By Jon Rothstein
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* IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
AARON CRAFT, OHIO STATE
THE SKINNY: The anchor of Buckeyes’ attack on the both sides of the floor, there couldn’t be a list of glue guys without mentioning Craft. A nuisance on the ball on defense and the epitome of a floor general on offense, this junior always plays with the biggest weapon he has — his heart.
JAQUON PARKER, CINCINNATI
THE SKINNY: We nearly left Parker off this list but after his performance against Rutgers last Saturday we got sentimental. The key to the Bearcats’ turnaround last season, Parker broke out of an early season slump against the Scarlet Knights and held Rutgers’ leading scorer Eli Carter to a dreadful 1-for-11 from the field. When Parker plays like he’s capable, there’s not a tougher player in America.
MELVIN EJIM, IOWA STATE
THE SKINNY: It’s amazing how well Ejim rebounds considering he’s only 6-6. The junior forward is having a breakout year on the boards and has already grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 10 of the Cyclones’ first 15 games. This little-known bruiser is the unsung reason for Iowa State’s resurgence under Fred Hoiberg.
E.J. SINGLER, OREGON
THE SKINNY: It isn’t possible for Singler to get any more out of his ability. The grizzled senior has been the Ducks’ backbone for four years and was phenomenal when Oregon upset previously undefeated Arizona last week in Eugene. In the win over the Wildcats, Singler filled almost every aspect of the box score, scoring 14 points to go with seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.
TOMMY BRENTON, STONY BROOK
THE SKINNY: You can’t really appreciate just how special Brenton is until you watch him play. This fifth-year senior doesn’t have to score to have an impact on the game and is expected to be the Seawolves’ all-time leader in assists, steals, and field-goal percentage. There’s only one thing that would add to Brenton’s standout career — a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
PIERCE HORNUNG, COLORADO STATE
THE SKINNY: It’s rebounds, rebounds, and more rebounds. Hornung has yet to have a game this season in which he’s grabbed less than seven boards and oh yeah, he’s only 6-5. A true enforcer, Hornung is one of many reasons why the Rams are the sleeper team in the Mountain West Conference.
JJ O’BRIEN, SAN DIEGO STATE
THE SKINNY: Think Jared Jeffries at 6-7. The versatile O’Brien always plays the game at a controlled pace and never loses his cool. An exceptional passer and capable ball handler, this Utah transfer has been a welcome addition to a San Diego State team that could be playing some pretty important basketball come March.
RAHLIR HOLLIS-JEFFERSON, TEMPLE
THE SKINNY: Fran Dunphy has regularly said that Hollis-Jefferson has been the one constant through all the different pieces that the Owls have had the past few years. A much improved offensive player throughout the course of his career, the 6-6 senior forward is also a solid passer from the high post. Other players may get the headlines for Temple’s perennial success but none of it would be possible without Hollis-Jefferson holding things together on a daily basis.
A.J. WALTON, BAYLOR
THE SKINNY: Other players would have sulked when the Bears recruited Pierre Jackson as their starting point guard two years ago. Walton instead found his niche. Now rejuvenated playing off the ball, this tough senior guard has relished guarding the opponent’s best scorer on a nightly basis while accepting a lesser role on offense. The maturity this young man has shown over the past few seasons should be a model for collegiate athletes everywhere.
SOLOMON HILL, ARIZONA
THE SKINNY: The slimmed down Hill is this year’s Draymond Green — a highly productive player that has the ability to single-handedly elevate those around him each time he steps on the floor. Two years ago, Hill was an ancillary piece on Arizona when Derrick Williams led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. Now? He’s a main cog in Sean Miller’s attack. An improved three-point shooter, there’s only one place Arizona’s season can end for Hill to be satisfied — the Final Four.
Who’s No. 11? Be heard in the comments!