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October 18, 2007

Shooting guard position loaded with talent

Cast your vote: Who is the nation's best shooting guard?

The list of players who didn't make Rivals.com's top 10 shooting guards might be the best indication of just how strong and deep the position will be this season.

You won't find Butler's A.J. Graves, one of the top players in the mid-major ranks. Don't think Graves belongs with the college basketball's big boys? He averaged 24.7 points per game in victories over Notre Dame, Indiana, Gonzaga and Purdue last season.

You won't find the best player in the WAC, either. Nevada's Marcelus Kemp averaged 18.5 points in 2006-07 despite playing on a team with two NBA draft picks (Nick Fazekas and Ramon Sessions). Kemp is a dominating player in the postseason, averaging 26.3 points in his past three NCAA Tournament games.

Washington State senior Derrick Low and North Carolina's promising sophomore Wayne Ellington were good enough to earn spots on the American team that competed in the Pan American Games this past summer, but they didn't make the cut either. Low started four of five games.

So, who did make it? A diverse and decorated group. Seven conferences are represented, and only two had multiple selections. The SEC leads the way with three picks, followed by the Big Ten with two.

Rivals.com Top 10 Shooting guards
1. Chris Lofton, Sr., Tennessee, 6-0, 200
Lofton can't be labeled a 3-point specialist anymore. He started attacking the basket more last season and it paid off handsomely. Lofton attempted 159 free throws, 58 more than his first two seasons combined. That number helped lead to Associated Press SEC Player of the Year honors. Still, it's Lofton's quick release, pinpoint accuracy and uncanny range that set him apart from the rest. He is on pace to shatter the SEC record for career 3-pointers, needing 54 to pass former Arkansas guard Pat Bradley's mark of 366.
2. Eric Gordon, Fr., Indiana, 6-4, 215
He might be the most heralded freshman in school history, which is saying a lot when the school is Indiana. Bob Knight never landed a recruit with Gordon's combination of physical gifts and polish. Extremely explosive and athletic, Gordon also is a great outside shooter with the muscular frame of an NBA veteran. Gordon won't just be in the running for national freshman of the year; he'll be a candidate for national player of the year.
3. O.J. Mayo, Fr., USC, 6-5, 200
Like Gordon, Mayo also falls into the one-and-done category. The massively hyped freshman has a promising future in the NBA. Quick and athletic, he has a great feel for the game and a deep arsenal of skills. The Trojans need his ability to score the most. With the departure of three double-digit scorers (Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt and Lodrick Stewart), the Trojans will be counting on Mayo to put up a lot of shots immediately.
4. Mario Chalmers, Jr., Kansas, 6-1, 190
Look past the stats when judging Chalmers. The Alaska native's offensive numbers don't match up to others on this list. But that's largely because Kansas has a handful of players, Chalmers included, who could be stars elsewhere. He can shoot (40.4 percent from 3-point range last season) and create offense for others (3.3 assists per game). But the best part of Chalmers' versatile game is his defense. He had a school-record 97 steals last season on his way to being named Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year.
5. Drew Neitzel, Sr., Michigan State, 6-0, 180
Who is going to score? That was the big preseason question at this time last year for the Spartans, who had lost three draft picks who averaged at least 16 points per game. Neitzel was the answer. He was one of the nation's most improved players, raising his scoring average from 8.3 points per game to 18.1 ppg. He also led the Big Ten with 114 3-pointers.
6. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jr., Memphis, 6-6, 200
The talent-laden Tigers have a number of scoring threats, but Douglas-Roberts is the one coach John Calipari relies on most. A slasher who does most of his damage in the mid-range area and around the basket, the wiry Douglas-Roberts shot 54.3 percent from the field and averaged a team-high 15.4 points per game last season. He scored in double figures in each of the Tigers' last 18 games.
7. Patrick Beverley, Soph., Arkansas, 6-1, 180
New Arkansas coach John Pelphrey doesn't have to go out and recruit someone to build his team around next season. He already has that someone in Beverley. He was the SEC's freshman of the year last season while leading the Razorbacks in scoring (13.9 points) and steals (1.7 per game). At the U-19 World Championships in July, Beverley emerged as the best player on an American team flooded with future NBA players. He led the team by averaging 13 points per game and 3.4 steals per game.
8. Shan Foster, Sr., Vanderbilt, 6-6, 205
Look for Foster to give Lofton some heavy competition for the scoring title in the SEC. He has averaged 15 points per game in each of the past two seasons. This season, with Derrick Byars and his 17.0 points per game gone, the Commodores need Foster to carry the offense. Foster put together a strong performance at the Pan American Games in July, ranking second on the American team at 9.4 points per game.
9. Scottie Reynolds, Soph., Villanova, 6-2, 195
If it wasn't for a horrid performance at the Pan Am Games in July, Reynolds would be higher on this list. He was just 8-for-37 (21.6 percent) from the floor and 4-for-19 (21.1 percent) from 3-point range. Don't expect those struggles to continue into this season. As a freshman, Reynolds proved to be a dangerous scorer, averaging 24.2 points in the Wildcats' last seven games.
10. Stephen Curry, Soph., Davidson, 6-2, 185
Every coach in the ACC regrets not recruiting Curry, from Charlotte, N.C. His father, Dell, was a longtime 3-point specialist in the NBA, and Stephen hit 122 3-pointers an NCAA freshman record last season while carrying the Wildcats to an NCAA Tournament berth. Curry will get his chance to show off for ACC coaches this season. The Wildcats have games scheduled with Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

Cast your vote: Who is the nation's best shooting guard? | More Rivals.com Countdown to Tipoff

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