By Kevin Sweeney
Whenever you do a rankings list like this, you always find yourself surprised by some of the things you find out doing some deep digging. The biggest takeaway from my doing these rankings has been the incredible star power at the power forward position in mid-major basketball. I had an incredibly difficult time cutting this list to just 10, but I think I’ve found the ten best power forwards at the mid-major level.
As always, let me know your thoughts on my rankings by commenting below or shooting me a tweet. Also, be sure to check out the rest of my positional rankings: point guards from Monday, shooting guards from Tuesday, and small forwards from Wednesday.
#1. Mike Daum (South Dakota State)
- Vitals: Redshirt Junior, 6-9, 245 pounds
- Stats: 25.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 41.8% 3-pt FG%
Daum is one of the great stories in college basketball. In just 3 years, he’s went from redshirting his freshman year to being one of the top players in the country. Daum’s combination of physicality in the post and shooting ability makes him absolutely unstoppable, especially at the mid-major level. He almost single-handedly carried the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament last season, and he makes them one of the favorites in the Summit League this year.
#2. Peyton Aldridge (Davidson)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-8, 225 pounds
- Stats: 20.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 40.9% 3-pt FG%
The scariest part of the massive numbers Aldridge put up last season is that he wasn’t even the first option offensively. Now, with superstar point guard Jack Gibbs having graduated, it is now fully Aldridge’s team. He’s a prolific 3-point shooter who also can hurt you playing out of the post or mid-range, and La Salle Head Coach Dr. John Giannini even called him “the Larry Bird of the Atlantic 10”.
#3. Alize Johnson (Missouri State)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-9, 203 pounds
- Stats: 14.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 38.8% 3-pt FG%
A year ago, Johnson had never played a minute of D1 basketball. Now, he is far and away the favorite for Missouri Valley Player of the Year and on NBA radars. The JUCO product Johnson has incredible athleticism and a diverse offensive skillset that makes him an incredibly intriguing “combo forward” prospect at the NBA level. He recently was a standout at the Adidas Nations event. For now though, he’s tasked with bringing Missouri State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.
#4. Johnathan Williams (Gonzaga)
- Vitals: Redshirt senior, 6-9, 228 pounds
- Stats: 10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.8 apg, 40% 3-pt FG%
Yes, I am calling Gonzaga a mid-major for the purposes of this list. Let the hate commence.
In all seriousness though, Williams’ impact on the game can’t be measured by his per-game stats. Playing on a national title contender last year, Williams took a back seat offensively but was still an efficient scorer while making a huge impact on the defensive end. His outstanding athleticism allows him to defend multiple positions and rebound the ball extremely well. And with much of the offensive production from last season’s team departing, I expect an uptick in Williams’ scoring output as well.
#5. BJ Johnson (La Salle)
- Vitals: Redshirt senior, 6-7, 200 pounds
- Stats: 17.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 36.2% 3-pt FG%
In his first season of eligibility with the Explorers after transferring from Syracuse, Johnson had a monster year. He was immediately one of the top players in the A10, and even weighed departing for the NBA before electing to return for his senior season. He’s a bit undersized for the power forward spot, but uses his quickness and explosive skillset to dominate the game offensively.
#6. Bogdan Bliznyuk (Eastern Washington)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-6, 215 pounds
- Stats: 20.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 31.7% 3-pt FG%
A native of the Ukraine, Bliznyuk is one of the most under-the-radar stars in mid-major basketball. He’s a skilled passer for his position and a scoring force as well, referenced by the 7 games this past season in which he scored more 30 points or more. Bliznyuk is on pace (save injury) to break EWU records in both all-time scoring (375 points away) and games played (25 games away).
#7. Kevin Hervey (UT-Arlington)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-9, 230 pounds
- Stats: 17.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 34.2% 3-pt FG%
The reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year, there are very few personal accolades left for Hervey to achieve in college basketball. The talented forward can hurt you in so many ways on the offensive end, and the scariest part is he was just 1 year removed from an ACL tear as he put up monster numbers last season. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we start seeing increased buzz about Hervey as an NBA prospect.
#8. Chima Moneke (UC Davis)
- Vitals: Redshirt senior, 6-6, 223 pounds
- Stats: 14.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 0.8 apg
Moneke doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the other players on this list. He’s a true interior presence who didn’t even attempt a single 3-point shot last season. However, he is extremely effective in the low post and mid-range, while also making an impact defensively with his rim protection and athleticism. He’s the clear favorite for Big West Player of the Year, and is the biggest reason why I expect UC Davis to stay at the top of the conference.
#9. Xavier Cooks (Winthrop)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-8, 185 pounds
- Stats: 16.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 34.9% 3-pt FG%
Cooks is a bit of a unicorn in college basketball, if you will. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Cooks is a 6-8 forward who truly has “guard skills”. He’s lethal in the pick-and-pop, can take slower defenders off the bounce, and effects shots with his long arms. With Keon Johnson graduating, Cooks is now the star for Winthrop, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was a 20 & 10 guy in his senior campaign.
#10. Anthony Lamb (Vermont)
- Vitals: Sophomore, 6-6, 227 pounds
- Stats: 12.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.7 apg, 41.3% 3-pt FG%
I could have went a ton of different ways for the final spot on this list, but I went with the talented sophomore Lamb. After being one of the top freshmen at the mid-major level in the country, he now returns for his sophomore season for a Vermont club that is the favorite in the America East. His per-game stats aren’t incredible, but when you look past those to per-40 numbers and efficiency statistics, his work last season was incredible. And if the Catamounts’ NCAA Tournament game vs Purdue and Caleb Swanigan is any indication, Lamb, who posted 20 points and 9 rebounds in that game, is on his way to a monster sophomore campaign.
Just Missed the Cut
- Zach Thomas (Bucknell)
- Jermaine Crumpton (Canisius)
- Aundre Jackson (Loyola-Chicago)
- Jalen Hayes (Oakland)
- Drew McDonald (Northern Kentucky)
- Nick Mayo (EKU)
- Evan Boudreaux (Dartmouth)
- Jordon Varnado (Troy)
- Tanner Leissner (New Hamsphire)
- Terrell Miller (Murray State)
- Justin Johnson (Western Kentucky)
- Jarrell Brantley (College of Charleston)
- Zane Waterman (Manhattan)
- Eli Chuha (New Mexico State)