Five For ’21: Ranking The Mountain West’s Top Scorers
Predicting the top five Mountain West scorers of the ’20-21 season
Who are the top scorers in the MW?
As part of Mountain West Wire’s continued dedication to offseason basketball content, we welcome you to the second installment of the Five For ’21 series.
The Five For ’21 series features our ranking of the top five Mountain West players in five different skill sets: passing, scoring, defending, rebounding, and shot blocking.
As for the scoring list, the focus here is on guards and forwards who create and score from all three levels.
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 ’21 lists.
The Five For ’21 series schedule is below.
- Monday: Passers
- Tuesday: Scorers
- Wednesday: Shot Blockers
- Thursday: Defenders
- Friday: Rebounders
Without further adieu, we open up our top scorer list with one of the conference’s top-five returning scorers from last season.
5) Seneca Knight, San Jose State
’19-20: 17.1 PPG, 40.3 FG%, 29.4 3P%, 53.2 TS%
There were plenty of capable scoring candidates for this list, especially at the number five spot. But not too many with the potential to lead the conference in scoring like Seneca Knight does in 2020-2021. On the surface the 6-6 combo guard is a returning top-five scorer on a bottom half Mountain West team who struggled to score last season. With the Spartans averaging a combined 69.9 PPG last season which was good enough for 9th in the conference.
But what do they say when you’ve hit rock bottom? There is nowhere to go but up. Knight has the potential to break twenty points a game next season and may do so in spectacular fashion if he takes a similar step up in production similar to what he averaged from his freshman to sophomore year (a difference of 10.9 PPG).
There’s no denying Knight’s position as a top five scorer in the Mountain West, especially given his versatility in his ability to knock them down from deep, from the field and at the free throw line. We just have to wait patiently to see what another offseason of development does for the now junior’s game in anticipation of a big year ahead.
4) Bryce Hamilton, UNLV
’19-20: 16.0 PPG, 45.3 FG%, 33.9 3P%, 106.0 ORtg, 52.6 TS%
Hamilton burst into the all-conference conversation at the onset of the new year, after going scoreless at home against Robert Morris on December 21st. He followed up that lackluster performance by scoring in double-digits the next nineteen games, including eight performances of twenty or more with his season high of thirty-five coming against New Mexico in January.
The Runnin’ Rebels will look a lot different this year with a combination of outgoing transfers and a very large incoming recruiting class. Hamilton will now be paired up with one of the best scorers in the country in David Jenkins Jr., but isn’t foreign to sharing the scoring duties as he did last season with now Oregon Duck Amauri Hardy last season.
The 6-4 scoring guard uses his combination of size and length against smaller guards while driving the lane relentlessly to get to the line as a means of putting points on the board.
As previously mentioned next year’s squad will look a bit different, and so might T.J. Otzelberger’s plan of attack with a different set up personnel. The second year head coach has in the past mentioned a desire to run-and-gun like the UNLV squads of years past. If there are any Rebels not recruited by Otzelberger that have stuck around for the upcoming season capable of excelling in such a system, it’s Hamilton.
3) Justin Bean, Utah State
’19-20: 11.9 PPG, 51.8 FG%, 27.6 3P%, 122.9 ORtg, 57.8 TS%
Bean is going to be a player featured on multiple five for ’21 lists this week and that is just the kind of player he’s become at Utah State. The 6-7 post uses a tremendous motor and relentless pursuit of the ball around the rim to take advantage of second change opportunities while outworking bigger forwards in the paint.
He saw a jump in production from his freshman year to this past season with an increase in playing time on a top-three Mountain West squad. Though Bean was destined for a supporting role last season behind one of the conferences best scorers in Sam Merrill, but exceeded expectations down low in Neemias Queta’s absence early on.
Expectations are a bit different going into 2020-2021 with the now redshirt junior gearing up for a further leadership role in Craig Smith’s third year in Logan.
Bean is definitely up for the task, boasting the highest offensive rating on the list at 122.9. The only question remaining is how the Aggies aim to use Bean in an offensive system without Merrill. As he was one of the best clean up big men in the country when it came to offensive boards last season. So unless Sam Merrill’s license to shoot the ball transfers to the next starting two guard, I can imagine Bean’s offesnsive opportunities will look very different next season.
2) David Jenkins Jr., UNLV
’18-19: 19.7 PPG, 45.8 FG%, 45.3 3P%, 111.3 ORtg ,61.4 TS%
Jalen Harris and Malachi Flynn reintroduced the appeal and power of transfers into the Mountain West in 2019-2020. Just in case anyone forgot why Eric Musselman built Nevada into the west coast “Transfer U” with them just a season earlier.
UNLV combo guard David Jenkins Jr. is the Mountain West’s next installment, of the high impact incoming transfer.
Jenkins Jr. hails from Tacoma,WA but made a name for himself at his last stop in Brookings, SD (population 24,509) at Summit League powerhouse South Dakota State. There under now UNLV head coach T.J. Otzelberger, the 6-2 scoring guard played a supporting role to college basketball legend Mike Daum (25.3 PPG & 11.7 RPG) while averaging 19.7 PPG and shooting 45.8% from the field and 45.3% from deep in his last season as a Jack Rabbit.
For those who might try to say “yeah 19.7 PPG, in the Summit League” need not look further for proof that his scoring ability translates to the Mountain West than performances against Memphis (35 points on 12/4/18), Texas (19 points on 3/19/19), Tulane (23 points on 11/19/18) and Colorado State (32 points on 11/21/18). No matter the opponent Jenkins Jr. manages to score regardless.
1) Derrick Alston Jr., Boise State
’19-20: 17.3 PPG, 41.3 FG%, 33.5 3P%, 51.5 TS%
Alston Jr. is the conference’s returning leading scorer from last season, but if we plan to revisit this list come March we may not find him atop the list. That’s because he may have even more scoring support next season than he did in 2019-2020, which is a scary thought.
The 6-9 scoring guard entered his name into the 2020 NBA draft but decided to return to Boise to contend for a conference title and boost his draft stock. He’s in a great position to do both but needs to be a little more offensively efficient next season to position himself as a first round prospect. With his size, length and an rare ability to handle the ball at his height, Alston Jr. is a match up nightmare for smaller guards. These attributes make him a back to the basket bully for many guards in the conference, plus the frame to take it to the rim and get fouled if necessary among players more his size.
But he may need to release the reins a bit when it comes to facilitating the offense and focus on putting points on the board. Through no fault of his own, Alston Jr. was one of the better primary ball handlers on last season’s Broncos team but certainly not among the most efficient in the conference. He and entire squad may benefit greatly from those duties being passed on to say RayJ Dennis or Marcus Shaver Jr., in order to create more scoring opportunities and hinder turnovers.
Also Considered: Hunter Maldonado, Wyoming; Matt Mitchell, San Diego State; Desmond Cambridge Jr., Nevada; Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State; David Roddy, Colorado State; A.J. Walker, Air Force; Richard Washington, San Jose State; Kwame Marble II, Wyoming; Adam Thislewood, Colorado State; Makuach Maluach, New Mexico