By Kevin Sweeney
It’s hump day, and we have reached the halfway point of our mid-major positional rankings. Today, we’ll look at the small forward position, one that is loaded with talent at the mid-major level. The difficult thing in ranking these guys is labeling the small forwards when many spend significant time at multiple positions, whether it be guys on the small side who also see action at shooting guard or “big wings” who are also deployed as small-ball 4’s.
As always, thanks for checking out the rankings, and I’d love to know your thoughts! Be sure to comment below or tweet at me (handle is @CBB_Central). Also, check out the first two installments of our rankings series, I ranked the point guards on Monday and shooting guards on Tuesday.
#1. Chandler Hutchison (Boise State)
Stats: 17.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 37.7% 3-pt FG%
A former highly-touted recruit, Hutchison struggled to live up to the considerable hype in his first two seasons in Boise. However, he finally put it together last year in a standout junior campaign en route to First Team All-MWC honors. His mixture of size, strength, and shooting ability makes him a matchup nightmare in the Mountain West, and he enters his senior campaign as a favorite for conference POY honors.
#2. De’Monte Buckingham (Richmond)
Stats: 10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 35.7% 3-pt FG%
For the record, I’m totally on the Buckingham Bandwagon. Turn on a Richmond game, and the rising sophomore will immediately pop off the screen with his nose for the basketball and energy. Combine that with a fast-developing offensive skillset that will allow him to blossom into a full-blown star, and Buckingham is on the fast track to stardom in the Atlantic 10.
#3. Caleb Martin (Nevada)
Stats (2015-16 at NC State): 11.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 36.1% 3-pt FG%
Eric Musselman has dominated the transfer market since arriving in Reno, and Caleb Martin might be the best piece he’s landed yet. A versatile wing scorer who put up strong numbers in his sophomore campaign under Mark Gottfried at NC State, Martin should thrive in Musselman’s up-tempo, free-flowing offensive system.
#4. Myles Stephens (Princeton)
Stats: 12.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 apg, 39.5% 3-pt FG%
Stephens’ numbers on paper don’t necessarily demonstrate just how good a player he is. He really came into his own as the season went on last season and was arguably the best player in Ivy League play in the entire conference. He’s a great shooter, good perimeter defender, and is more than capable of getting to the rim. I expect a huge year from Stephens, which is why he’s higher on this list than most might expect.
#5. Justin James (Wyoming)
Stats: 16.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 41.9% 3-pt FG%
James blossomed into a star last season, putting up huge numbers en route to the Cowboys winning a CBI Championship. The long wing is such a versatile piece in this day and age, one who can play 3 positions offensively defend 4 different positions. He’s an efficient scorer who is on track to be a First Team All-MWC performer in his junior campaign.
#6. Calvin Hermanson (St. Mary’s)
Stats: 13.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.9 apg, 43.1% 3-pt FG%
Hermanson is one of (if not the best) pure shooters in the college game today. He connected on over 43% of his 3-point attempts and had a effective field goal percentage (weights 2 and 3-point shots differently) of 63.4%, both incredibly good marks. Hermanson is also an incredibly smart player who knows his role in Randy Bennett’s system, and is a key cog on what I expect to be a top-20 team this season in Moraga.
#7. Dikembe Dixson (UIC)
Stats: 20.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 36.7% 3-pt FG%
Before tearing his ACL in a victory over DePaul last season, Dixson was well on his way to a special sophomore campaign. He’s an incredible talent at the mid-major level, a do-it-all wing who can absolutely fill it up. The big question that looms is his health, but should he come back strong from that ACL injury, he has a chance to be MUCH higher on this list when the season comes to a close.
#8. Jacobi Boykins (Louisiana Tech)
Stats: 14.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 40.8% 3-pt FG%
Boykins wasn’t the star of last season’s LA Tech team, but he still put up strong offensive numbers and made a ton of plays defensively. Now, with Erik McCree graduating, this is fully Boykins’ team, and I expect him to thrive with an increased scoring load offensively. He’s improved his game every season of his collegiate career, and his senior campaign should be a big one.
#9. Ahmad Thomas (UNC-Asheville)
Stats: 18.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 45.7% 3-pt FG%
Thomas is one of my favorite players to watch in college basketball. He plays with such incredible energy and toughness, and is an elite perimeter defender. Not only that, but he has improved his offensive repertoire drastically as well to make him one of the top wings in the Big South and across the country. His improvement from the 3-pt arc a season ago was incredibly impressive and speaks to just how hard a worker Thomas is.
#10. Matt Scott (Niagara)
Stats: 17.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 37.6% 3-pt FG%
I remember watching Scott for the first time in-person at a Siena vs Niagara game in the 2014-15 season. If you had told me then he’d be on this list in a few years, I would have told you that you were crazy. Scott had some skill but was rail-thin and playing for a Purple Eagles team that simply wasn’t any good.
Now, Scott enters his senior year as one of the best players in the MAAC and one of the most underrated players in college basketball. He can truly do it all on the floor, whether it be score, rebound, defend, or distribute. Perhaps more importantly, he’s led the Purple Eagles program from the ground into a team that most are projecting for a top 5 finish in the MAAC this season.
Just Missed the Cut:
- Yuta Watanabe (George Washington)
- James Demery (St. Joe’s)
- Ryan Daly (Delaware)
- Martez Walker (Oakland)
- Miye Oni (Yale)
- Tiwian Kendley (Morgan State)
- Keith Braxton (St. Francis PA)
- Demetrius Denzel-Dyson (Samford)
- Paul Miller (North Dakota State)