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Nigel Williams-Goss, Dylan Ennis Among Best Rookies in Europe

Nigel Williams-Goss
Nigel Williams-Goss is averaging 16.8 points and 6.5 assists per game this season with the Serbian club Partizan. (Partizan NIS)

European basketball is a tough and complicated world. An infinite number of domestic competitions mixed with continental cups make your head go round. The same applies to awards. You won’t see All-European or any consensus lists just because each and every league has their own vanity fair. So it falls to our hands to present you some kind of fair all-around European rankings. We’ll start from the Rookie of the Year, headlined by Nigel Williams-Goss. Spoiler alert: you won’t find any of Ball brothers here.

Reggie Upshaw Jr (Middle Tennessee – Tubingen, Germany)

It’s fair to say that Upshaw was one of the main reasons for the first back-to-back appearances in March Madness for Middle Tennessee. His performance for the Milwaukee Bucks in Las Vegas gained no significant traction and a contract with the German underdog team Tubingen could be seen as a reasonable deal. Upshaw has fully taken advantage of the situation and become one of the premier bigs in German Bundesliga. He is a top-20 scorer with 14.6 points per game and a top-10 rebounder with 6.6 boards per game while still being solid defensively. Tubingen’s gruesome record (1-19) downgrades all the bright spots though.

Tre McLean (Chattanooga – PARMA, Russia)

McLean never overcame his sophomore year numbers at Chattanooga and was destined to an overseas career. He chose a perfect European team to adjust and grow right away. PARMA Perm was built from scratch with a lot of freedom to operate for American newcomers. McLean’s pairing with a Wake Forest alumni in Codi Miller-McIntyre has been truly a success story in Russia. PARMA has transformed itself from a no-show team to a surprising playoff contender. As for the former Moc, he is one of the few players on our list with 20-plus PER, 40-plus 3-point percentage and double-digit scoring (11.7 points per game).

Justin Robinson (Monmouth – Avtodor, Russia)

Robinson is a special kind of player, and we are not primarily talking about his 5-foot-8 frame. He received almost every possible award during his college days but what’s more important, was one of the breakthrough performers in the Summer League. His numbers weren’t as flashy as the similarly-built Kay Felder’s but he could’ve landed a bigger deal than his current contract with Russian side Avtodor Saratov. It seems Robinson is not complaining at all. He is one of the few point guards in the VTB League with multiple 10-assist double-doubles and has a legit chance to steal the assist crown from aforementioned Codi Miller-McIntyre. 12.5 points per game and 5.9 assists are his numbers to date.

Nigel Williams-Goss
Justin Robinson was a star in college star at Monmouth. (VTB League)

Eric Mika (BYU – Pesaro, Italy)

Mika was not as impressive as Robison in a Miami Heat uniform this past summer but has also landed a deal with a team from a top European league. Fresh off a season where he averaged almost 20 points and 10 boards per game, the former BYU star has easily found his niche in Italy. The lack of depth certainly played its role and his numbers could’ve been even better without a dominant partner, the former Colorado State Ram Emmanuel Omogbo. Still, 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game is enough to keep Mika’s PER above the lucrative 20.0 mark.

Dallas Moore (North Florida – Pesaro, Italy)

His new partner and another small college representative is one more reason why Mika’s numbers took a hit. But with all fairness to Mika, Moore is playing on a somewhat different level. Take a look at his averages for yourself: 19.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 46.3 percent shooting. The only thing keeping him from true stardom is his 3-point shooting of 33.3 percent. He will definitely be competing with Jason Rich (20.3 points per game) for the scoring title and that fact alone should tell you how incredibly fast the two-time Atlantic Sun Player of the Year adjusted to European basketball.

Matt Thomas (Iowa State – Obradoiro, Spain)

Iowa State program has produced an amazing number of talented pros for the European continent and Thomas is no exception. The 40.1 percent 3-point shooter in college has once more proved that Euro-style is a perfect environment for that kind of specialist. His numbers in the Spanish league are absolutely ridiculous and a 50-40-90 line is definitely within reach. As of now, Thomas has a .518/.477/.938 slash line and a future contract with any European powerhouse is just a matter of time with those stats. And oh yeah, he is also the fourth-best scorer (15.8 points per game) in the second-best domestic league in the world.

Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky – Kalev, Estonia)

Someone from the major program, finally. Well, the former Kentucky Wildcat really deserved it. In fact, Briscoe, who almost made it through the training camp with the Portland Trail Blazers, is really some kind of sensation in the Russian VTB League. He stormed through the front door with the Estonian underdog team BC Kalev. The former Wildcat scored 20 points or more in four of his first seven games in the VTB League, almost singlehandedly putting BC Kalev in the playoff picture. This scenario was almost impossible to predict before the start of the season. Briscoe is the only player from the list averaging 20-plus points per game (20.4). Alexey Shved is running away with the scoring title in Russia, though, at 24.3 points per game, so don’t expect another miracle here.

Nigel Williams-Goss
Dylan Ennis has slowly improved his play since moving to Crvena Zvezda. (Euroleague)

Dylan Ennis (Oregon – Crvena Zvezda, Serbia)

Canadian hoops are on the rise, and Ennis is doing his part in this notorious movement. While his Oregon buddies Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell are scrapping in the NBA, Ennis is climbing the European leaderboard and doing it in spectacular fashion. His start for Serbian side KK Mega was so notable that he quickly attracted interest from the major Balkan powerhouse, Crvena Zvezda. The rise was so evident that Ennis was in the red-white uniform before 2018.

As expected, his numbers went down drastically considering the depth of Crvena Zvezda and the new challenges every inexperienced American faces in Euroleague. However, the coaching staff was patient with Ennis and recently, he has started to pay dividends with his play. He has recorded back-to-back 20-point games versus Olympiacos and Baskonia respectively and Zvezda will need more of that during its playoff push in the Euroleague.

Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga – Partizan, Serbia)

Before any Gonzaga fan will ask, Przemek Karnowski is also playing in Europe but he is not eligible because of his prior pro experience in Poland. With that said, he wouldn’t make it to the top of our list anyway. Williams-Goss is the different story. His transition to European basketball has been flawless. The problem here is that you need a different kind of resources to compete in Europe and Williams-Goss’s club Partizan simply doesn’t have those.

On his part, Williams-Goss is doing everything he can. He had been one of the best point guards in the Eurocup, the second-tier European continental competition before Partizan was eliminated. He is still one of the best floor generals in the domestic Adriatic league with 16.5 points per game, 6.8 assists per game, a 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio and a PER of 20. I don’t know what kind of thinking is going on among Utah Jazz executives but the former Zag, and my European ROY frontrunner, definitely deserves a shot at one of their roster spots next year.

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