Day three of our 2014-15 Player Position Rankings and were at the small forwards. A good mix of schools and players types here as the position tends to be a catch-all for the combo players who have the height of a forward but the quickness and scoring ability of a guard. Their versatility means that having a top small forward/combo player is a valuable commodity in the West Coast Conference.
5) DUDA SANADZE – SAN DIEGO
Feb 22, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Duda Sanadze (10) celebrates after making a three-pointer during the second half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Jenny Craig Pavillion. The Toreros won 69-66. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Grier dug deep to find Duda Sanadze out of Georgia, the country not the state. But a lot was expected of him when you looked at his eye-popping numbers against international competition playing for the Georgina Under-20 National Team. In 2012 he was named the best young player in Georgia while averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. After sitting out a year as a redshirt, Sanadze burst onto the scene to become a legitimate third option for the Toreros behind Chris Anderson and Johnny Dee.
In 2013-14 he became a regular starter for the Toreros and preceded to finish the year as their second leading scorer behind Dee with 12.9 points per game. He also finished third on the team in rebounding with 3.7 rebounds per game. He was easily one of the most reliable scorer for the Toreros putting up double digit points in 24 of the 33 games he appeared in including four 20+ point efforts.
Sanadze has turned into the complete package for the Toreros. He can shoot three pointers, he can rebound, and he can drive to the hoop. He also showed an amazing intensity that made extremely aggressive on the court. Sanadze is not afraid to go right at tougher competition, and his passion is something that can’t be coached. Combine it with his natural abilities and extensive international experience, and you have an extremely potent and dangerous player.
– Mark Kramer
4) UCHE OFOEGBU – SAN FRANCISCO
Jan 19, 2013; El Paso, TX, USA; Southern Methodist Mustang forward Uche Ofoegbu goes up for a jump shot as Texas El-Paso Miner forward Chris Washburn tries to block the second half at the Don Haskins Center. Texas El-Paso won the game 63-54. Mandatory Credit: Dan Dalstra-USA TODAY Sports
Rex Walters’ coaching style has really made an impact at the Hilltop. Dons fans expect players that will not only give a full effort to to the Green & Gold but they also value a group of young men that are hungry to capitalize on opponent’s mistakes. Luckily for the Dons, Uche Ofoegbu fits this game plan perfectly.
Let’s take a moment to meet Uche Ofoegbu (ooh-chay oh-fway-boo) – the only sophomore on West Coast Convo’s Top 5 Small Forwards. Ofoegbu redshirted during the 2013-2014 season. He plays a style that forces his opponent to make the occasional mistake. Currently, most fans would rightfully target Matt Glover as the most physical and intense Don on the roster. However, during the heat of the 2013-2014 campaign, Rex Walters described Uche as the only Don that would not be intimidated by Glover’s toughness on the court during practice. Uche’s toughness and tenacity prepared the Dons for WCC gameplay during last years campaign; now it’s time to release him on the WCC.
During Ofoegbu’s time at SMU, he played in 27 games and picked up 40 rebounds. Even though Uche was not much of a scorer in Texas, a scoring improvement was easily noted during his limited time in the San Francisco Pro Am during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Uche illustrated his excitement to take the court in 2014-2015 during’s USF’s opening event last weekend. He was active during the annual scrimmage and dazzled the crowd during the Slam Dunk contest. With the WCC packed with speedy opponents, don’t be surprised to see Ofoegbu in the lineup early and often this season.
– James Stapleton
3) BYRON WESLEY – GONZAGA
Jan 26, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; USC Trojans guard Byron Wesley (22) in the second half of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Galen Center. Stanford Cardinal won in overtime 77-71. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Byron Wesley will have immediate eligibility after transferring from USC to Gonzaga. Wesley is a slasher who can make plays and score when he gets close to the basket. The Zags are hoping that Wesley will fill the gap that they have had at the 3 for the past couple seasons. He joins a stacked roster, and his 17.8 points per game last season will fit in well with Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos.
Wesley’s combination of athleticism and experience playing at a high level will make him a valuable piece in what will be his one and only year with Gonzaga. Along with fellow high-profile transfer Kyle Wiltjer, he should have a big year and be a key contributor.
– Mitch Krmpotitch/Mark Kramer
2) KEVIN BAILEY – PORTLAND
Dec. 4, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Pilots guard Kevin Bailey (00) drives against UNLV Rebels guard Anthony Marshall (3) in the first half at The Earle A. & Virginia H. Chiles Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
There were only two games all of last season where Portland senior Kevin Bailey failed to reach double digits in scoring. He led the Pilots in scoring average last season putting up 16.5 points per game. The 6’5” forward from Clovis, CA is by far the most athletic Pilot, and has the ability to create his own shot whenever he likes. He has improved his overall game over the past season increasing his field goal percentage to 44%.
His three point percentage went up as well to 42% as he attempted over 3 per game, up from 2.3 the year before. Bailey missed the final seven games last season, and it showed as the Pilots stumbled to a 2-5 record and failed to make it to the weekend of the WCC tournament. Portland’s hopes are higher this season and for those expectations to be met, Bailey will need to continue to be the rock on offense providing a solid 15+ points per game.
– David Thompson
1) TYLER HAWS – BYU
March 10, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Brigham Young Cougars guard Tyler Haws (3) shoots against the San Francisco Dons during the second half in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Haws has an excellent mid range game and is one of the most prolific scorers in the country. While a reluctant three point shooter, he still shot over 40% from beyond the arc last season. He is getting better at putting the ball on the floor heading into his senior year, and has the ability to pull up on a dime or take the ball to the basket.
One area of necessary improvement is his passing. He only averaged 1.5 assists per game last season, but that should go up now that Matt Carlino has taken his 4.3 assists per game to Marquette. Haws isn’t anything special defensively, but his complete package on offense makes him the best small forward in the West Coast Conference.
– James Pigott
Join us tomorrow as we head into the backcourt with the shooting guards.