It’s no secret, when it comes to west coast games few outside of the Pacific time zone are staying up to watch these teams play. The sad thing is this is to no fault of even the most dedicated college basketball fans. Outside of Gonzaga, Arizona, Saint Mary’s College and (I guess) Oregon few teams are putting out a product that is worth staying up past your bedtime to check out. It doesn’t help that the local enthusiasm for college basketball isn’t too much better. California in particular is great with their professional teams and college football but when it comes to college basketball there is a distinct drop-off in interest. The teams mentioned earlier are the teams that are going to have to carry the load and get people in the state and around the country to get excited about west coast basketball, but there are also some individual players who are going to give everyone a reason to stay in the loop with west coast hoops. These five guys are a mix of everything, big name freshmen coming onto the NCAA scene, contributing players who will see a bigger role in the upcoming year and returning stars that might be in their last year of college basketball. All of these players will give the college basketball junkies of the world enough of a reason to throw back an energy shot and stay up for those late night matchups.
Elijah Weaver – USC
Elijah Weaver is an incoming freshman that is slated to be a huge contributor for the USC Trojans in the 2018 season. At 6’5” and 200 lbs this four star recruit is expected to compliment the Trojans’ other top back court recruit. Averaging 23 points and 9 assists in his senior year the Trojans are expecting this top 50 player to help jump start the team’s offense both in and out of the PAC-12. The only caveat is that we all will have to wait a little bit longer to see this big guard take the floor, back in August Weaver had surgery on his left ankle and is expected to miss around a month of the season. The coaches are confident that as he rehabs and gets back into playing shape that he will be able to hit the ground running once he is cleared to play.
Bol Manute Bol – Oregon
Bol Bol is the one big man everyone was waiting to see play at the college level and it came to somewhat of a surprise when he chose Oregon. Ranked 4th in the nation Bol stands at a whopping 7’3” with a 7’8” wingspan. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as he is the son of NBA star Manute Bol, the 7’7” center from the mid 80’s and 90’s who played for teams like Washington and Golden State. The rim protection of the Ducks this year is expected to be on level 99 as Bol will probably not run into anyone his size all year. He doesn’t necessarily have too much weight on him so his height might be countered by a center with some girth to him. Needless to say it is going to be worth seeing how someone the height of a small U-Haul truck fairs in today’s game. Whether or not he can be dominant to the point he spends only one year in Oregon is something we will have to just wait and find out
Rui Hachimura – Gonzaga
The 6’8” Japanese born forward is one that has intrigued many who have followed Gonzaga basketball the past couple of years. Hachimura is a prime example of someone you can expect to see have a drastically increased role going into this year. Last season he contributed on average 12 points and 5 rebounds. These are the numbers that you can expect to see go up as you see the offense go through him at times. Shooting 80% from the free throw line Mark Few is definitely going to be looking to get Hachimura to the line as many times as possible. Gonzaga is notorious for pulling great players out of a hat and this year Rui is going to be it.
Kris Wilkes – UCLA
Kris Wilkes coming back is great news for UCLA, not having Shareef as they had initially planned was a big hit for the team and having Wilkes return for his sophomore season will give some stability to the team’s roster. Averaging 14 points and 5 rebounds and shooting 35% from three, we can expect Wilkes to increase not only those numbers but also his assist numbers as well. The reason being Wilkes is looking to improve his game enough to get his draft stock where he believes it should be. He worked out for a few teams this past off-season before the draft and wasn’t necessarily pleased with where he was projected to go so he chose to return to improve that projection. “I see myself as a 1st round talent. If the teams don’t think so, I’ll go back to school, I’ll kill it and there won’t be (any) option about it next year.” . Wilkes has big plans for himself so we can look to see if he is going to be able to hold himself to it in a conference that is set up for him to be successful.
Martin – Nevada
The biggest draw that is going to have us all tuning into games on the west coast this year is because of not one but TWO players out in Nevada who are going to make things happen all season long starting from day one; and it’s none other than Caleb and Cody Martin. The Martin twins averaged a combined 33 points 11 rebounds and 8 assists in their junior year at Nevada. They also were a two man wrecking crew during their sweet sixteen tournament run this past season. Going into the 2018-2019 season Nevada is going to have a wealth of senior leadership coming from these two as well as Jordan Caroline, this trio with the young talent that they will mentor is going to create an a juggernaut in the Mountain West. The good news is this team will hopefully get a decent number of prime time games and the nation will get to see firsthand just how dominant the Martin twins are. If you’re one of those people who only likes to watch college basketball games with future pros playing, then these two are right up your alley.
Get excited because college basketball is almost here and for all those looking for a reason to tune in to those late night games your prayers have finally been answered. Get your popcorn ready because it’s about to be a show out west.