As conference play approaches, Hilltoppers will look to freshmen leadership


In all sports, you expect your senior players to have consistency in their arsenal, and the ability to spark an offense and make plays. However, when an organization has young athletes doing the exact same thing, it offers the team a huge advantage. In this instance, it is winter, and I am most definitely talking about basketball. In the state of Kentucky we have heard so much of freshman potency when it comes to basketball, via John Calipari and his “Succeed and Proceed” setup. While the nation watches the Wildcats, would it surprise you if I mentioned WKU had some of their own standout freshman? Now, these guys may not be your next NBA Lottery Pick, and may never see an NBA scout come their way, but when their play impacts a team and carries them to victory, it definitely needs to be noted. When the youth of a program contribute, you ought to know that good times are ahead, and for Ray Harper and company, I think they will have exactly that.

Some of the questions always looming around WKU basketball include “will this team have enough depth?”

“Who will step up if someone gets hurt?”

“Can WKU stop being mediocre during the regular season?”

We entered this Hilltopper basketball season with the belief that this is the most depth Ray Harper has had on a team during his tenure on the Hill. While the Tops have yet to see injury strike, their depth issue has been tested with the loss of Kevin Kaspar finishing out school midseason, and Ayinde Sprewell opting to transfer after not receiving enough playing time to fit his standards. In their absence, the depth has shrunk, and yet, the Hilltoppers look more potent than when those guys were even on roster.


Because these upcoming guys have stepped up to the plate and are helping carry a massive load for WKU Basketball.

First up is DJ Clayton, and what an athlete he is turning out to be. This kid is probably my favorite I am looking forward to watch grow and mature into a highly skilled guard. The first six outings Clayton saw minimal minutes, or didn’t even play, and not logging any points to his name. In his next three outings he totaled 11 points, with those games coming against Murray State, Ole Miss, and Chicago State. Then comes the big red birds to EA Diddle, and despite the loss, DJ logged his season high points scored against the number four team in the nation, that being Louisville. Clayton also added another 14 against Brescia, and nine against Alice Lloyd, both of those being large wins.

Next is Sir Justin Johnson, an aggressive front court man that WKU definitely needs. Johnson has stayed consistent with his play when on the court, normally grabbing mid-single digit rebounding stats, while also tacking on the few points here and there, as he is averaging 6.1 PPG on the season. However, the stats aren’t incredibly high, the thing with Johnson is his size and his attitude when on the court. Justin is the guy who is going to do his best to make the play when it counts, and never gives anything but his best effort when on the court. Johnson adds an extra man to a not so stout front court, discounting George Fant as the only other truly aggressive player in the post. Justin is effective, and only has room to grow.

This next guy is one who hadn’t seen the court too often until the past two outings, and that is Avery Patterson. To be honest, I didn’t see much in Avery at the beginning of the year. He had loads of athleticism, but I just didn’t see where he would fit in with the Hilltoppers, he looked to be unneeded at the moment. He has the build to be a true point guard, and to justify my thought process, we have enough guards on roster and he won’t see the court. Count with me; Chris Harrison-Docks, T.J. Price, Trency Jackson, Kaspar (at the time), Brandon Price, Clayton, and Sprewell. Seven guards total (not counting Avery), with at least five of them deserving the spot in front of him. So, I just didn’t see a big need for him, and didn’t think he could be effective.

Well my ignorance got the best of me yet again, because I love to think in the short term, not in the long. That being said, the past two outings the Tops have played in, the more I like the potential Avery has. He is a guy that can, should, and will be a true point guard for Ray Harper if he sticks around the program. Avery has the ability to shoot, (as shown against Brescia, season high 11 points on the night), but has more potential to play a true point guard and facilitate, pass first. If Harper molds Patterson correctly and uses him as a true number one, then I think Patterson can and will do some great things as a Hilltopper.

Last, but not least, is Rob Marberry. I had more expectations for Marberry, but when you are competing with four other guys for playing time, its not that easy to get statistical totals. Despite the lack of play this season, I still like Marberry. He brings the added depth the Hilltoppers would like to have if needed in desperation time, and always brings his effort. While I don’t think that Marberry will be too effective for the remainder of the 2014-15 campaign, I do like his impact moving on down the road.

WKU has won four out of their last five outings. Guess what four players have also been more lively during that span? (If you don’t know, then please restart this article).

Needless to say, I love these guys moving forward. Each bring a different feature to the lineup, and each is just as beneficial to the Tops. These four guys have the opportunity to learn from some of WKU’s finest, T.J. Price and George Fant, and will impact this team the remainder of the season, and on into the coming years. I love this year’s WKU team, but I think the coming years will be even more talented than what we are currently witnessing.

Freshmen status is such a beautiful thing. Why? Because it guarantees at least three more years of pure basketball joy.

Next: New Years Resolution for Each WKU Team