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October 17, 2006

Top point guards no longer just passers

Preseason Top 25
Coaches on the hot seat
The College Basketball Wire

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It's either an evolution or a revolution, but the point guard of today no longer is the pass-first type.

That player has gone the way of dial-up Internet access.

The guy who brings the ball up the floor now is just as likely to shoot as he is to dish off, perhaps more so. He's not just basketball's answer to the quarterback, but he's the running back and wide receiver, too.

The forefather of the trend is Allen Iverson. He was the first shoot-first point guard to make a wide impact. Maybe he thought the position read: points guard.

What has he wrought? Check last season's NBA stats. Three of the league's top five scorers were point guards: Iverson, Gilbert Arenas and Dwyane Wade.

If you want to be a point guard today, you'd better be able to get your own shot. If you create shots for others, well hey, that's a bonus.

The college game is following that trend, and so is the list of Rivals.com's top point guards for 2006-2007.

Most of these guys can get to the basket with the best of them, or step back and launch it. Some of them can pass, too.

Rivals.com 2006-07 Preseason Top Point Guards
1. Ronald Steele, Jr., Alabama, 6-3, 185
Steele averaged 14.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game last season for the Crimson Tide. If coach Mark Gottfried could find a suitable backup, it's possible the numbers would be better. Steele averaged 38-plus minutes per game, meaning he had little or no rest. Still, you want him on the floor because he's an excellent decision-maker and one of the top free-throw shooters in the country. His shooting average dipped last season from .473 to .416, which is a bit of a concern. However, he also attempted a lot more 3-pointers than he had in 2004-05. Steele was counted on to score more and play more last season, but his offensive load should be a little less with players maturing around him.
2. Dominic James, So., Marquette, 5-11, 175
James burst on the national scene for the Golden Eagles, scoring in double figures in his first nine games. He finished the season averaging 15.3 points, 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Between his scoring and dishing, James was responsible for more than 40 percent of Marquette's offense. He's strong and smart and can get through the lane, but his 3-point shooting needs some work (barely more than 30 percent). James also is a quick and tenacious defender who is more physical than his frame suggests.
3. Acie Law, Sr., Texas A&M, 6-3, 195
Law has been a key cog in the turnaround of the Aggies basketball program under coach Billy Gillispie. He has shown steady improvement since arriving in College Station, raising his scoring average from 7.5 to 12.0 to 16.1 last year. He had five games with 20-plus points, including a 35-point outburst at Oklahoma State. Law has as much speed as any guard in the college game. He seems to find an extra gear in the open court, and he's a handful on defense as well. With a more consistent outside shooting stroke, he could be a top-20 NBA pick.
4. Sean Singletary, Virginia, Jr., 6-0, 185
Singletary raised his scoring average more than seven points per game last season (to 17.7 ppg). The Cavaliers needed him to carry much of the scoring load, and he responded. He also averaged more than four rebounds and four assists per game. He was Virginia's first All-ACC first-team selection since Bryant Stith in 1992. Singletary finished third in the conference in free-throw percentage (.845), fifth in steals (1.86 per game), sixth in assists (4.17) and eighth in minutes played. On the problematic side, he also had too many turnovers (3.6 per game) and shot just 40 percent from the floor.
5. Jarrius Jackson, Texas Tech, Sr., 6-2, 185
Jackson has continued to make dramatic strides throughout his collegiate career. He led the Big 12 in scoring last season (20.5 ppg), and averaged 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He also is excellent at the free-throw line (81.3 percent) and led the Big 12 in 3-point shooting (.448). Jackson attempted 67 more 3-pointers last season than he had as a sophomore, so to lead the league was impressive. The stellar outside shooting allows him to penetrate nearly at will, and he makes good decisions.
6. Bobby Brown, Cal-State Fullerton, Sr., 6-2, 175
You might not have heard of Brown, but NBA scouts are well aware of his playmaking and scoring ability. Brown was all over the Big West Conference statistics: second in scoring (17.5 ppg), second in assists (4.6), second in steals (1.6) and third in 3-pointers made per game. He already has the school record for 3-pointers made. Brown is a disruptive force on defense, too. About the only complaint scouts have is that at times he is too unselfish.
7. Brandon Heath, San Diego State, Sr., 6-4, 203
Another under-the-radar standout on the West Coast makes our list. Heath averaged 18.4 points, 3.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds last season and led the Aztecs to the regular season and tournament titles in the Mountain West Conference. He dominated the MWC, finishing first in scoring, first in free-throw percentage, first in 3-point field goals made, fifth in 3-point field goal percentage, sixth in assists, sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio and 10th in steals. Heath, though, averaged more turnovers and assists and will have to improve his decision-making.
8. Taurean Green, Florida, Jr., 6-0, 177
It has to mean something to be the point guard for the national champion, let alone to do it as a sophomore. Green's assist total of 184 is second all time in Gators history. He had eight assists and just one turnover in the title game. He finished second on Billy Donovan's squad in scoring at 13.3 points per game. Green is an outstanding free-throw shooter and decent decision-maker, but sometimes his shot selection leaves something to be desired.
9. Kammron Taylor, Wisconsin, Sr., 6-2, 175
Taylor has the requisite speed with the ball and ability to slash to the hole. The problem is an underdeveloped outside game to this point. He averaged 14.2 points per game last season, but he averaged more turnovers (2.6) than assists (2.4). He can get in the lane and get to the line, which works well for the Badgers since he's another player on this list who is an outstanding free-throw shooter (82.9 percent). Scouts love that he's aggressive, but he can't let that work against him when it comes to being a better floor general.
10. Tywon Lawson, North Carolina, Fr., 5-11, 193
Word out of Chapel Hill is that the Rivals.com five-star prospect has been looking sharp in preseason workouts. Rivals national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer says, "Lawson can defend and get the ball to the basket with his explosiveness and ability to change speeds. He has a good feel for getting the ball to his teammates and can keep the defense honest with his catch and shoot from behind the 3-point line." It doesn't hurt a point guard to have Tyler Hansbrough to dump the ball to either.
Best of the rest
11. Greg Paulus*, Duke, So., 6-1, 185
12. Justin Dentmon, Washington, So., 5-11, 185
13. A.J. Price, Connecticut, So., 6-2, 190
14. Mustafa Shakur, Arizona, Sr., 6-3, 190
15. Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech, Fr., 6-5, 195
16. Tre Kelley, South Carolina, Sr., 6-1, 183
17. Gabe Pruitt#, USC, Jr., 6-4, 170
18. Kevin Kruger, UNLV, Sr., 6-2, 186
19. Mike Nardi, Villanova, Sr., 6-2, 170
20. Levance Fields, Pittsburgh, So., 5-10, 190
* - Paulus is out indefinitely with a broken foot.
# - Pruitt is academically ineligible until mid-December.

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