Five For ’20: Ranking The Mountain West’s Top Five Shot Blockers
Predicting the top five Mountain West shot blockers of the ’19-20 season
Who are the top shot blockers in the MW?
As part of Mountain West Wire’s continued dedication to offseason basketball content, we welcome you to the third installment of the Five For ’20 series.
The Five For ’20 series features our ranking of the top five Mountain West players in five different skill sets: passing, scoring, defending, rebounding, and shot blocking.
We hope you enjoy the five-article series and engage in further conversation about where certain players should rank or appear on our Five For ’20 lists.
The Five For ’20 series schedule is below.
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the conference’s best shot-blockers.
1) Neemias Queta, Utah State
’18-19: 2.4 BPG, 10.4 BLK Rate, 4.6 FLS/40
The conference’s premier interior defender is back after a breakout freshman season. Queta dominated on the defensive side from the start of the year, sending back five shot attempts in a huge non-conference win over Saint Mary’s in November. He didn’t stop there, finishing in the top 20 nationally in block rate for the season and 14th in the country in blocks per game.
Despite his size, Queta is relatively mobile and quick on his feet on the defensive side. Queta’s defensive versatility combined with one of the highest standing reach measurements (9’3.50″) and wingspans (7’4.25″) at this year’s draft combine makes the Utah State center an imposing force in the paint.
2) Nate Grimes, Fresno State
’18-19: 1.7 BPG, 8.0 BLK Rate, 3.9 FLS/40
How many players can you think of average 12 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks a game and get less recognition than Grimes? It’s alarming how underrated Grimes is after his breakout junior year. The Fresno State forward is great on both ends, but especially on the defensive side where his athleticism brings out the best in his shot-blocking capabilities.
The bulk of Grimes’ rejections stem from timing on help-side defense. Grimes roams on the opposite block and attacks as the opposing player tries to score over one of Grimes’ Bulldog teammates. Long arms, verticality, and instincts allow Grimes to have a number of opportunities for highlight swats on a nightly basis.
3) Mbacke Diong, UNLV
’18-19: 1.5 BPG, 6.6 BLK Rate, 5.5 FLS/40
Speaking of long arms, we introduce you to UNLV’s lanky 6-11 big man. Diong’s block rate slightly dipped as a sophomore but his effectiveness as a rim-protector is as strong as ever. Even when Diong doesn’t block shots, his presence down low is usually enough to at least alter an attempt.
Diong uses his ridiculous length and wingspan to spike shot attempts around the basket. When he blocks shots, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Most of the Senegalese big man’s rejections are emphatic with the basketball soaring in the opposite direction. Diong makes his moments count.
4) Nathan Mensah, San Diego State
’18-19: 1.1 BPG, 7.3 BLK Rate, 6.0 FLS/40
The second super sophomore on our block list resides in San Diego. Mensah had a great freshman campaign, working his way into a starting spot in January and remaining there the rest of the season. The forward enjoyed 12 multi-block games and had his fair share of breakout moments along the way.
Mensah’s best game of the year came in a three-block effort in the February win over eventual conference winner Utah State. Fellow stud freshman Neemias Queta was shut down for much of the game thanks to Mensah’s defensive efforts, frustrating the Aggie big. Mensah’s key going forward will be bulking up to continue to battle centers underneath and contesting shots without fouling.
5) Carlton Bragg, New Mexico
’18-19: 1.2 BPG, 5.1 BLK Rate, 5.0 FLS/40
Kansas and Arizona State transfer Carlton Bragg was one of just five Mountain West players to average at least one block a game last season. Coincidentally, each of the five are on this list. Bragg’s per-game stat line indicates how much of a defensive improvement he has made as a Lobo.
The ex-five star recruit tallied 29 blocks in 24 appearances with New Mexico this past season after recording just 24 rejections in his 69 games with the Kansas Jayhawks. That’s roughly going from one block every three games to at least a block every game. New Mexico has severely lacked a strong presence in the key and although Bragg still has progression to do on that end, his addition to the UNM lineup is clearly beneficial.
Also considered: Nico Carvacho, Colorado State; Yanni Wetzel, San Diego State
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.