosunmu this season, I think Cockburn may get doubled at times but It’ll be quite difficult to find anyone who can consistently defend Kofi. The now Sophomore shot 67% from-the-field, but there’s room for improvement, for someone of his size, he has a smooth stroke from the line. With the well-deserved focus on Luka Garza from Iowa and Ayo Dosunmu also from Illinois being focused on as All-Americans and National Player of the Year candidates, I think Cockburn can emerge as the next player who should be in that conversation. If Illinois’ is as good as I think they’ll be, they need Cockburn to take the next step and be more than just the next guy after Ayo. Being the guy along with Ayo, making his free-throws, and being more consistent is what Kofi needs to focus on.

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