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Sully's Court: Canisius's Baron, Georgia State's Hunter look like NBA players

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff  February 17, 2014 09:31 AM

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NBA draft talk usually centers on this season’s freshman class – Andrew Wiggins and his buddies. No doubt Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kentucky’s Julius Randle will be the top selections in the draft. But we’d like to offer up two players I think will play in the NBA, but right now excel at the true mid-major level: Billy Baron of Canisius and R.J. Hunter of Georgia State. Baron plays for his father, Jim, at Canisius. He originally played one season at Virginia, then transferred to Rhode Island to play for his father. Unfortunately, his father was fired, but he recovered quickly and got the job at Canisius. The NCAA granted Billy a waiver so he could transfer again.

He’s been killing it all season, averaging 24 points while hitting 47 percent of his shots overall and 44 from three. A lot of those threes are from long distance, too. In a televised game this season, he promised the announcers before the game that he would make a shot while his feet were on the logo at center court. It was a large logo, but the fact is he did it. He also leads his team in assists and the Griffins are contending for the MAAC championship.

The only game I’ve seen Hunter play, his team unfortunately lost. It wasn’t his fault as he scored 26. At 6-5, he’ll be a guard in the mold of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. He’s a little skinny and spends most of his time on the perimeter. His shooting percentage is 47 overall and 42 on threes. He makes 88 percent of his free throws. The most interesting part of his game is how the ball goes through the net when he makes a shot. It barely moves. You might think of him as a tall Stephen Curry. He’s only a sophomore, so it’s unknown if he’ll declare for not.

Larry Bird’s records: Keeping in mind that all of The Legend’s records were set in three years and before a three-point line, it’s still interesting to note that Doug McDermott of Creighton passed him on the all-time scoring list Saturday. McDermott noted the three-year, three-point difference himself in his postgame press conference. Also, Indiana State point guard Jake Odum is six free throws from tying Bird’s school record of 542.

Five rising:

Grambling: The school that once produced Willis Reed has been beset with big problems because of scholarship limitations imposed because of academic failures. The Tigers have endured some horrible losses this season by huge margins. Finally, something positive happened when they beat Alcorn State 95-80 to end a 45-game Division 1 losing streak. They followed that up with a road loss to arguably the best team in the SWAC, Texas Southern, and it was only a three-point setback.

Holy Cross: The Fighin’ Shaughnessys seemed like a non-factor a month ago. Suddenly, they’ve won nine of 10 (the only loss was at American) and are now snugly in the third place in the Patriot League and have to be viewed as a threat in the conference tournament. They will be favored in the next three before finishing the season against BU in Worcester March 1.

Iona: Earlier this season, I wrote off the Gaels as a contender in the MAAC. They’ve changed my mind with some great play in the league. They’ve won nine in a row and are a league-leading 14-2 in the MAAC. As usual, they do it in entertaining fashion, averaging 83.8 points per game. The MAAC tournament will be played in Springfield March 7-10.

Louisville: Rick Pitino is having fun. Yes, it’s true. “ Let’s grow beards until we lose,'’’ Pitino told his team. ‘‘It’s the first time in my life I'm trying to grow a beard. It’s the first time I looked in the mirror and saw multifaceted hair coming in different colors. We want to have some fun right now. Hopefully, we can get on a streak and grow some full beards.’’ So far it’s a four-game winning streak, but Cincinnati looms dead ahead this Saturday. The Cardinals are trying to work their way back into the national championship discussion.

St. John’s: Hollywood Steve Lavin’s team started by losing its first five Big East games, but now stands 7-6 in the conference and has won eight of its last nine games overall after spanking Georgetown at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. The Redmen also broke a 16-year drought on the road against Seton Hall, winning their first road game in the series since Feb. 15, 1998.

Five falling (non-Oklahoma State division):

DePaul: The Blue Demons are winless in six games since Cleveland Melvin had 25 points in an 84-74 loss to Xavier on Jan. 20 in his final game with DePaul. The senior forward averaged 16.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 20 games this season, but was dismissed from the team for undisclosed reasons. Things are going from bad to worse. Overall, the Demons have lost eight in a row and 11 of their last 13.

Indiana: The Hoosiers were hapless in losing to arch-rival Purdue 82-64 in West Lafayette. They’ve now lost three straight since upsetting Michigan. Some rivalry notes: Purdue ended a four-game losing streak; it was the first time since 1965-66 that both teams entered the game with sub-.500 records through 11 games. The two tied for last place in that season.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have lost seven straight, including a home game to Georgia, 75-55, after taking a 22-8 lead. Then they barely competed against Auburn Saturday.

San Jose State: The Spartans’ first season in the Mountain West could not have gone any worse. They’ve lost 13 in a row and lost to Wyoming Saturday while scoring only 38 points on 13-for-46 shooting. They have two home games left, against Utah State and Fresno, both chances to end the skid.

TCU: Hard to believe that the Frogs were once 9-3. Then the Big 12 conference season started and so did the losing. The streak hit 12 straight with a loss to Kansas Saturday.

The week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers were challenged by Evansville Sunday, but once again they combined skill and smarts to pull out the victory.

The week’s Final Four: Arizona, Syracuse, Wichita State, Florida

This week’s national champion: Arizona

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