Top 10 Ivy players of the past five years

The past five years have been incredible for the Ivy League. Two forever memorable Ivy playoff games, two NCAA Tournament wins, nine top 100 KenPom finishes and a clear uptick in athleticism throughout the conference.

But who have been the greatest players in the league in that timespan? A countdown, with the caveat that only players who played at least two seasons from 2010-15 were considered.

Wesley Saunders’ NBA Draft stock

Does Wesley Saunders have a shot of getting taken in the NBA Draft?

History says … um, no.

Jerome Allen remains the last Ivy player selected in the NBA Draft, taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round in 1995. (The last Crimson player to be taken in the draft was Keith Webster, by the Utah Jazz, in 1987.)

But what about a guy who wins an Ivy crown in every year of his collegiate career, ranked No. 46 in ESPN’s countdown of top 100 players in college basketball and was always an ace in the biggest games of his career, a guy who was the greatest scorer, ball distributor, pocket-picker and clutch player in the league over the past couple of seasons?

Of course, Saunders was that guy, and several NBA Draft prognosticators have taken notice.

CBS Sports currently has Saunders ranked No. 75 in its NBA Draft Prospect rankings, which isn’t far off its No. 73 ranking for Saunders when previewing the NBA Draft Combine, which was held this week. In fact, CBS Sports had Saunders ranked No. 96 in its ranking just a month ago, so it would appear that Saunders’ draft stock is rising.

Unfortunately, there are only 60 total selections in the NBA Draft, and Saunders is easily on the outside looking in.

I think DraftExpress.com’s evaluation of Saunders last month underestimated Saunders’ defensive skills, calling him “a bit of a mixed bag” when he’s been a consistently outstanding on-the-ball defender both in and out of conference play. I do agree that Saunders would struggle to get to the rim at the NBA level and that his outside shooting will be a crucial sell throughout the evaluation process. Ultimately, as DraftExpress notes, “Even if Saunders doesn’t get drafted, he should find numerous professional opportunities and may play his way into the NBA at some point during his career.” That’s for sure.

Sizing up the Ivy transfers

It’s been an awfully busy offseason for transfers throughout the Ivy League. Shonn Miller is off to Storrs. Rafael Maia is pining for Pittsburgh, Alex Mitola is set for D.C. and Denton Koon is headed to Hempstead.

But which Ivy transfer is going to have the biggest impact on their team in 2015-16?

Rafael Maia transfers to Pitt

The transfers keep leaving.

This time, it’s Brown senior forward Rafael Maia, who now joins Pittsburgh as a graduate transfer for the 2015-16 season. In his final campaign for the Bears in 2014-15, the Sao Paulo, Brazil native led the Ivy League in rebounding and field-goal percentage while providing the Bears one of the best post presences in the entire league.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Maia chose Pitt over Nebraska and USC, and that Maia is the second graduate transfer addition for the Panthers this offseason.

Like Shonn Miller, Alex Mitola and Denton Koon upon their graduate transfers, Maia is immediately eligible.

Maia seemed to pick up his game in league play after then-leading scorer Leland King left the team just two contests into the conference slate, shaking off a December slump in which he scored just 13 points in a four-game stretch. Maia takes smart shots and can post up with the best of them, as he showed with solid efforts against Northwestern and Illinois in nonconference play.

Denton Koon transfers to Hofstra

CBS Sports reported today that Princeton transfer Denton Koon has committed to Hofstra. The 6-8, 210-pound senior forward missed last season after suffering an MCL injury in October. He will be instantly eligible.

Koon was initially expected to return for the 2014-15 campaign but Koon later elected to graduate from Princeton this spring and use his final year of eligibility at another school. Koon played in just 18 games in 2013-14 and was ruled out for the remainder of last season in February due to a knee injury. Koon finished Princeton with career averages of 7.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. As a sophomore in 2012-13, Koon earned an All-Ivy honorable mention for his 10.5 points per contest, including 43.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Health permitting, Koon will provide a versatile frontcourt talent for the Pride who can drive in the lane with ease and stretch defenses with his shooting.

 

From the archives: “A Sense of Where You Are”

As noted in this space before, the 2014-15 campaign marked the 50th anniversary of Princeton’s 1965 Final Four berth. And as noted by The Classical earlier this month, the New Yorker freed one of its greatest all-time pieces from behind its paywall to coincide with March Madness – a longform masterpiece by the great John McPhee on Princeton’s Bill Bradley first published in the Jan. 23, 1965 issue of the magazine. The book, McPhee’s first, is 15,897 words long, so I’m not going to use a ton of words to set up the piece. Just read it here and be amazed by McPhee’s characteristically amazing storytelling and Bill Bradley’s talents as a basketball player and figure in the public eye, even as it appeared that Bradley might bypass the NBA en route to a less conventional career path at the time. Even if it Bradley hadn’t enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with the New York Knicks or gave Al Gore a serious run for his money during the 2000 Democratic presidential primary race as a former three-term senator, he’d still be worthy of the longform piece that hopefully you’ve already started reading by now.

Alex Mitola transfers to George Washington

As Alex Kline (@TheRecruitScoop) reported today, Dartmouth junior guard transfer Alex Mitola has transferred to George Washington, where he is instantly eligible.

Mitola, who was also in the mix at Temple, La Salle, Vanderbilt and several other schools, announced his decision to transfer earlier this month, and visited GW Monday and Tuesday. Mitola should fit like a glove at GW, which struggled shooting the ball last season benefit immediately from Mitola’s range as a shooter, as Mitola finished second in the Ivy League in three-pointers made in his final season with the Big Green and has stretched opposing defenses throughout his career.