Day four of our 2014-15 Player Position Rankings and were heading into the backcourt starting with the shooting guards. High scoring guards have long been a hallmark of the West Coast Conference, and it’s no surprise that these guys are some of the best if not the best players on their respective teams. It’s also a young group with multiple underclassmen including the reigning WCC Newcomer of the Year. The legacy of great guard play in the WCC should continue to thrive with this group.
5) BRANDON CLARK – SANTA CLARA
Dec 28, 2013; Spokane, WA, USA; Santa Clara Broncos guard Brandon Clark (3) takes a warm up shot before a game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Coming in at fifth in the rankings, senior guard Brandon Clark had an eerily similar season to his counterpart, Jared Brownridge. Clark too averaged 17 points per game last year and contributed 2.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a junior leader on the squad. His leadership role will increase this year as he enters his senior season as an experienced scorer.
Santa Clara features two shooting guards in our rankings, and they make for a dangerous team with their high potential offense. Playing alongside our number one shooting guard last season, Clark was named All-WCC Honorable Mention. Being a year older and having the same talented players around who will also be more seasoned could mean another big year from Clark and more strides forward for the Broncos.
– Phil Hoban/Mark Kramer
4) EVAN PAYNE – LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
Dec 6, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions guard Evan Payne (1) dribbles the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh won 85-68. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
It’s the battle of the sophomores vs. the seniors in our player rankings, but Evan Payne is “the” man to watch this season. Despite his youth, Evan’s play matches up with the skillful senior shooting guards in the rankings. While everyone seems to be a newbie at LMU this year beginning at the top with first year head coach Mike Dunlap returning to his alma mater from the NBA Charlotte Bobcats.
Evan Payne will be the rainmaker following the graduation of talented leader and prolific scorer Anthony Ireland. Ireland and Payne were an impressive combo. Payne will continue to make his own impressive mark on the program after a stellar freshman year, where he finished 7th in scoring in the WCC.
– Mary Harvill
3) GARY BELL JR. – GONZAGA
For the fourth year in a row, Gary Bell Jr. will be starting in the backcourt for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Known for his defensive prowess, Bell will play a critical role for the Zags in the 2014-15 season.
His ability to shut down an opponent on defense and create a powerful threat from the arc puts him in elite company in the NCAA. Throughout his career at Gonzaga, Bell has suffered from numerous injuries that have limited his performance on the court. Because of this, health will be the key determinant for his senior campaign. We have Gary ranked as the 3rd best shooting in guard in the West Coast Conference, but if he can avoid those pesky injuries that have plagued him throughout his collegiate career, we may see that ranking go up a spot or two.
– Sam Falcone
2) JOHNNY DEE – SAN DIEGO
Feb 6, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Johnny Dee (1) attempts a three-point shot during the second half against the San Francisco Dons at Jenny Craig Pavillion. The Dons won 74-67. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
One of the highlights of Bill Grier’s time at San Diego was his ability to land one of the best underrated recruits of the past few years in the West Coast Conference. Johnny Dee started his career at USD as a walk-on and has developed into one of the most lethal shooters in school and conference history.
A First Team All-WCC selection last year, Dee finished fifth in the WCC in scoring at 16.6 points per game. His shooting accuracy might be unrivaled in the WCC highlighted by his .945 free throw percentage last year, the best in the entire nation. It carried over into his long range shooting as well. His 2.7 three pointers per game was second best in the WCC only behind our top shooting guard, and he finished in the top 30 nationally in three pointers made.
As goes Dee, so go the Toreros. If Dee can have another big season like last year where he was limited to single digit points in just five games he appeared in, the Toreros offense will once again be in good hands. Johnny Buckets will once again be relied on heavily to carry the offense as he pursues San Diego’s all-time scoring record, a record he should reach easily if he plays most of the season. Not bad for a former walk-on.
– Mark Kramer
1) JARED BROWNRIDGE – SANTA CLARA
March 8, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Santa Clara Broncos guard Jared Brownridge (23) dribbles against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard David Stockton (11) during the second half in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
According to the writers here at West Coast Convo, sophomore guard Jared Brownridge is the best shooting guard in the conference this year. After putting together an outstanding freshman campaign which included 17 points per contest, Brownridge’s presence as a scorer in the WCC is highly regarded. He will look to build on this fantastic season and should continue to produce points at a high level.
Being named WCC Newcomer of the Year is no small feat for a player not on the big three of Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s, but Brownridge did just that last season. It was an amazing sight to watch a freshman put his team on his back like that, and it’s a big reason why West Coast Convo expects big things from him in his sophomore campaign. With a season of college basketball under his belt now, it’s scary to think how could he could be this year being more seasoned and used to the college game.
– Phil Hoban/Mark Kramer