After Saturday’s win over Missouri Southern, freshman Trevor Hudgins called senior Joey Witthus ‘the college James Harden.’ While Harden may be the NBA’s MVP this season and Witthus has to be a front-runner for the Division-2 national player of the year awards, that is basically where the comparisons stop. 

Coach Ben McCollum laughed about Hudgins’ comparison after the game, but offered no counter-comparison. I figured I’d give Mac some more things to laugh at with my column this week, comparing every player on the Bearcat roster to a current or former NBA player. 

Some ground rules before I begin. 1. Every player in the NBA is an athletic freak so I’m clearly not saying whoever vs. whoever is an even matchup, I’m just looking at what each one does on the court and comparing playing styles. Please don’t argue things like, ‘this NBA guy is way taller,’ ‘this NBA guy jumps higher,’ — don’t take this too seriously. 2. I’m a 90s kid so I’m not comparing these guys to guys I’ve only seen on YouTube and Hardwood Classics. My player-pool for comparisons only goes back to the late 90s, so for you Sam Jones and Elgin Baylor fans, let me apologize in advance. 

So let’s jump in with the comparison that kicked off the debate. 

Joey Witthus

When McCollum refuted Hudgins’ Harden comp, he said something interesting. McCollum called Witthus a center. 

Initially that sounds ludicrous, but in this new small-ball, position-less style of basketball, the cliche is that your position isn’t where you play offensively, but who you can guard defensively. More often than not, Witthus does guard opposing centers so I will agree with McCollum and comp him to a big man.

My comparison for Witthus is former Jail-Blazers era Portland star and former Pistons champion Rasheed Wallace

Wallace played in an NBA golden age for power forwards with Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and a young Dirk Nowitzki, but Wallace may have been the most versatile of them all. A strong defensive presence who was one of the guys who started the stretch-four movement — shooting 35 percent in his time in Detroit. 

Wallace was strong in the post as well which made his a matchup nightmare. 

Perhaps my favorite reason for this comparison is that Wallace spent the first half of his career in Portland, but needed a change of scenery to reach his full potential and become a champion. Witthus has certainly unlocked more of his potential with the Bearcats and stay tuned on that potential championship.  

Trevor Hudgins

Hudgins has been a revelation this season taking over for Justin Pitts. He has been the floor general that the Bearcats needed and has added more of an inside game to the position.

So I'm looking for a bigger guard who can pass, shoot, but also post up. 

My pick is another Pistons' legend Chauncey Billups. Billups was the consummate floor general and known for his ability to hit the big shot. 

A good shooter and defensive player, Billups was known as a guy who was able to bully opposing guards inside.

Diego Bernard

The other half of the freshman backcourt reminds me of Andre Iguodala.

Iguodala’s reputation begins with defense and that is the first thing you notice about Iggy, especially in his Sixers days. 

In addition to his defense, Iggy is a great athlete and was always a threat to get to the rim. A streaky shooter, but when he was on, good luck trying to defend him. Iggy also possessed point guard skills with more than five assists a game for five-straight years in his prime. 

Ryan Hawkins

For Hawkins, he brings a ton of energy and hustle while being an exceptional three-point shooter. With my first current-day version of a player, I see a lot of Robert Covington in how he plays the game. 

Covington is a master of getting steals with his excellent length — an area Hawkins is also great. Covington is the furthest thing from a ball-dominant player, but is great from three in catch-and-shoot opportunities. 

Ryan Welty

Rounding out the starters is the greatest shooter in Bearcat history. Welty reminds me of one of my favorite players growing up — Wally Szczerbiak

Szczerbiak was one of the best shooters of the 2000’s with his 6-foot-7 frame and was excellent working off the ball and spacing the floor. The former Timberwolf helped Kevin Garnett become a star with his ability to be his sidekick without demanding the ball as much as a typical player with his scoring abilities might. 

Kirk Finley

Captain Kirk has been very unselfish this season as he played well as a starter, but when the team needed him off the bench, he has accepted that role. A player in the NBA who is very effective off the bench or starting is P.J. Tucker

Tucker spent the early portion of his career overseas, but came back to the states and played well for Phoenix in a starting role, but really excelled last season as Houston’s sixth man. He is a fantastic off-ball cutter and did all the little things for an elite Rockets team last year. He isn’t known as a shooter, but when left alone, he will burn you. 

Xavier Rhodes

Rhodes is not a proven shooter like the rest of the Bearcat rotation players yet, but McCollum has repeatedly praised the intelligence he plays the game with. What better way to honor his savvy than to compare him to ‘The Professor’ — Andre Miller

Miller was never a shooter — I think Rhodes will develop into one — but he was one of the best players at setting up his teammates for a decade and a half. With extreme quickness, Miller could get anywhere on the floor and consistently to the rim.  

Tyler Dougherty 

Dougherty is a guy who you will never hear a negative word about because he plays with excellent energy at all times and excels in his bench role because when he gets in, he is flying around the court with max-effort. 

Anderson Varejao is my comparison because guys like LeBron James loved playing with him and he was the ultimate big off the bench with the way he rebounded, screened and took charges. 

Dougherty just needs to grow out his hair a bit.  

Dray Starzl

Starzl does a lot of the same things that Dougherty can do, but adds a little more of a shooting threat. Starzl’s game reminds me a bit of one of the game’s best sixth men when he was in that role — Taj Gibson.

Gibson is another guy who makes his money on hustle, but in recent seasons has added a three to his game. He is a guy that young teams over at this stage of his career as a mentor for younger players because he plays the game the right way. 

Daric Laing

Talk about a guy his teammates love, Laing is always met with enthusiasm from his teammates when he comes in the game and is a guy who won’t hesitate to get his threes up. 

James Jones is one of the legendary NBA teammates of all time and everywhere he went, his teams won. It probably helped that those places were all with LeBron James — but that speaks to how much his teammates loved him and LeBron always wanted him with him. Jones was also a great three-point shooter when he got in the game. 

Luke Waters

Waters is redshirting this year so I’ve only seen him through internet highlights, so you’d think it would be hard to make a comparison — but this was one of the easiest ones actually.

Michael Porter Jr., has looked stellar in his highlight videos, but basically sat out his first year of college. Now with the Nuggets, I think he is going to be really good when he gets on the court, but we may have to wait a while longer for that. I feel the same way about Waters. I like his game, but we will have to wait until next year for him to unveil it. 

______

Well, that was a fun exercise. I hope no one took this too seriously, but I enjoyed doing it. I’m sure Coach McCollum got a laugh out of how bad they are. 

Sports Editor