Sporting News' 2018-19 college basketball All-AmericansSporting News — (Mike DeCourcy)
On an All-America squad divided into three teams, there is room for only 15 players. In a season as compelling and entertaining as 2018-19 has been, that’s probably not enough.
It was not enough to find room some of the greatest scorers in the history of college basketball, and some of the finest players this season produced. The voting produced a diverse array of candidates from all geographic areas and all levels of Division I. A total of 29 men received at least some mention from the elite panel of voters for the Sporting News All-America team, and 21 received votes from multiple selectors.
Of course, if an All-America team is to be an exclusive honor, it’s essential the list remain divided properly: three teams, five players each.
We are proud of this list, which is one of the components of the NCAA’s official consensus All-America team.
That list will stretch beyond the single name — Zion — that has come to define the season. Such players as Grant, Cassius and Markus had amazing seasons as well. Sporting News' 2018-19 college basketball All-America team:
RJ Barrett, SG, Duke, Fr.
Key stats: 23.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 45.8 pct FG
Defining game: 33 points, 6 assists, 3-of-7 3-point shooting in 118-84 win vs. Kentucky
Overview: Barrett has an overwhelming, undeniable skill: He may be the best college basketball player ever at getting a defender off balance, igniting a drive and either finishing that play or drawing a foul. Defenses know they must sit on his left hand, and still he gets by them and into the lane. He shoots 53.1 percent on 2-point attempts and has earned 188 free throws. His importance to the Blue Devils is such he averages 35 minutes a game, even though there were early blowouts that allowed him significant rest. He went 40 minutes in both Virginia games, against North Carolina and Syracuse — and 45 in the Devils’ overtime loss to the Orange. Whereas Williamson occasionally has been absent because of injury or foul trouble, Barrett has had to remain constant, driving the Duke offense forward.
Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, PF, Jr.
Key stats: 20.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 61.3 FG pct
Defining game: 26 points, 7 rebounds, 40 minutes, 8-of-8 free throw shooting in 81-79 victory vs. Washington
Overview: One of college basketball’s most versatile forwards, Hachimura is a nightmare matchup for opponents because of his ability to attack off the bounce and the ever-present threat of his perimeter touch. He attempted only 30 3-point shots during the regular season, but he made nearly 47 percent. He converted nearly two thirds of this 2-point attempts and earned 186 free throws. He also could be a prolific rebounder when necessary. In the Zags’ statement win against Duke in the Maui Invitational championship, he scored 20, passed for five assists and recorded three blocks.
Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee, Jr.
Key stats: 19.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 56.9 FG pct, 3.3 apg, 1.4 bpg
Defining game: 43 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks in overtime win at Vanderbilt
Overview: The SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore, Williams returned for his third season as a far more complete player. His scoring average is up more than 25 percent, his rebounding is up 27 percent and his field goal accuracy is up 96 percentage points. How is it possible that a player who ranked as the best in a major conference last season ranks with the most improved players in the game? Williams hit an early February funk when he averaged just 13 points in a five-game stretch, but he closed like the superstar he has become.
Zion Williamson, PF, Duke, Fr.
Key stats: 21.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 68.3 FG pct, 1.8 bpg, 2.2 spg.
Defining game: 27 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 10-of-16 shooting in 72-70 win vs. Virginia
Overview: One might say the defining moment of Zion’s season came against Virginia when he jetted from the opposite side of the foul lane to block De’Andre Hunter’s 3-point attempt. Hunter had possession of the ball — though not in his shooting pocket — when Zion was just starting his close-out attempt. Somehow his leap was high enough and fast enough to knock down Hunter’s shot not as it left his hand, but after it had begun its ascent. Amazing. But, when he has been able to stay on the court, Zion has been a college basketball player whose effect on games is unlike anything we’ve seen in decades. Ordinarily, if a player misses as much time to injury as he has, it impacts postseason honors. But Zion left so little doubt because he has been this season’s premier player.
Cassius Winston, PG, Michigan State, Jr.
Key stats: 19.0 ppg, 7.6 apg, 47.1 FG pct, 41.3 3-pt pct
Defining game: 27 points, 8 assists, 40 minutes 13-of-14 free throw shooting in 77-70 win at Michigan
Overview: The nation’s best offensive point guard — a player so crafty and versatile he can hit you for 28 points (Rutgers), six 3-pointers (Northern Illinois) or a dozen assists (three different opponents) — has become a relentless workhorse as the Spartans have been absent four rotation players for extended periods, including top wing scoring option Joshua Langford since mid-December and top post option Nick Ward for the past half-dozen games. He has played 36 or more minutes 13 times, including 44 in an overtime loss to Indiana. No player has been more indispensable to his team.
Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech, So.
Key stats: 18.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.7 apg, 48.7 FG pct
Defining game: 26 points, 4 assists, 10-of-21 shooting in 91-62 victory vs. Kansas
Overview: When classmate Zhaire Smith “blew up” as a freshman and became a first-round NBA draft prospect, Culver inherited the opportunity to lead the Red Raiders’ attack. He averaged 11.2 points on last year’s Elite Eight team, but the departure of Smith and senior star Keenan Evans allowed Culver to get five more shots per game and take great advantage of them. He has not been as accurate shooting 3s as his responsibilities expanded, but he contributes more — in more areas — than most any Division I player.
Ethan Happ, C, Wisconsin, Sr.
Key stats: 17.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.7 apg, 53.w FG pct
Defining game: 26 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in 64-54 victory vs. Michigan
Overview: Enough with the free throw shooting, OK? Yes, it’s a problem. Thing is, other great players have weaknesses that aren’t as easily quantifiable — and Happ might have no other weaknesses. He’s an excellent defender. He is a voracious rebounder. He’s an amazing ball-handler and passer whose skills in those areas are so impressive one need not add the qualifier “for a center.” He also improved from his terrific junior season in rebounds and assists. We won’t miss seeing Ethan Happ wrestle with his form at the line, but we will miss him when he is gone to professional basketball.
Markus Howard, PG, Marquette, Jr.
Key stats: 25.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 43.1 FG pct, 41.6 3-pt pct, 90.2 FT pct
Defining game: 53 points, 15-of-26 shooting, 10-of-14 3-point shooting, 13-of-15 free throw shooting and 6 assists in a 106-104 overtime win vs. Creighton
Overview: Howard plays his position unlike most anyone in college basketball. He puts the "point" in point guard. Howard’s first option is his own shot: not because he is selfish, not because he doesn't have very good teammates, but because he excels at creating his own opportunities and is elite as turning those opportunities into baskets and free throws. He has produced nine games of 30 or more points, including 45 in a victory over Kansas State — the nation’s No. 6 defensive team — when he shot 11-of-17 from the field and 19-of-21 from the foul line. He ranks 25th in Division I in free throws attempted, and ninth in free throw percentage.
Dedric Lawson, PF, Kansas, Jr.
Key stats: 19.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 49.1 pct FG
Defining game: 29 points, 15 rebounds and 13-of-17 shooting in 80-76 win at Iowa State
Overview: Lawson might have had an even more spectacular season had he not been forced to play nearly the entire year out of position because of the injury that took center Udoka Azubuike out for the year. Lawson had to play in his place, invariably defending bigger players and absorbing the physical punishment that went along with that. But even with that inconvenience, so to speak, he continued to excel and keep Kansas in the race for still another Big 12 championship. The Jayhawks didn’t get it, but the player who closed the regular season with 19 consecutive double-figure scoring games wasn’t to blame.
Ja Morant, PG, Murray State, So.
Key stats: 24.5 ppg, 10.0 apg, 5.5 rpg, 50.3 FG pct, 1.8 spg
Defining game: 29 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds in 76-74 victory over Jacksonville State in Ohio Valley tournament semifinal
Overview: Morant produced bigger numbers than in the Jacksonville game, and he was upset with himself for the five free throws he missed against the Gamecocks. But he needed to be great to keep the Racers alive in their league championship. He was, even down to the game-winning free throws he created with a drive and converted under pressure with 8 seconds left. Morant will set a record for highest assist average ever by a Division I player. If you wonder what he can do against high-level player, check his box score line in a nonconference game against Alabama: 38 points, nine rebounds, 16-of-29 shooting in a six-point Murray defeat.
Brandon Clarke, C, Gonzaga, Jr.
Key stats: 16.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.2 bpg, 68.8 pct FG
Defining game: 27 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks in 103-92 victory at Creighton
Overview: Why is a player who has had Clarke’s incredible season not ranked higher on this list? It is partly because he was not well known coming into the season, having transferred from San Jose State with little expectation. It is partly because his dominance against the West Coast Conference is part of Gonzaga’s overwhelming stampede through the West Coast Conference — which honestly hasn’t compelled a lot of observers to tune in to watch the Zags win by 30. Again. But Clarke might be the closest player to Kenyon Martin we’ve seen since the original; like K-Mart, Clarke is blessed with an astonishingly quick and high second jump, which feeds into his shot-blocking prowess (eight games with five or more blocks) and his gift for turning offensive rebounds into second-chance points.
Carsen Edwards, SG, Purdue, Jr.
Key stats: 23.4 ppg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 84.2 FT pct
Defining game: 36 points, 4 rebounds, 6-of-14 3-point shooting in 84-80 overtime victory at Wisconsin
Overview: On a team with few elite offensive weapons — the only other dependable element is Ryan Cline’s 3-point shooting — Edwards carries a heavy burden to generate the attack and routinely delivers. His percentages are not exceptional because he is required to force action for the Boilers to succeed, but he has produced 23 games of at least 20 points and five of at least 30. Edwards also is a gifted passer and is second on the team in assists. When he pays attention to this part of his game, Purdue is at its very best.
Kyle Guy, SG, Virginia, Jr.
Key stats: 15.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 46.3 FG pct, 45.1 3-pt pct
Defining game: 25 points, 7 rebounds and 8-of-10 3-point shooting in 79-53 victory at Syracuse
Overview: You could start a pretty fair debate by walking into a bar in Charlottesville, Va., and asking who the best player on this great Cavaliers team is. You’ll probably get three different answers, and two of them are on this team. Guy is perhaps the best pure catch-and-shoot player in college basketball. Because of that, many believe he's a one-trick pony. In fact, he can get into his own shot, usually with a one- or two-dribble move, and is an important part of college basketball’s best defense. But yes, eight times he hit at least five 3-pointers in a game, and he had a knack for doing it in big games: five in road wins at Maryland and North Carolina.
De’Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia, So.
Key stats: 15.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 53.3 FG pct, 47.3 3-pt pct
Defining game: 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting in 64-52 victory at Louisville.
Overview: Hunter was near perfect from the field in his visit to the Yum! Center and assured, as usual, that the players he challenged defensively were not. Whether it was Dwayne Sutton (2-of-8) or Jordan Nwora (5-of-16), it was not a pleasant day to be in Hunter’s company. Hunter is another reasonable answer to the question of UVA superiority, and he is the default response for some because he is the team’s most obvious NBA prospect. (He also missed last year’s NCAA Tournament loss to UMBC because of injury, so some exempt him from the disdain applied to those who participated in that historic defeat).
PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky, So.
Key stats: 14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 52.1 FG pct, 42.3 3-pt pct
Defining game: 20 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks in 71-63 victory vs. Kansas
Overview: Can there be any doubt that, if Washington had played the entire season the way he has the past six weeks, someone up there on that first team would have had to step aside? Over the past 15 games, he has averaged 18.2 points, topping the 20-point mark eight times. He is among the most versatile scorers in the college game, capable of scoring in the post into either shoulder and also of stepping behind the 3-point line and firing from deep. He also has improved as a foul shooter, which allows his coaches to trust him with the most important touches late in games.
Honorable mentions: Caleb Martin, Nevada; Mike Daum, South Dakota State; Chris Clemons, Campbell; Bruno Fernando, Maryland; Matisse Thybulle, Washington