Years after iconic shows end or famous actors grow up, you can go online and discover the obligatory “Where are they now” article. These cast updates give you an idea for what’s been going on since you last saw these characters. So here at BTPowerhouse, as the summer winds down, we’re giving you an update on the Big Ten’s most prominent cast of characters from the 2015-2016 season.
Nothing defines best better than the conference’s first team selections, and both the Big Ten coaches and media were in agreement on the All-Big Ten first team. The conference’s starting five consisted of Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa), Denzel Valentine (Michigan State), A.J. Hammons (Purdue), and Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin).
Yogi Ferrell (Indiana Hoosiers)
The six-foot point guard out of Indiana was the unquestioned leader of the last couple Hoosier squads and holds multiple records in Bloomington:
- Number one all-time in career assists (633)
- Only player in Indiana history to lead the team in assists for four straight seasons
- Number one all-time in games played (137)
- Number one all-time in games started (137)
But now Indiana’s diminutive former point man has moved on and it’s time to check in. Ferrell went undrafted in last June’s draft, which was not really a surprise to most. Even with his pedigree, it would have been unrealistic to see the undersized point guard get picked up in either round.
But Ferrell ended up on the Brooklyn Nets’ Summer League team where he played four games and averaged 8.8 points per game, 1.8 assists, and 1.5 rebounds over 17 minutes per contest. After his summer league performances, Ferrell signed a one year partially guaranteed deal with the Nets for the upcoming season.
Ferrell joins a crowded backcourt in Brooklyn, where 2016 draft picks Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead reside and veterans Greivis Vasquez and Randy Foye will compete for minutes as well.
Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa Hawkeyes)
After transferring from Wisconsin, the Iowa native ended up at his home university and quickly became a key contributor for the Hawkeyes and improved every year. As a redshirt sophomore, Uthoff came off the bench and totaled 7.6 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game. The following season, he moved into a starting role and averaged 12.4 PPG and 6.4 RPG, and last season the Iowa big man took over as the lead option offensively and tallied 18.9 ppg and 6.3 rpg.
Uthoff finished his college career 19th in Hawkeye history in points, fourth in blocks, and 10th in 3-pointers.
After going undrafted in the 2016 draft, Uthoff was picked up to play for the Sacramento summer league squad. He did not do much in the four games he played and didn’t sign a deal with the Kings. But he did get another NBA opportunity when he agreed to a two year partially guaranteed contract with the Toronto Raptors.
The fact that the deal was partially guaranteed indicates some interest in Uthoff but the Raptors already have two big name power forwards in Jared Sullinger and Patrick Peterson as well as a power forward from the first round in Pascal Siakam.
Denzel Valentine (Michigan State Spartans)
Along with being the first Spartan to win the Associated Press’ National Player of the Year award, Denzel Valentine left a distinct legacy in East Lansing.
He was a player defined by his versatility and leadership and grew and developed from a bit player as a freshman to a guy who stayed all four years and became “the guy”. Not just “the guy” but a guy that was the hardest worker, the best and most multifaceted player, and the unequivocal leader, a trifecta of traits that are not commonly found in a single individual.
Valentine became a lottery pick when the Chicago Bulls selected him 14th overall in 2016. Despite having a fairly uneven summer league, Valentine made the ultimate impact in the Vegas championship game when he hit the game tying triple in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter and then sinking the game winner in overtime.
Valentine seems to have found a solid fit in Chicago with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. The second year NBA head man has excelled coaching players like Valentine who possess high basketball IQ (Valentine played under Tom Izzo after all) and are skilled and versatile offensively, guys like Georges Niang come to mind.
AJ Hammons (Purdue Boilermakers)
This mountain anchoring the center of the Purdue Boilermakers made an immediate impact upon arrival in West Lafayette. In his first season, he was selected to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. The next three years, Hammons was picked for first team All-Defense and finally won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016.
The Dallas Mavericks made him the 46th overall pick in this past summer’s draft. And while there are questions about his motor and effort level, there is no denying that he is a skilled big man with good length and size that could take over as the long term starting center in the near future.
Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin Badgers)
And finally we get to the only guy on this list who still plays college ball. Nigel Hayes is heading into his senior season at Wisconsin, which is welcome news to those in Madison after Hayes was considering entering June’s NBA draft.
Like most of the guys on this list, Hayes made his presence in the basketball program felt from the very beginning. He was the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman and was selected to the All-Freshman team. Fast forward to the 2015-2016 season and Hayes took over the role as the best player and team leader after the departures of stars Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. He was named to the aforementioned All-Big Ten first team and lead the Badgers in points and assists.
Now with Hayes coming back to school, Wisconsin is returning every major contributor to last season’s team. This is Hayes’ squad and it will now be one of the deepest and best rotations in the Big Ten and all of college basketball.
This upcoming season, Hayes has the opportunity to boost his draft stock by seizing the reins as his team’s unquestioned leader and improving his jump shot. Hayes is skilled, athletic, and an intelligent player who could very well lead this Wisconsin team to its third Final Four in four years and a long awaited national championship.