This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.
The game of basketball suffered a great loss with the death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in the tragic helicopter crash. While Kobe jumped straight from high school to the pros, there is no question about his monstrous impact on ballers of all ages, perhaps most notably the younger generations. While older generations wanted to be like Mike, or Magic, the 35-and-younger crowd wanted to be like Kobe. That includes 18-to-21-year-olds playing college basketball right now. Bryant was a huge supporter of women's basketball, including collegiate player of the year Sabrina Ionescu at Oregon, as well as the University of Connecticut, where Gigi hoped to play one day. Players, teams, fans and admirers have given touching tributes across the globe to Bryant. From a basketball perspective, the loss of Bryant is immense, but his approach to the game as the Black Mamba can be applied, mimicked and imitated for generations to come.
I didn't know Kobe personally, but I'm sure he'd want us to keep talking about the game. As such, let's keep the game moving forward and take a look at some notable names making waves in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.
Chris Duarte, G, Oregon – Payton Pritchard gets the pub for the Ducks, and rightly so. However, Duarte has been superb of late, particularly in his last two outings. In a double overtime victory over USC on January 23, Duarte tallied 30 points and 11 rebounds, an impressive double-double. However, perhaps more notably, he blocked two shots and recorded eight steals. Yes, you read that correctly. Duarte fell one theft shy of the school record. His next game was equally as impressive, as Duarte tallied 26 points, six rebounds, five steals, two blocks and six steals in a 96-75 thrashing of UCLA. Just to hammer home the point: in two games, Duarte accumulated 56 points, 17 rebounds and 14 steals. Duarte is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 with his aforementioned teammate Pritchard in steals. The JUCO transfer, Duarte is second on the team in scoring and rebounding overall, but has really taken his play up a notch recently.
Jalen Harris, G, Nevada – San Diego State is dominating the headlines in the Mountain West this season, and rightly so. However, Harris is having a superb year in his first appearance in the conference. Harris sat out last season after two years at Louisiana Tech, but has seen plenty of action with the Wolf Pack following the departure of the Martin twins. Harris is averaging 19.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest. He is tied for first in the conference in scoring, and fifth in dishing. Harris has three 31-point outings this season, and also nearly managed a triple double against Santa Clara on December 4. Add in eight games with at least two steals, and Harris has been a dynamo for the Wolf Pack individually, even if Nevada is unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.
Christian Braun, F, Kansas – Over his last three games, Braun is averaging 14.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. By contrast, the freshman had hit double-digits in points only once in the first 17 contests of the season. Braun has been a revelation from three-point land, as the 6-foot-6 freshman shot 50-percent (11-of-22) from long range over that three-game span. Starter David McCormack is set to return from a two-game suspension, but Braun may have just played himself into a pivotal role for a Jayhawks squad that has struggled at times to score this season.
Zavier Simpson, G, Michigan – Simpson was suspended for Tuesday's clash with Nebraska due to an undisclosed violation of team policies. There have been no specifics releases, and Simpson may only miss one contest. However, the Wolverines will be without the top assist man in the entire nation for at least one game, and it remains to be seen how this will impact the squad. Hopefully this is an isolated, minor incident and Simpson we will be back on the floor for the subsequent game with Rutgers on February 1. With Isaiah Livers aggravating his groin injury, the Wolverines are already shorthanded.
Aaron Thompson, G, Butler – A wrist injury has shelved Thompson for the last three games for the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-2 junior is averaging 6.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.1 dimes per contest. As evidenced by his numbers, Thompson is not a scorer by trade but does have the ability to affect the game in other ways. Kamar Baldwin had a monstrous outing for Butler with 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists last week against Marquette, and appears to have taken over the distribution role with Thompson out with six assists on Wednesday versus Georgetown. Senior Henry Baddley has played a season-high 31 minutes in back-to-back contests, and appears to be the chief beneficiary in terms of increased minutes.
Chris Lykes, G, Miami – One of the leading scorers in the ACC, Lykes has been sidelined for the last three games for the Hurricanes due to a groin injury. The diminutive Lykes needs his quickness at full strength to make up for his lack of size. Lykes is eighth in the ACC in scoring at 15.7 points per contest. With Kameron McGusty also dinged up, the 'Canes have needed scoring from players like freshman Isaiah Wong just to keep afloat. Miami also got a standout performance from senior Dejan Vasiljevic in Tuesday's 71-61 win over Virginia Tech; Vasiljevic tallied 18 points and seven rebounds in the triumph.
Kobe King, G, Wisconsin – King certainly appears to have been named after Bryant. King's father was a second-round pick of the Seattle Supersonics in 1992, and his cousin, Jimmy King, was a member of the Fab Five at Michigan, while also playing 10 years professionally. A redshirt sophomore at Wisconsin, the younger King is currently the second-leading scorer for the Badgers. However, he did not travel with the team for Monday's loss to Iowa, and there were rumblings of unhappiness with the direction of the squad. Now it appears King will transfer from Wisconsin. King's loss would only further the notion that this year's Badgers unit is not a tournament-caliber team. King was averaging 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per tilt. Wisconsin is just 5-5 in Big Ten conference play. Freshman Tyler Wahl will see the biggest bump in playing time.
Jason Wade, G, Old Dominion – Wade suffered a leg injury last week against FIU, and will actually miss the remainder of the season due to the issue. The timing could not have been worse for Wade, who just seemed to be taking his game to new heights. Over the three games prior to being injured, Wade averaged 20.0 points, eight rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.6 steals for the Monarchs. He also racked up three blocks during that time period. The only saving grace for Old Dominion is that the squad is guard-heavy. A.J. Oliver, Xavier Green and Malik Curry all have the ability to help pick up the slack for their injured comrade.
Jermaine Samuels, F, Villanova – Samuels suffered a foot injury in last Saturday's narrow win at Providence, and missed Tuesday's clash with St. John's as a result. Samuels had been rounding into form prior to getting injured, scoring double figures in three-straight games. In fact, Samuels averaged 18.0 points and six rebounds during that span, all wins for the Wildcats. Villanova has a rather short rotation this year, so the Wildcats may be forced to either play their starters even heavier minutes, or trust that Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree can return to last year's form.