By Kevin Sweeney
While much of the attention from the media goes to players such as LSU’s Ben Simmons & Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, sure-fire first round picks with all the athletic gifts, many players in college basketball are proving that size doesn’t necessarily preclude a player from being one of the best players in college hoops. Here’s a look at some 6′ and under players making a big impact in college basketball this season.
- Kay Felder (Oakland)- Even though Felder stands at just 5’9″, the junior from Detroit is one of the best players in college basketball. He averages 24.4 ppg, good for 4th in the country, and is the nation’s leader in assists per game with 9.2 per contest. He is a finalist for both the Bob Cousy Award, given to the best point guard in the country, as well as the Wooden Award for the best player in college basketball. In a game against Michigan State this season, Felder poured in 37 points and had 9 dishes, proving that he can ball against the top competition college basketball has to offer.
- James Daniel (Howard)- Daniel is the nation’s leading scorer, putting up an incredible 27.9 points per game for the Bison. The 5’10” Daniel has had 8 games in which he has scored at least 30 points. One major way that Daniel is able to score so effectively is his ability to get to the free throw line. He leads the nation in free throws made and attempted this season. At his prolific pace, this junior could become the first player since Jimmer Fredette to score 2,500 career points.
- Stefan Moody (Ole Miss)- The 5’10” Moody is one of the most dynamic players in college basketball. He scores 22.8 points per game for the Rebels. Moody has done all this despite battling a hamstring injury for much of the season. He has limitless range from behind the arc, and finishes through contact as well as anyone in the country. If Ole Miss has any chance of making a run in the wide-open SEC Tournament, they will need Moody at the top of his game.
- Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)- After being a supporting cast member for last season’s 38-1 squad, Ulis is now the star of this year’s Kentucky team. He averages nearly 17 points and 7 assists for the Wildcats. Ulis is also one of the front-runners for SEC Player of the Year. Also, the 5’9″ guard is perhaps the best leader in college basketball, commanding respect and attention from his teammates. He may be small, but Ulis truly is the engine that makes Kentucky go.
- Justin Robinson (Monmouth)- The star of a Monmouth team that has knocked off USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame this season, Robinson, a 5’8″ junior, has solidified himself as one of the top point guards in the nation. He averages over 20 points per game for the Hawks. Robinson’s confidence is unmatched in college basketball, as he has been known to assert himself as the best guard in the country on Twitter. Monmouth will look to him to lead them to the NCAA Tournament this March.
- Derrick Colter (Duquesne)- Colter has to be one of the toughest players in college basketball. Not only does he stand toe-to-toe with college basketball’s best despite being only 5’11” tall, Colter is a cancer survivor. He survived a bout with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2014. This year, Colter is averaging over 18 points per game for the Dukes. It is incredible to think that a person who less than 2 years ago was fighting for his life is now one of the top basketball players in the country.
- Yonel Brown (Kennesaw State)- Despite being only 5’9″, the diminutive Brown is an indispensable piece for the Owls. He is the second-leading scorer in the Atlantic Sun conference, and has played more minutes than any other player in college basketball. He averages 39.0 minutes per game. Another thing that stands out about Brown is his steady improvement. As a freshman, he averaged just 3.6 points per game. Now, as a senior, he is one of the best players in the nation.
- Damon Lynn (NJIT)- Lynn, a 5’11” guard, has helped NJIT’s transition from Independent status to members of the Atlantic Sun conference go smoothly. A prolific shooter, Lynn is 5th in the nation in 3 pointers made this season. If Lynn continues to score at this pace, the Highlanders could reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
- Maurice Watson Jr. (Creighton)- One of the best passers in the nation, Watson is second in the Big East in assists per game, averaging 6.6 dishes per contest. Watson is also an excellent scorer, leading the Bluejays with 15.2 points per game. Watson has helped Creighton overachieve this season, with the Bluejays currently in 4th place in the Big East despite being picked 9th in the preseason.
- Junior Robinson (Mount St. Mary’s)-The shortest player on this list, Robinson stands at just 5’5″. That hasn’t stopped him from being one of the best players in the NEC. After a freshman season in which Robinson was named to the all-rookie team, Robinson has raised his game in his sophomore campaign. This year, he averages over 12 points a game and was recently named NEC Co-Player of the Week. Watch for Robinson to rise on this list as he gets older and continues to improve.