By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The 2021 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic tips off today at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. This year’s eight-team field includes BYU, Liberty, Northern Iowa, South Florida, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Wyoming and host Hawaii. Of course, ESPN Honolulu will bring you every University of Hawaii game, starting with tonight’s first-round matchup against Vanderbilt. Local fans can expect lots of excitement and top-level college basketball these next few days. Here are eight players in the tournament that are worth paying special attention to:
CALEB MURPHY, South Florida: Leads the Bulldogs in scoring (13.0 ppg), assists (3.7) and minutes (31.9). The second-year 6’4” freshman guard was selected to the AAC All-Freshman team last season after averaging 8.3 points and 2.9 assists per contest. Was the AAC Freshman of the Week on two different occasions. Scored 20 points against Memphis on Dec. 29, 2020.
SCOTTY PIPPEN, JR., Vanderbilt: The son of NBA legend Scottie Pippen has become a hoops standout in his own right. The 6’3” junior guard is on every major “Player of the Year” watch list. Averaged 20.8 ppg last season and 17.3 ppg as a freshman. Pippen Jr. scored a career-high 36 points against Cincinnati last season. He was No. 2 in the SEC in assists per game (4.9). He was selected the 2021-22 SEC Preseason Player of the Year.
ALEX BARCELLO, BYU: Has started all 70 games for BYU since transferring from Arizona. Currently leads the Cougars in scoring (19.7 ppg). The 6’2”, 192-lb. guard is shooting a blistering .519 from the field and .900 from the charity stripe. Scored 28 points (21 off three pointers) against Creighton on Dec. 11. In his three seasons in Provo, Barcello’s three-point percentage has been .486, .477 and (currently) .500. The 2015 and 2017 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year.
NOEL COLEMAN, Hawaii: The 6’1” sophomore guard from Belgium has become Hawaii’s top scoring threat, averaging 14.6 ppg on .463 shooting. Scored a career-high 23 points and shot 6-7 from beyond the arc in a Dec. 8 win over BYU. Missed two games (and most of a third) with a hip injury. Started nine games for UH last season. Prior to UH, Coleman played 25 games at point guard at the University of San Diego.
IKE GRAHAM, WYOMING: Leads the Cowboys in scoring (19.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg). The 6’9”, 252-lb. sophomore forward is shooting .547 from the field. Although an injury delayed his Wyoming debut last season, he was an immediate contributor. He scored 18npoints and grabbed six rebounds in just his second game in a Wyoming uniform – a 93-88 conference win over Nevada. Graham scored a career-high 32 points in Wyoming’s first-round MW Tournament victory over San Jose State.
HARRISON INGRAM, Stanford: The 6’7” freshman sensation is living up to the hype as one of the country’s top recruits. Currently leads the Cardinal in scoring (12.6 ppg), rebounding (6.9 rpg) aand minutes (30.9 mpg). Is also second on the team with 3.4 assists per game. Posted career highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds on Nov. 15 against San Jose State. Rated the nation’s No. 12 recruit by Rivals and was a McDonald’s All-American.
DARIUS McGHEE, Liberty: The reigning ASUN (formerly Atlantic Sun Conference) Player of the Year after averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. Now a senior, the 5’9” guard was also last season’s ASUN Tournament MVP. Made 94 three-pointers last season, fourth most in Division I. McGhee currently leads the Flames in scoring (19.5 ppg), three-pointers made (41), steals (18) and assists (2.6 apg).
AJ GREEN, Northern Iowa: The 6’4” junior guard leads the Panthers in scoring (18.7), three-point goals (32), free throw percentage (.848) and minutes (35.4). As a sophomore in 2019-20, Green averaged 19.7 ppg and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year.” Matched his career high of 35 points on Nov. 27 in a win over St. Bonaventure. Only played three games last season before being sidelined with a hip injury.