The Most Exciting NCAA Basketball Players from Schools You've Never Heard Of

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystJune 16, 2014

The Most Exciting NCAA Basketball Players from Schools You've Never Heard Of

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Can a high-scoring player be considered a star if he plays for a school that never plays nationally televised games?

    Players like Incarnate Word's Denzel Livingston and UMKC's Martez Harrison are the college basketball version of the tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear the sound.

    Fortunately, we have the box scores to confirm that these 10 players are actually excelling at No Name Tech and Anonymous A&M.

    You might have to find some grainy online feeds to keep up with these guys during the 2014-15 season, but you won't be disappointed if you make it a point to watch each of these players at least once before he graduates.

Jarekious Bradley, Southeast Missouri State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 19.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG

    Though you've likely never heard his name in your life, it's no surprise that Jarekious Bradley thrived for the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State this past season.

    Bradley was playing JUCO ball at East Mississippi CC during the 2012-13 season. He earned NJCAA Division I All-America honors while averaging 21.1 points and eight rebounds per game before transferring to SEMO for his final two years of eligibility.

    The level of competition improved once he made the switch to NCAA D-I, but his numbers didn't take much of a hit at all. In his first game at SEMO, he had 22 points and 12 rebounds against Saint Louis.

    Bradley scored a career-high 32 points against the Eastern Kentucky team that would eventually go on to represent the OVC in the NCAA tournament.

    With Tyler Stone (19.3 PPG) graduating this summer, look for Bradley's numbers to increase next season.

Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word

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    2013-14 stats: 20.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, 2.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG

    Incarnate Word has been a D-I school for all of one year, so you're forgiven for not knowing about this one.

    But you might want to become familiar with Denzel Livingston.

    We'll ignore the nonconference portion of the Cardinals' schedule, because they played 12 of those 13 games against D-II opponents. However, during Southland conference play, Livingston averaged 22.9 PPG. He scored at least 20 points in 10 of his final 11 games, including a 23-point, 10-rebound double-double in a two-point loss at Stephen F. Austin.

    Because of its transition from D-II to D-I, Incarnate Word won't be eligible for the NCAA tournament until 2018long after Livingston's college career comes to an end. Still, it wouldn't be a bad idea to occasionally check UIW's box scores from time to time to see how well he's doing.

Jalan West, Northwestern State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 19.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.4 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG

    Northwestern University is near Chicago, so naturally Northwestern State University is in Natchitoches, LA.

    If you have heard of the Demons, it's more than likely in remembrance of their shocking win over No. 3 seed Iowa in the 2006 NCAA tournament.

    But that team has nothing to do with current star, Jalan West. Unlike most of the players on the list, we might get another two years to watch West do his thing, as he put up those impressive numbers last season as a sophomore.

    Granted, Northwestern State played at the fastest pace in the country last season, according to KenPom.com (subscription required). As such, his per-possession numbers aren't quite as jaw dropping as the per-game ones.

    Still, we're talking about a player who had at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds in four different games last season. A man who saved his best for last by scoring 36 points on 16 field-goal attempts in the Southland semifinals against Stephen F. Austin.

    In an early November 111-92 road win over Auburn, West had 30 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. In an overtime loss at Baylor, he played all 45 minutes and had 26 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and just two turnovers.

    West has the skill to be the next player in the Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard club of mid-major players who become NBA stars.

Chavaughn Lewis, Marist

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    2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG

    If you like players who only score a ton of points because they take a ton of shots, Chavaughn Lewis is your man.

    Lewis averaged 1.17 points per field-goal attempt last season, shooting 39.8 percent from the field. He took 31.5 percent of the shots when he was on the court, but he only had an O-rating of 94.2, according to KenPom.com.

    But it is literally impossible to watch his dunk in the above video and not feel like you're missing out by not seeing more of him.

    Marist doesn't play in many nationally televised games in the MAAC, but we may get a chance to watch Lewis and the Red Foxes partake in the Gulf Coast Showcase in late November.

Stephen Croone, Furman

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 19.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG

    There aren't many players who scored 40 points in a game last season, but Furman's Stephen Croone was one of them.

    And it wasn't in a blowout where he was just padding his stats, either. Croone scored 40 in an 86-83 win over Liberty on December 20. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game, setting a career high in both categories.

    According to the Associated Press, Croone was the first Furman player to score 40 in a game since 1972.

    Croone was more than just a one-hit wonder, though, scoring at least 20 points in 14 of 30 games last season.

    Unfortunately, Furman lost 21 of those games, so not many people bothered to pay attention to the Paladins from Greenville, South Carolina.

    Last year wasn't even worth writing home about, but watch out for this team during the 2015-16 season. Each of Furman's four leading scorers was either a freshman or sophomore in 2013-14. And with Davidson departing for the A-10 this summer, there's no longer an annual clear-cut favorite in the SoCon.

Martez Harrison, UMKC

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 17.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG

    In the past 25 years, the Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos have hopped from Independent to Mid-Continent to Summit League to WAC without ever earning so much as a share of a conference title.

    They had a sub-.500 record in what was expected to be just about the worst conference last season.

    But maybejust maybeMartez Harrison could be the glow of something bright. Only five freshmen in the country averaged more points per game than Harrison. His 17.2 PPG was marginally better than Andrew Wiggins' 17.1.

    The scary thing for everyone else in the WAC is that he may have just been getting heated up. Over his final six games, he averaged 19.2 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.5 RPG and 2.0 SPG, including a career-high 31 points against Grand Canyon and a near triple-double against Cal State Bakersfield.

    But even if I'm wrong about Harrison becoming one of the best mid-major players over the next few seasons, at least now you know what UMKC stands for when you see that name scrolling along the bottom line on the wrong end of a major conference shellacking.

Corey Hawkins, UC Davis

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 18.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG

    Corey Hawkins wasn't particularly noteworthy during his freshman year at Arizona State before transferring to UC Davis. He only played 8.2 minutes per game with the Sun Devils.

    Apparently, he just needed more playing time.

    Hawkins put up excellent numbers last season for the Aggies, but he was actually considerably better for them the previous year, averaging 20.3 PPG and 5.6 RPG with much higher shooting percentages across the board.

    We'll see if he can get back to shooting 47.4 percent from the floor and 40.0 percent from three-point range as a senior.

    Among Hawkins' list of noteworthy games from last season were a 34-point outing against Nevada, 26 points, six assists and six rebounds against CS Northridge and an impressive season-opener against Portland with 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers.

Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut State

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    Ryan Young/Getty Images

    2013-14 stats: 17.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG

    Kyle Vinales missed nine games in the middle of last season with a broken finger, so perhaps we should look back at 2012-13 to see what he's capable of doing for Central Connecticut State this coming year.

    His scoring average for that season was 21.6 PPG, thanks in large part to a 42-point effort against Wagner near the end of the year. Save for a seven-point effort against No. 1 Indiana (boy, did that team drop off in a hurry), he scored at least 10 points in every game in which he played more than 20 minutes.

    When fully healthy, Vinales is a prolific scorer, and that was abundantly clear over his final eight games of last season. He shot 51.8 percent from three-point range while averaging seven attempts per game. The Blue Devils won five of those eight games after losing seven of the nine that they played without him.

Jordan Downing, Presbyterian

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    Andrew Ferguson/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 20.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG

    Jordan Downing's 541 field-goal attempts last season were good for the fifth-most in the country. He attempted 226 more shots than any other member of the Presbyterian Blue Hoseseriously, that's their nickname.

    Toward the end of last season, he was routinely taking more than 20 shots per game, averaging 19.6 FGA over his final 13 games. Fortunately, his scoring average also increased during that stretch, as he put up 23.4 PPG, including three games with 31 or more points.

    Not too shabby, considering he averaged less than four free-throw attempts per game over the course of the year.

    Make sure you catch Downing early and often, though, because there's about a zero percent chance of Presbyterian showing up in the NCAA tournament. The Blue Hose went 4-26 against D-I opposition last season.

Ousmane Drame, Quinnipiac

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    2013-14 stats: 13.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 0.9 APG, 0.6 SPG

    Players who average double-doubles are pretty few and far between in college basketball, but Ousmane Drame accomplished the feat while playing just 29 minutes per game for Quinnipiac.

    In doing so, he had 15 double-doubles in 30 games last season. Some of them were just plain silly, like the 26-point, 18-rebound game against Niagara, or the win over Monmouth in which he had 15 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks.

    Perhaps most incredible is that Drame was just one of two Bobcats to average a double-double last season. Ike Azotam averaged 16.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG and helped Drame make Quinnipiac the best offensive rebounding team in the country, according to KenPom.com.

    With Azotam graduating this summer, Drame will likely get more minutes and better opportunities at points and rebounds with those minutes.

    Since the 1997-98 season, Kenneth Faried's 14.51 RPG is the highest average in the NCAA. Maybe Drame won't eclipse that mark, but he should certainly jump into the top 20 on that list.

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.