By Kevin Sweeney
It’s day 2, which means it’s time for the shooting guards!
To recap things: I do these positional rankings to try to create the most accurate ranking list as possible– by narrowing things down to the mid-major level and by position, it’s a more even playing field to evaluate on. As for defining positions (a whole other can of worms), I base a player’s position based on where they played primarily last season. If a team is playing two guys who might be considered point guards together in the backcourt and one of them is doing most of the initiating while the other is primarily playing off the ball, the on-ball guy will be defined as the point guard and the off-ball guy gets defined at the 2.
The shooting guard spot was far less deep than the point guards, which I attribute partially due to teams playing smaller lineups (and therefore moving some SG’s to the SF classification) and partially due to more up-transfers from shooting guards.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the rankings:
#1. Sam Merrill (Utah State)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-5, 205 pounds
- Stats: 20.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, .461/.376/.909
No team in the nation was a bigger surprise than Utah State last season, and right at the center of the incredible season in Logan was Merrill. He went from high-level mid-major player to one of the premier players in all of college basketball, a high-level scorer at three levels who is also capable of distributing. Merrill scored in double figures in every game but one this past season and has really thrived in Craig Smith’s offensive system that maximized Matt Mooney in a similar role at South Dakota.
#2. Kellan Grady (Davidson)
- Vitals: Junior, 6-5, 195 pounds
- Stats: 17.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, .451/.341/.735
It sounds crazy to say that Grady flew under the radar last season given he was a first team all-A10 player, but backcourt running mate Jon Axel Gudmundsson stole the show with his outstanding season. Still, it’s important to recognize just how good Grady has been in a Davidson uniform, logging over 1,100 points in two seasons despite dealing with a knee injury last season. With two legit conference POY candidates in one backcourt, it’s no surprise excitement is high about this Davidson club.
#3. Jhivvan Jackson (UTSA)
- Vitals: Junior, 6-0, 170 pounds
- Stats: 22.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, .386/.351/.846
If you asked me to describe Jhivvan Jackson, I’d only need two words: bucket getter. Jackson is as dynamic a shot-creator as they come, a shifty ball-handler with some Kyrie Irving-esque off-the-bounce shooting ability. After starting off the season slow while getting back to 100% following an ACL tear, Jackson exploded in Conference USA play highlighted by a 46-point outburst by Western Kentucky. When he gets going, Jackson is unstoppable.
#4. Isaiah Miller (UNC-Greensboro)
- Vitals: Junior, 6-0, 190 pounds
- Stats: 15.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, .513/.282/.556
Offensive production gets talked about so much in rankings like these, but it’s Miller’s defense that pops the most. He’s one of the best ballhawks in the nation, averaging close to 3 steals per game last season en route to being named SoCon Defensive Player of the Year. With Francis Alonso graduating, look for Miller to move into an even more featured role on the offensive end, and if his jump shot improves, the sky is the limit. It will be interesting to see if Miller is deployed as a point guard after being played off the ball for much of his career with Demetrius Troy graduating.
#5. Jeff Dowtin (Rhode Island)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-3, 170 pounds
- Stats: 15.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.7 apg, .475/.354/.745
After playing mostly as a game manager who took care of the ball in his first two seasons at URI, Dowtin transitioned to playing off the ball for David Cox with Fatts Russell playing point guard. Personally, I think Dowtin is better suited running the show while freeing up Russell to score, but I penciled in Dowtin at the 2 for now given how Cox used him last season. At either spot, he’s a major weapon with his ability to get downhill, make good decisions, and hit outside shots.
#6 Javon Freeman (Valparaiso)
- Vitals: Sophomore, 6-3, 175 pounds
- Stats: 11.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, .452/.289/.693
After flirting with the transfer portal for a few weeks this spring, Freeman surprised many when he elected to return to Valpo for his sophomore campaign. It was a huge boost for Matt Lottich’s bunch, which had a rough offseason featuring a number of transfers out of the program. Retaining Freeman along with incoming transfers Nick Robinson and Eron Gordon gives Lottich’s bunch a nice nucleus to compete in the Valley. Freeman is an elite slasher who can play with or without the ball, with the only part of his game that needs significant development being his outside shot. However, it appears Freeman has made strides in that area this offseason, with Lottich saying “he’s shooting the ball great” in a recent article in the Northwest Indiana Times.
#7. Jake Toolson (BYU)
- Vitals: Redshirt Senior, 6-5, 205 pounds
- Stats (at Utah Valley): 15.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, .537/.448/.851
Toolson returns to Provo after originally transferring out of the program in 2016, following the coach who maximized his skillset at Utah Valley back to BYU. Toolson is an elite-level shooter who received interest from several elite programs including Duke and Virginia before decided to stick with Pope and head back to where he started. Toolson isn’t just a floor-spacer though– he’s efficient around the rim and doesn’t force anything.
#8. Don Coleman (South Alabama)
- Vitals: Redshirt Senior, 6-2, 190 pounds
- Stats (2017-18 at Cal): 14.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, .328/.243/.746
Coleman was incredibly hard to peg in these rankings. Playing on perhaps the worst high-major team in the country in Cal, the Augusta, GA native put up big numbers inefficiently in the 2017-18 season. He had three games with 30 or more points, but had 13 games where he shot under 30% from the field. A drop in competition, combined with being surrounded by talent, should accentuate Coleman’s ability to score the basketball. The question is how efficient he can be.
#9. Jordan Lyons (Furman)
- Vitals: Senior, 5-11, 203 pounds
- Stats: 16.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, .396/.347/.763
Lyons fits into the common mid-major archetype of “undersized combo guard shotmaker”. Almost two thirds of his shots are from downtown, and he’s capable of heating up at any time, hitting four threes or more in a game 13 times last season. Plus, how could one forget Lyons’ crazy 54-point explosion in November in which he hit 15 threes in one game!
#10. Zane Martin (New Mexico)
- Vitals: Redshirt Junior, 6-4, 205 pounds
- Stats (2017-18 at Towson): 19.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, .458/.380/.696
New Mexico has plenty of options in the backcourt, with Ohio State transfer JaQuan Lyle finally eligible and healthy, Texas A&M import JJ Caldwell getting a second chance in Albuquerque, while returners Keith McGee and Drue Drinnon all in the mix for minutes at the PG and SG spots. However, I believe Paul Weir will have a tough time keeping Martin on the bench. He provides a pure scoring mentality and an edge that this New Mexico team needs as it looks to mesh together a talented group with a lot of mouths to feed.
Cam Healy (Albany), Cody John (Weber State), Terrell Gomez (Cal State Northridge), Brian Fobbs (Towson), Taevion Hollingsworth (WKU), Nike Sibande (Miami OH), Jayvon Graves (Buffalo), Tyreke Key (Indiana State), DJ Wilkins (Drake), KJ Feagin (San Diego State), Adam Grant (Bryant), Tevin Brown (Murray State), Ross Cummings (Mercer), Parker Stewart (Tennessee Tech), Asante Gist (Iona), Donald Carey (Siena)