The NCAA season tipped off earlier this month, so here’s our look at the British players who’ve been impressing in the early part of the season.
Andrew Lawrence, College of Charleston
Lawrence’s presence at the top of this list should come as no surprise. He’s the only college player who’s played a competitive game for the GB men’s team, and was one of only two college basketball players to play in the Olympics.
Lawrence has stepped up his game since playing against the best players in the world summer, improving on his stellar scoring numbers from last season. Now the unquestioned leader of the Cougars, the senior guard has taken on a larger offensive load and is currently averaging 14 points with superb shooting percentages (50% from the field, 43% behind the arc and 87% from the line). His assists are down and turnovers are up, but with Charleston sitting at 5-2 there’s no question that Lawrence is performing well as the number one option.
Charleston have had a habit of claiming major-conference scalps in recent years, and they notched up their first two weeks ago against Boston College. Lawrence scored 22 points despite playing just 20 minutes due to foul trouble.
That was followed by an even bigger upset, a 63-59 victory over Baylor, ranked 21st in the country. Lawrence took on more of a distributor role in that game,
Lawrence has an even tougher test this week, against No.5 Louisville and NBA prospect Peyton Siva. Don’t count him out – the Cougars almost upset the Cardinals when they met last season.
Keith Rendleman, UNC-Wilmington
The 6-8 big man will be an unfamiliar name to many British fans, as he’s yet to appear for any junior national team and has never played in the UK, but he’s already shown why he could compete for a spot on the senior GB side in the future.
Rendleman opened the season with a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double, and has continued his fine form since then, averaging 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 54% from the field. His biggest night came against struggling Hampton last week when the Bedford-born forward racked up 23 points and 15 rebounds, shooting a staggering 19 free throws (he made eleven of them).
Ashley Hamilton, Loyola Marymount
Hamilton appears keen to make the most of his final season at LMU, averaging 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds so far. The 6-7 forward has been deadly from distance, making eight of 16 three-pointers.
Hamilton’s best statistical outing came against Texas State, when he scored 13 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds. He had a season high 19 points, along with nine boards, in Saturday’s win over Portland State.
Fraser is playing a key role for Maine once again and has notched up two double-figure rebounding games already. The 6-8 forward had a monster 21-point, 15-rebound, four-block outing against Holy Cross. He’s averaging 13.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
Defending without fouling is Fraser’s biggest area for improvement – he’s fouled out of three games and picked up four in the Black Bears’ other contests.
Neighbour seems to have recovered fully from the injury that kept him out of the GB programme during the summer. He’s shooting a stellar 51% from the floor while scoring nearly 13 points per game. An excellent all-round player, Neighbour is averaging just over one steal, one block and one assist per game, along with 6.4 rebounds. The 6-10 forward has put up two double-doubles so far, and had 15 points in an impressive victory over Larry Brown’s SMU side, the Mustangs’ only loss of the season.
Mockford has had an excellent season so far save for a scoreless loss to Army, where he went 0-7 in 27 minutes. But in every other game the Essex-born guard has scored in double figures, notching 14 points in wins over Brown and Lafayette. While his three-point percentage (31%) and scoring (10.6) are down slightly, he’s shooting at an improved 37% rate from the floor and is averaging a steal a game.
Having transferred from Fordham, the Bosnian-born, Leicester-raised big man has settled in quickly with his new team, UAB. He’s averaging 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game, and played a season-high 27 minutes against No. 14 North Carolina on Saturday. Alihodzic has scored 16 points in games against Young Harris and Navy.
For more NCAA action all season, tune in to ESPN America.
Pic: Dan Wooller/wooller.com/BB
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