Was it an overreaction to being dominated by him? Maybe. But there might be a solid argument for Fred Hoiberg’s statements following the Kansas Jayhawks victory over the Iowa State Cyclones on Monday night.
Hoiberg — famous for the freshly minted HoiBall and all things HoibergMania — called Joel Embiid the best player in the nation after his team fell short in their battle against Kansas, 77-70. Not the best freshman in the nation. Not the best 7-foot man-beast, behemoth like guy in the nation. But the very best player in the entire country.
Embiid wasn’t as nearly as hyped as some other talented freshmen. Still, even while lacking all of the hype that came with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and others, some were able to see the bigger picture. As in, there is a huge possibility that Embiid would leap everyone and be the first pick in the NBA Draft if he were to declare early entry into the pros.
What makes Hoiberg’s statement even better is the fact that Embiid has only been playing organized basketball for a few years. Unlike other big men with a similar background (little hoops experience) as the freshman, Embiid is athletic and is also way more polished offensively than others. Not saying he is skilled like Kareem, but he is closer to that than many other centers who were supposed to revitalize the position.
I’m not sure if Embiid is the best player right this very second. His rapid development, though, has been amazing. I doubt that many guessed he would be this great this quick. Heck, I doubt anyone would have even dared to suggest that opposing coaches would be singing his praises rather than Wiggins before the season began.
Regardless, it is nice to see a big man getting some pub from the Mayor of Ames. The season still has plenty of games left in it, though, so let’s just let this story play itself out and we will revisit it come the end of the year.
Embiid for Heisman?