College basketball has finally returned and these are the top performers of opening week from the SEC.
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Coming into the year, South Carolina coach Frank Martin needed one of his seniors to step up and lead the team. Many believed it would be Sindarius Thornwell who would take the reins as the Gamecocks go-to on the offensive end. In week one of this season, Thornwell has answered Martin’s call. Through four games, the senior guard is averaging 20.8 points per game on 45 percent shooting and an impressive 48 percent from three. His scoring high this past week came last Tuesday in an overtime thriller with Monmouth. Thornwell lead the Gamecocks to a one-point victory, posting a line of 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals. Thornwell is not just contributing the bulk of the scoring either, he is also second on the team in rebounds and assists with 6.5 and 3.0 per game, respectively.
Antonio Blakeney, LSU
In 2015, LSU had its best recruiting class since the days Dale Brown coached Shaquille O’Neal. A class that featured Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. However, that class also featured another five star, Antonio Blakeney, who decided to stay in Baton Rouge for at least another year to work on his game. Now in the primary scoring role in coach Johnny Jones’ system, Blakeney is thriving. Through the Tigers’ first three games, Blakeney is seventh in the SEC with 18.7 points per game. Although he is struggling to find his rhythm from beyond the arc, Blakeney went 3-for-3 from the three-point line in LSU’s win over Southern Miss, on his way to tallying 26 points, six assists and five rebounds.
De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, Kentucky
Stop me if you have heard this before, but John Calipari’s freshmen are dominating college basketball. Although it is only week one, both De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk have already put together highlight reels of flashy dunks, assists and steals. Through four games, Fox is averaging 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes per game. Meanwhile, Monk is leading all freshmen on the team with 16.3 points per contest, shooting 44 percent from three. In their early season matchup with No. 24 Michigan State, perhaps the most dominating team performance this season, Monk had 23 points and six rebounds, while Fox contributed 12 points, six assists and four boards.
Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State
Things have not gone well for Ben Howland in his time in Starkville. What was once a promising young roster of highly-touted recruits, has not translated to success on the court. However, sophomore Quinndary Weatherspoon has been a bright spot for the Bulldogs. Weatherspoon is second in the SEC in scoring, averaging 22 points per game on 52 percent shooting. In the Bulldogs’ non-conference win over Boise State, Weatherspoon shot 9-for-12 on his way to scoring 25 points, along with four rebounds and four steals. Even in Mississippi State’s lone loss of the season, Weatherspoon contributed 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He’s also bringing it on the defensive end of the court — tied for second in the SEC in steals per game with two.
Unfortunately, after an impressive start to the season, it was announced that Weatherspoon will miss the entire season due to a wrist injury that will require surgery. The sophomore’s absence will be a major blow to Mississippi State, as he is one of the conference’s best talents.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Dominic is in his second year writing on staff at TNJN. Along with being a staff writer, he also covers the UT men's basketball beat. He is currently a senior at the University of Tennessee majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. Follow him @dominiclobianco on Twitter!