JOHN MARSHALL, AP Basketball Writer
By now, even the most casual college basketball fans have heard about Doug McDermott, Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart. They were touted as some of the best players in the game before the season and have lived up to the billing.
But what about Antoine Mason? He’s nation’s scoring leader, yet goes largely unnoticed outside of the Northeast because he plays at Niagara.
Mason is not alone in his relatively obscurity.
With the depths and breadth of talent in college basketball, there are talented players across the country, many who go unnoticed outside their conferences or regions.
With that in mind, we’re going to recognize a few, knowing there are plenty more out there:
Antoine Mason, Niagara. He’s the son of former New York Knicks power forward Anthony Mason, yet plays a vastly different game than his pops. While Anthony was one of the most intimidating players in the NBA during his 14 seasons, Antoine is a 6-foot-3 guard who uses his quickness and ability to drive in either direction to get into the lane. The fourth-year junior leads the nation in scoring at 26.3 points per game — a full point ahead of the more highly touted McDermott — and is second nationally in fouls drawn per game at 8.4 per game, according to Kenpom.com. A big reason Mason doesn’t get much attention is that his team hasn’t been very good: The Purple Eagles are 6-19 heading into Friday’s game against Canisius.
Roberto Nelson, Oregon State. The Beavers’ senior guard doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because he’s on an average team — 13-10 — and plays in a conference (the Pac-12) where the games sometimes don’t start until well after people on the East Coast have gone to bed. But Nelson may be the best pure scorer in the West. The 6-foot-4 guard has a quick release, can shoot from range and has a knack for getting off shots over bigger players at the rim. Nelson is the Pac-12’s leading scorer and 11th nationally with 23.5 points per game while shooting 41 percent from 3-point range. He also averages 3.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State. Marcus Smart gets most of the attention in Stillwater, on and off the court, but Brown is just as versatile as his teammate and freakishly athletic. A 6-3 senior, Brown can light it up from long range in a hurry and is a regular on the highlight shows with his variety of rim-rattling dunks. Brown is right behind Smart in scoring at 16.7 points per game and has shot better than his more-touted teammate, hitting 47 percent from the floor and 37 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. He also averages 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists on a team that started the season 16-2 before struggling of late.
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa. The Hawkeyes have been one of the surprises of the college basketball season and Marble has been a big reason. The athletic 6-6 senior guard is the son of Roy Marble, Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, and has put himself in position to become Iowa’s first Big Ten player of the year. Marble leads the Hawkeyes in scoring at 16.5 points per game and is a lockdown defensive player who often guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player. He was the catalyst for No. 16 Iowa’s win over Michigan on Saturday, scoring 22 of his 26 points in the first half, hitting 6 of 9 from 3-point range while helping hold the Wolverines’ Nik Stauskas to 10 points.
Aaric Murray, Texas Southern. Murray looked like one of the nation’s best big men when he played at La Salle, but ended up at Texas Southern trying to repair his image after being dismissed from the team at West Virginia. After a visit to John Lucas’ rehabilitation center and earning his degree, Murray has resurrected his image, his game and his NBA chances with his third college team. A powerful 6-10, 245 pounds, he’s been an unstoppable force in the SWAC, scoring 23.8 points per game — fourth nationally — while shooting 48 percent from the floor, grabbing 8.2 rebounds and blocking 2.3 shots per game. Murray had 48 points against Temple, the most ever scored against the Owls, and has shown that he now has the maturity to go with that NBA-ready body.
Trevor Releford, Alabama. Travis Releford played at Kansas, where he went to the Final Four and four Sweet 16s. Little brother Trevor is making a name for himself in Tuscaloosa. A superb two-way player, he leads the Crimson Tide in scoring at 18.7 points and assists, with 67, while grabbing 3.4 rebounds as a 6-foot guard. Releford is shooting 50 percent from the floor, including 39 percent from 3, and is Alabama’s go-to player in crunch time, including a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left in the Crimson Tide’s 67-64 victory over Mississippi on Tuesday. Releford spent the summer getting into better shape because he knew Alabama would need him to play big minutes and it’s paid off; he averages nearly 34 minutes per game.
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