Connor Cagley, Big Sports Radio Basketball Writer
September 15, 2022
Let's take a look at the Top 5 Small Forwards in the B1G. For this discussion, we're not going to slide a freshman into the Top 5 because there is no statistical evidence that I can use as a base to predict their performance. I also have specific articles rating the B1G freshmen as well (see bottom of the article for links).
Melendez was really coming on for the Illini late in the season and was arguably Illinois’ second best player behind Kofi Cockburn in their tournament loss to Houston last season. Without a shadow of a doubt, he will be playing much more this season than as a freshman. It’s unlikely he will replicate last season’s 60% mark from the three (although on only 15 attempts), but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him shoot above the 40% mark.
The areas where he really shows promise are defensively and in transition. His long strides and good timing allow him to get in to passing lanes for steals where he can lead the break . This is an area he seems to be really comfortable with the ball. This comfort likely results from his high school career where he ran the point guard at times.
Terrence Williams, like Malik Hall, is another who will likely get minutes at both the three and four positions. This year, he may get more minutes at the four due to the loss of Moussa Diabate and Brandon Johns, Jr. His skill set is still much more suited to play as a small forward. While he only averaged 4.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, that was due to only playing 15 minutes per game.
Despite his limited playing time, his energy was felt on the court, most noticeably on the defensive end. If he can replicate last year’s 38.5% from the three, he’s going to be a tough match-up for all teams in the conference at the three or the four. It will be interesting to see how Juwan Howard uses Williams alongside his son, Jett Howard, on the wings this season.
Patrick McCaffery is the lone returnee for Iowa that averaged in double digits last season. He averaged 10.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists a game. While he’s a solid offensive player, he will need to be more consistent from the three point line where he shot only 33% on 100 attempts last season.
With emerging stars Kris Murray and Tony Perkins, McCaffery won’t have to force bad shots as Iowa’s offense will have plenty of shot creators. The area of his game needing the most work to live up to his billing will be on the defensive end of the court – an area where Iowa, as a team, struggles. At 6’9” he should be able to become more impactful as a shot blocker and help defender, but this isn’t an area he’s really honed in yet. If he can improve on this side of the ball as well as increase his usage on offense, he’ll be in the thick of it come All Big Ten selection time.
Malik Hall will be counted on to step up by the Spartans this year since they lost their top three scorers from last season, including their top two wings (Gabe Brown and Max Christie). Hall will get most of his minutes at the three, but will also get some minutes at the four when Michigan State commits to small ball lineups (like Terrence Williams).
Hall will likely jump his scoring average up to double digits after averaging 8.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 21 minutes per game. A lot will be riding on how Hall plays as he’s the only option Tom Izzo will have at the wing other than sophomore Pierre Brooks, who only averaged 3.7 points per game last season.
Despite a slump to end the season, Hall still ended up shooting the ball at 42.6% from the three and 51.5% from the field overall.
Justice Sueing missed all but two games last season due to an abdominal issue. This makes his future slightly more difficult to predict just based on whether or not he’ll stay healthy. When he was playing two years ago, he was the clear number two option to EJ Liddell at Ohio State.
This Ohio State team looks much different than the one he played on two years ago. Even with all the transfer players and new recruits they’ve added in this off season, Sueing is likely the #1 option offensively if he’s healthy. During his first year at Ohio State, he averaged 10.7 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 49% from the field and 36% from the three.
He’ll have his work cut out for him coming off an injury and having to pick up the slack left by Liddell after his departure to the NBA.
Top B1G Freshmen: