Underclassmen thriving at the point in college basketball

Full Screen
1 / 7

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Duke guard Tre Jones (3) jumps to block Winthrop guard Russell Jones Jr. (0) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton knows well the challenges that face young point guards in college basketball.

The best ones are often so in sync with their coaches that they know exactly the right call without hearing it from the sideline.

Building that connection takes time for young players as they adapt their own games to the college level, though Haliburton, Kansas’ Devon Dotson, Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans and Arizona’s Nico Mannion (along with North Carolina’s Cole Anthony, currently sidelined by injury) are among a strong crop of underclassmen growing up quickly at the point as conference races heat up.

“You’re going to make mistakes. … That’s just how it goes,” said Haliburton, who has blossomed as a sophomore into a high NBA prospect. “Growth is not linear. It goes a lot of different ways, up-down, up-down — it’s just how life goes, in anything in life, if you want to be great. So you’ve got to learn to deal with disappointment and learn to deal with mistakes and just move on from them.”

This bunch seems to be managing that part just fine.

Six sophomores entered the week in the top 10 nationally in assists, led by Sacred Heart’s Cameron Parker (third at 8.7 per game) after he set an NCAA single-game record with 24 assists in December. Parker is joined by Ohio’s Jason Preston (7.9), Haliburton (7.7), Hagans (7.3), Minnesota’s Marcus Carr (7.2) and Duke’s Tre Jones (7.1).

Freshmen Mannion and Anthony also have had fast starts and are considered lottery prospects if they enter the NBA draft after the season.

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams emphasizes mentality in teaching young point guards more than honing a crossover dribble or pull-up jumper.