Ten more elite point guards

UC Santa Cruz point guard Adam Marlow, or "Chief" as the Banana Slugs call him, is among the nation's leaders in minutes played per game.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com 

 

In December, I published a list of my Top Ten Division III Point Guards in this column.  Of course, with almost 900 teams, that was an impossibly small number to highlight.  In the time since, I’ve had suggestions – some very polite, others… well, really, they’ve all been very polite – about other players to watch.  So here, as we prepare for the stretch run, are another ten very good point guards from across the nation.

What I like best about this list is that it’s become largely one of unsung heroes.  I would never have found half of these players if I were searching on my own.  Three come from independent schools; one is from a sub-.500 team; several are on the west coast and typically play after most of us have gone to bed.

As with the first column, I will try to work in recognition for as many players as I can, even if they’re not on the list.  Recently featured in Around the Region, Frank Schettino of Staten Island gets to be the only point guard in both columns.  He’s averaging 9.1 assists per game this season and will be in the Top Ten all time for Division III by next week; he has a good shot at reaching 800 assists for his career. 

There are, of course, a number of great point guards who didn’t make this list, and even though I don’t think I’ll be writing any more of these columns, I want to know about them, so keep sending me names. 

You never know where you’ll find the next great player.  I tuned into the George Fox – Puget Sound women’s game last week to check out Kimberly Frost (highlighted below) and ended up being really impressed with the Loggers’ Caitlin Malvar.  Just a freshman, she admirably and expertly ran the point at the end of a tense, really big game; she’s someone to watch. 

But the lead-in has gone on long enough.  Here are another Top Ten Division III Point Guards (in no particular order): 

Ross Udine plays for New York University.  At just 6-11, the Violets are not having the year they might have hoped for, but they are incredibly young. With just one senior, two sophomores, and one junior, Udine, leadership has been incredibly key. 

“Ross has been so important to our young team’s development,” says head coach Joe Nesci, “He is very positive in his communication with his teammates and sets a great example by working hard every day.” 

NYU has a heavy load playing in the always competitive UAA – not only do freshmen have to adjust to the academic and athletic challenges of college basketball, but the travel and intensity of UAA conference games.  Udine is probably more valuable for his contributions off the court, which is pretty impressive given that he leads the team in scoring and assists, but his full effect may not be completely appreciated until these young players fully develop. 

On the other end of the spectrum, St. Norbert is continuing a string of successful seasons, sitting at 15-3 right now and atop the Midwest Conference after avenging their lone league loss to Ripon this week.  The Green Knights are led by junior, DJ DeValk, who keeps their aggressive offense humming along and also does a lot of the scoring.

DeValk boasts a nearly 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, but it’s the other side of the floor where he does most of his damage.  “DJ defends at a high level,” says head coach, Gary Grzesk, “When you combine his work ethic, with his athleticism, and his passion for the game, you have a pretty special player.”  St. Norbert boast the best scoring defense in the country and the seventh best scoring margin; DeValk is right in the center of both of those numbers.

Kimberly Frost and George Fox are also working hard to continue a legacy.  Having lost only two games over the last two seasons, they find themselves at 16-4 and in an unfamiliar third place in the loaded Northwest Conference.  Frost has been a real calming influence for the Bruins, who are playing more freshman than they’re used to. 

“Kim has done everything you could hope for from the point guard position,” says head coach Michael Meek, “She’s been a lot more aggressive looking to score this year; this has been the most efficient she’s been – and she’s always been a huge key to our pressure defense.”  Frost averages almost 4 steals per game and is among the top ten point guards nationally in assist to turnover ratio.

Also plying his trade out west is junior, Adam Marlow, who runs the floor for the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz.  “He’s been a three year starter and really dictates our play on both ends of the floor,” says head coach Ron DuBois, “He’s going to break all kinds of school records, season and career if he stay healthy.”

A captain on a team with just one senior, Marlow provides confidence on the court and leadership off it.  “We call him ‘Chief,’” says DuBois,” because he runs the show.”  He is also among the national leaders in minutes played, showing his dedication and importance to the team.

Kate Tobie’s freshman year at Montclair State was the senior year for her sister, Melissa, an All-American stat-stuffing force whose legacy might have been tough to follow.  Kate held her own as a freshman point guard on a Final Four team and has continued to lead the Red Hawks, now as a junior captain and a star in her own right.  Montclair is 18-2 and despite an OT stumble to Stockton this week, still the favorite to win the always competitive NJAC.

Kate knows every rotation and every set from every position,” says head coach Karin Harvey. “She controls our offensive tempo, but what makes her one of the best point guards in the country is that she consistently gets the best out of her teammates every time she steps on the floor."

Tobie is every bit the prototypical point guard, not necessarily relied on to score, but to make sure everyone else gets the ball in the right spot.  She’s averaging five assists per game and possesses a quality of play that really has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Anthony Mosely, Jr.’s Illinois Tech may not get a lot of headlines, but the sophomore guard has had more big time basketball experience than most of his foes.  Winning an Illinois State High School Championship alongside Jahlil Okafor, Williams exudes invaluable confidence and helps instill it in his teammates.

That was never more apparent than in Tech’s win over then No. 9 North Park, where Williams’ shot wasn’t falling, but he made sure to get the ball into the right hands, dishing out eight assists in what might be the programs biggest ever victory.

"The number one thing Anthony does is provide confidence to our guys,” says head coach Todd Kelly, “They know he’ll probably be the best player on the floor in any game we play and that helps them bring their best effort."

"Jaquetta Owens has meant everything to Kean basketball,” says her head coach, Mandy King. Owens committed to a program coming off a major scandal that had won just five games the previous year; in this, her senior season, the Cougars are just a game back in the NJAC race and a formidable foe once again.

Sophomore Marajiah Bacon is getting a lot of headlines with her scoring and was the national Rookie of the Year last season, but someone has to get her the ball. “Jaquetta is at her best under pressure and has the best court vision I have ever seen,” says King, “She is fiercely loyal and has persevered through all of the trials of rebuilding a program."

There are players who are confident in their own abilities and then there are players, like Owens, who just seem confident they can control the flow of the game.  It’s special and really important in a point guard.  She is seventh in the country, with more than 6 assists per game, but those come in just 28 minutes, as Kean’s deep bench allows King to keep her point guard fresh.

Sam Annorh has been the SUNY-Canton point guard for four years. He has been instrumental in building the program, which has only been a full Division III member for two seasons, both on and off the court. Annorh played a big role in getting his high school teammate and fellow senior, Romario Fletcher to Canton, but also scores 21 points per game, while dishing out five assists.

“He’s our engine,” says head coach Ben Thompson, “He’s what makes us go and he does a great job of leading and communicating. He gets guys to buy in to what we’re doing and he holds them accountable. Sam does so much you can’t put a value on.”

Annorh is a 1500 point scorer and will hit 400 career assists, most likely in his next game. It’s almost impossible to quantify how important it is having talented players commit to an up and coming program.

“These seniors have worked so hard to build our program,” says Thompson, “I would love to get them some outside recognition.” As an independent, there is little chance the Roos will have a post-season celebration of those contributions, but Annorh has done a great deal to set the foundation for SUNY-Canton to excel moving forward – and he’s a pretty good basketball player, too.

Megan Green leads the charge for 19-1 and current No. 8 Mary Washington. “As a 5th year senior Megan’s on court experience is irreplaceable,” says head coach Deena Applebury, “She is second in the nation in assist to turnover ratio [at 3.25]. She controls the tempo, gets us into our offense, and has a refuse to lose attitude.”  Green is the type of player opposing coaches reference not just with respect, but reverence.

One of only two seniors on the roster, Green is responsible for keeping the Eagles focused in an especially tough Capital Athletic Conference. She’s had only one game with more than two turnovers and six with none at all, plus she keeps teams honest, shooting 40% from three. She also plays with an uncommon speed, especially on the ball, something that gives Mary Washington a real advantage on the break.  She is clearly one of those players for whom the game is just slower than for everyone else; that’s a really valuable trait in a point guard.
 
It is impossible to talk about Marietta without mentioning the two-headed point guard monster comprised of Dillon Young and Keith Richardson. I have never seen a team with two such talented and capable floor leaders.  They’re so good, coach Jon VanderWal has to play them together.

"We have the luxury of playing two point guards on the floor most of the time, which allows us to play really fast.” That speed, though, is not run and gun, but a carefully orchestrated and, at times, complicated offense that really requires a point guard speedy in both mind and body.

Both players average three assists per game, with Richardson being perhaps the better natural scorer, while Young is an above average rebounder from the guard position; both shoot better than 44% from deep.

“Dillon is one of the best all-around players I’ve ever coached,” adds VanderWal, “He’s got great court vision and is a phenomenal passer.  Keith brings an explosiveness to the position that most guys in Division III just don’t have. Both guys are pretty dynamic in their own regard.”

Young and Richardson were each key reserves for Marietta in the 2014-2015 season, then Young exploded to an All-Conference level the next year, while Richardson sat out. Now, having both is a real embarrassment of riches for a Pioneer program looking to make national waves after a first round NCAA Tournament ouster last year.  “Because of injuries,” says VanderWal, “We’re really playing four point guards quite a few minutes.”  I guess the real lesson is: the press won’t be very effective against Marietta.

One of the great things about covering Division III basketball is the emphasis on real, true student athletes.  In that tradition, it is great to be able to recognize players who might not always be at the top of a statistical category, but who use their talent in positive ways to lead their teams.  The point guards highlighted here could be joined by hundreds of others who work hard and contribute both on the court and off.  It is a real privilege to be able to share a few of them with a wide audience as we look forward to an exciting post-season, just weeks away.

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Ryan Scot

Ryan Scott serves as the lead columnist for D3hoops.com and previously wrote the Mid-Atlantic Around the Region column in 2015 and 2016. He's a long-time D-III basketball supporter and former player currently residing in Middletown, Del., where he serves as a work-at-home dad, doing freelance writing and editing projects. He has written for multiple publications across a wide spectrum of topics. Ryan is a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College.
Previous columnists:
2014-16: Rob Knox
2010-13: Brian Falzarano
2010: Marcus Fitzsimmons
2008-2010: Evans Clinchy
Before 2008: Mark Simon