Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
These two made the top performers last week and don’t be surprised if they become weekly top performers. Fellow TNJN writer Dominic LoBianco mentioned the highlight reel plays the Kentucky backcourt displayed in the opening week, and that trend continued during the Wildcats’ two games this week.
— SB Nation CBB (@SBNationCBB) November 23, 2016
After four dominant performances a week ago, Kentucky won both of its games this week by over 30 points, beating Cleveland State and UT Martin, thanks in large part to the contributions from the electric backcourt. Monk averaged 24.5 points and 5.5 assists while shooting over 60 percent from the field. Not only did he make six of his 14 three-point attempts, but his ridiculous athleticism was on full display.
The season is only three weeks old, but Monk is already living up to the hype quickly become a must-watch prospect.
On the other hand, De’Aaron Fox has proven early to be the next great point guard to play under John Calipari. Fox averaged 16 points and eight assists this past week, including a double-double (16 points, 11 assists) in Kentucky’s 101-70 win over Cleveland State. It’s still early, but it appears opponents won’t have much hope in stopping one of John Calipari’s most talented backcourt duos yet.
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Thornwell also finds himself on this list for a second consecutive week and for good reason. After averaging over 20 points per game in the first two weeks, Thornwell led the Gamecocks to two victories over ranked opponents, No. 25 Michigan and No. 18 Syracuse.
Against Michigan, the senior guard recorded a double-double with 21 points, shooting 8-12 from the field (2-4 from behind the arc) and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also registered three blocks. In the team’s win over Syracuse, the senior guard scored 16 points, to go along with six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The Gamecocks have started the year 6-0 and Thornwell’s ability to fill the stat line has played a major role in the team’s hot start. Through six games, he’s averaging 20 points and seven rebounds.
DJ Hogg, Texas A&M
The 6-foot-9 sophomore suffered a setback on Sunday during Texas A&M’s loss at No. 14 UCLA, scoring only eight points on a rough, 4-of-18 night from the field. But poor shooting nights happen, and his ability to stuff the stat sheet (six rebounds and four assists) shows the type of versatile talent he is.
However, his performances in the Aggies’ other two games this week lands him among the top performers. Hogg averaged 21 points in the two victories over Virginia Tech and Cal State Northridge, shooting over 60 percent from the field, while also knocking down six of his 11 three-point attempts. His double-double against the Hokies (17 points, 10 rebounds) played a major role in the Aggies’ crucial win over a Power 5 conference opponent.
After averaging just six points as a freshman, Texas A&M is expecting a major jump in contribution from DJ Hogg this season. His performances this week indicate that he can become one of the best players in the conference if he can consistently play at this level.
Yante Maten, Georgia
Maten averaged 18 points and just over nine rebounds in Georgia’s three contests this week, including a 30 point, 13 rebound game in its loss to Kansas in which he dominated inside against the Jayhawks’ big men. In addition, his ability to protect the rim was on full display in the Bulldog’s 77-59 win over Gardner Webb on Friday, where he recorded three blocks.
Along with senior point guard J.J. Frazier, the duo is expected to carry Georgia this season. Maten has a strong offensive game, with the ability score in the post in addition to a respectable mid-range jumper. Add that to his rim protection, and the forward is one of the most complete post players, not only in the conference, but in the country. Through six games, the junior big man is averaging 21.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics