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Top leaders in college basketball

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

Leadership is vastly underrated and extremely difficult to find nowadays. In this day and age, when everyone worries about their own numbers and most are trying to get to the next level (whether it's the NBA or even overseas), there are fewer and fewer guys that put the team first.

Here's my list of the top 10 leaders in college hoops — with an honorable mention going to Purdue's Robbie Hummel, who would have been a lock if he hadn't gone down with a season-ending knee injury in October.

Those you won't see on this list include Renardo Sidney, Demetri McCamey, Larry Drew II and anyone Bobby Gonzalez recruited while at Seton Hall.

These are guys that flat-out “get it."

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Check out FOXSports.com college basketball writer Reid Forgrave's bracket and see how yours stacks up.

There's a reason why all these guys' teams are successful.

1. David Lighty, Ohio State

Not the most vocal guy in the world, but he's just the ultimate professional. He's seemingly been around in Columbus forever, and while he's never been the star, he's become a big-time leader who does absolutely everything necessary on and off the court to help his team win games. The 6-foot-5 senior averages 12.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, shoots 41 percent from deep and is one of the top defenders in the country.

"His freshman year he won 22 straight games, and this year he won 24 straight. He leads by example every year, and now he has taken these young guys and carried/taught this group to be where we're at. He's the ultimate guy of bringing it every day. Never has a bad one." — Ohio State assistant Brandon Miller.

2. Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh

The Panthers senior guard doesn't get nearly enough credit because he's not flashy and doesn't put up eye-popping numbers (12.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg), but he does it all and the Philly native also brings his hard hat to work every day. He's so underrated and probably should get more consideration for Big East Player of the Year than he does.

"He's a guy who's not worried about his numbers. In the DePaul game, we won by 30 and Brad was 3 of 6 from the field. To me, that's leadership. In a game like that, how many guys — one of the best players in the league — only take six shots. He's unselfish — that's his biggest asset. If you don't have that and you want to be a leader, it's unattainable." — Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon

3. Dogus Balbay, Texas

The Turkey native can't shoot and his numbers are almost laughable (4.8 ppg, 2.5 apg), but people don't realize what a leader this kid truly is. There's a reason Texas' free-fall continued at the end of last season after Balbay tore his ACL. Balbay is all about the team, and all you have to do is watch him on the defensive end or with his teammates to appreciate his leadership.

"Dogus is the epitome of a great teammate. He gives maximum effort every day in everything he does. He works just as hard in breakdown drills as he does in the games. In addition, Dogus is always there for his teammates. He constantly communicates on the floor and from the bench to help his team. There isn't a timeout where he isn't helping or encouraging a teammate. He is simply focused on doing whatever he can do to help our team win." — Texas assistant Russ Springmann

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4. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin

Everyone now recognizes Taylor as that underrated player who got shafted from the Bob Cousy List of 10 finalists. What they don't realize is that his leadership falls in line with his production (18.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.8 apg) on the court.

"On and off the court, one of the best I've ever had. Approaches every day the same regardless of the previous day's outcome. Can lead by example or by vocalization. When one of your best players is also your hardest worker, you know you have someone special. Has worked extremely hard to develop his game to a more complete skill set. Great relationship with his teammates and coaches." — Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan

5. Charles Jenkins, Hofstra

I sat in the locker room before a game earlier this season and watched Jenkins do his thing off the court with his teammates and then witnessed his composure and the way he handled himself on the court. He's so talented, but it extends well beyond just scoring (23.3 ppg) the basketball. The 6-foot-3 senior guard has led this group all season and helped rookie coach Mo Cassara make the Pride a CAA contender.

"Charles is a leader on the court, in the locker room and on campus. His ability to lead by example as a person, a student and an athlete is truly amazing. He has taken a team of inexperienced players and instilled confidence and composure in them. He reminds me a lot of Jared Dudley, how he inspired not only his team, but the league, the fans and the university. Charles Jenkins is what college basketball is all about." — Hofstra coach Mo Cassara

6. Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame

There's a reason why Notre Dame has been a fixture in the top 10 all year long — and Tyler's little brother is a huge part of it. Like his older brother, Ben plays so hard all the time and has matured into a guy who can get his teammates to follow without hesitation.

"Ben drives us and makes us believe. He's the toughest kid I've coached as far as the combination of physically and mentally. I've not had a better one. ... Ben sets the tone. Now he knows he has the platform to call guys out. He plays so hard and can back it up. Last year that wasn't always the case. He ruffled feathers at times." — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey

7. Mickey McConnell, Saint Mary's

Underrated is the word that comes to mind. The numbers (16.8 ppg, 6.2 apg, 48% 3-pointers, 90% FT) are insane. The kid can shoot the ball with just about anyone, has such a high IQ and rarely makes mistakes. But it's also his ability to lead that makes him one of the top point guards — and players — in the country.

"He's just so composed and unflappable. I haven't seen him rattled in such a long time. He's communicating with his teammates all the time and never brings attention to himself — and he's not doing it because you're supposed to do it, he's doing it because that's all he knows. He's got a lot of humility and just gets it. Great leaders need to be unselfish — and he's certainly that." — Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett

8. Jackson Emery, BYU

Jimmer Fredette gets all the attention, and Emery, a senior guard from Utah, is just fine with it. In actuality, this is the leader of the Cougars. He's not overly vocal, but just does his thing, plays hard and works. This kid is all about toughness.

"He's one of the best I've ever had. Jackson's not overly vocal, but leads by example. He's the first one in the weight room, on the court and is the hardest worker on the team. He picks his spots, and when he does have something to say, his teammates listen. You never have to slow him down in terms of his leadership because he always picks the right time." — BYU coach Dave Rose

9. Dairese Gary, New Mexico

The Lobos' stocky floor leader doesn't back down from anyone and brings a level of toughness and leadership to the table that can't be quantified through numbers — although his numbers (12.9 ppg, 5.4 apg) remain impressive.

"Dairese has a lot of gifts in the area of leadership, but I think the reason his teammates follow him is they trust him. He is very unselfish and is the hardest-working player on our team possession to possession. He has learned never to take a possession off." — New Mexico coach Steve Alford

10. Oliver McNally, Harvard

The 6-foot-3 junior guard doesn't necessarily look the part, and his numbers are modest (9.5 ppg, 3.4 apg), but I've seen these guys multiple times over the past couple of years and I love this kid. He's intense, vocal and plays hard all the time.

"He's a tremendous leader who has incredible spirit and a presence. That's been his calling card here. His spirit, presence and toughness. When things are dicey, he's usually in the middle of it — and it's contagious to the rest of the team." — Harvard coach Tommy Amaker

Tagged: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Harvard, Hofstra, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Texas, Brigham Young, New Mexico, Charles Jenkins, Ben Hansbrough, Dogus Balbay

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