GREENVILLE, S.C.--Last week, I gave a countdown of No. 10-6 of the quickest guards in the Southern Conference over the past three decades. This week, I focus on No. 5-1, as these are five of the quickest guards I have seen in my time watching Southern Conference basketball. Stay tuned for more articles in this series, as I take a look at the past three decades of SoCon basetball in a countdown to Asheville and the Southern Conference Tournament, which comes up March 3-7.
In the next article in this series, we take a look at Part 1 of the SoCon's Top 10 scorers over the past three decades. Without further adieu, here are the five quickest guards I have seen in the past 30 years.
5. Tim Smith (East Tennessee State)--Over the years, East Tennessee State has seemingly cornered the market on quick guards in the Southern Conference, and when it came to quickness, there weren't too many quicker than Tim Smith of East Tennessee State.
Drawing comparisons to former Buccaneer great Keith "Mister" Jennings (1989-93), Smith at times could be an unstoppable force. Smith even considered entering the the NBA Draft heading into his senior season, and finished his career as the program's all-time top scorer, with 2,302 points, playing three years in the Southern Conference and a season in the Atlantic Sun before the Newport News, VA, product saw his productive career come to a close. Smith's 508 career assists and 313 steals are also second on the program’s all-time ledger in both career statistical categories.
Smith’s best season came as a junior, though ETSU struggled to find the success it had the previous two seasons, as the 2004-05 campaign saw Smith average 22.2 PPG to lead the SoCon.
His 313 career steals raned him behind only Keith Jennings’ 334 career thefts, which still ranks 12th in NCAA history. His quickness was exemplified in his senior campaign, leading the NCAA in steals.
In his final regular-season game in Southern Conference history as a junior, Smith put on a show, scoring 41 points in a 97-91 loss at Georgia Southern.
4. Karl Cochran (Wofford, 2011-15)--Simply put, Karl Cochran was one of the best athetes of the modern era of Southern Conference basketball.
Karl Cochran Highlights vs. WCU
As a senior in 2014-15, Cochran led the Terriers in every major statistical category and was the only player in the nation to accomplish that rare feat. The supremely athletic guard could simply do it all, and when his team needed a big shot, who else did the Terriers call on but Cochran?
Cochran was one of two Terrier players to be named Southern Conference Player of the Year, earning that distinction in his senior season. Cochran finished out his career in Spartanburg, with 1,894 career points, which is good enough for sixth in school history, while posting a school-record 312 triples, ranked third in steals (226) and eighth in assists (302). Cochran is currently playing in the NBA Developmental League (NBDL) with the Rio Grande Vipers.
3. Tyson Patterson (Appalachian State, 1996-2000)--There weren’t many guards in the history of the Southern Conference that exhibited the court vision, awareness, and quickness to get to the cup as Tyson Patterson.
In an interview one time, Patterson was once quoted as saying that his favorite foods of choice were skittles and chocolate chip cookies during his time as the star guard for the Black and Gold, starring as the centerpiece of "Buzz Ball" during Buzz Peterson’s first stint as the head coach of the Mountaineers in the High Country.
Patterson was the 1999-2000 Southern Conference Player of the Year, helping lead the Apps to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history.
Blessed with a killer crossover, and vision to find an open Mountaineer on the floor at even the acutest and most difficult of angles, Patterson was a true joy to watch. He wore a smile from tip-to-buzzer, and his meal of choice will keep in line with the fact that he seemingly never ran out of energy while on the floor for the Apps.
Patterson’s 14 assists in a game still rank as a program record, and he is the school’s all-time leader in assists handed out, dishing out 638 career helpers, including a single-season mark of 218 in leading the Mountaineers’ to the NCAA Tournament as a senior.
Patterson’s 247-career steals rank second to only D.J. Thompson (293 steals/2003-06). The Appalachian State Hall-of-Famer had that killer instinct to win a game by himself.
Though ranking a modest 22nd on the Appalachian State all-time scoring list with (1,222 pts), Patterson could have scored more, but his unselfishness and court vision were just as lethal. Trailing
to upstart Furman in the 2000 Southern Conference Tournament at the BI-LO Center in Greenville in front of a raucous crowd, the Black and Gold found themselves in danger of being knocked out of the tournament by the Paladins. Patterson scored 12 of ASU’s final 14 points as a part of a 28-point night, helping the Mountaineers advance to the tournament championship with a 60-56 win over the Paladins.
2. Frankie King (Western Carolina, 1993-95)--There might have been better shooters and assist-men in the history of Western Carolina Basketball, but few packed the complete package like Catamount Hall-of-Famer Frankie King did during just two seasons for the Catamounts.
The native of Appling County, GA, was simply a highlight-reel waiting to happen, whether catching alley-oops for reverse dunks, crossing up a defender and slashing to the hoop or shooting from the perimeter, few rivaled King when it came to being a scorer.
King’s scoring caught national acclaim in his first season with the Catamounts. After spending two seasons at Brunswick Community College, where he scored 20 or more points in 62 out 63 games as a JUCO product, garnering Georgia Junior College Player of the Year accolades. It was a steal for then Catamount head coach Benny Dees, who was rebuilding the program, needing a guard and scorer to playing alongside another future Hall-of-Fame Catamount guard, in Anquell McCollum (1992-96).
King was the SoCon Player of the Year in 1993-94 and 1994-95, scored 30 or more points in 22 games, and posted a whopping games 1,495 points in just two seasons. He averaged 26.9 PPG and 26.5 PPG in two seasons, ranking among the nation’s top five scorers in both campaigns. He helped the Catamounts reach the Southern Conference Tournament title game for the first time in school history in 1995, losing to the Chattanooga Mocs in the title game.
He had a 41-point effort against Louisville, to which then head coach Denny Crum said of King that he was one of the most unstoppable scoring threats in college basketball. King was drafted 37th by the LA Lakers in 1995, and finished playing overseas in such destinations as Turkey, Spain, France, Greece and Germany. His 1,495 career points in only two seasons still ranks him among the program’s top 15 scorers all-time.
One game in particular summed up what King could do against big-time competition at the Division I level of college basketball. In a Dec. 30, 1993 loss at Duke, King poured in 30 points against the Blue Devils in an 87-67 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium. King also had a big game helped a Western Carolina team overachieve in the Southern Conference Tournament, helping the Catamounts to the semifinals before dropping a 93-89 decision to the Davidson Wildcats. King would record his final 40-point performance of the season, posting 40 points in 94-89 loss at East Tennessee State in early February. In that SoCon Semifinal setback, King scored 41 points.
1. Keith "Mister" Jennings (East Tennessee State, 1987-91)-Keith "Mister" Jennings was a diminutive point guard that led the East Tennessee State basketball program to its greatest heights in the early 1990's, even helping the former SoCon power to an Associated Press Top 10 ranking in 1991.
Keith "Mister" Jennings Highlights
Jennings was simply one of the most electrifying players in Southern Conference history, and he led Alan LeForce's Bucs to three-straight Southern Conference crowns, though he was originally recruited to the Johnson City by Les Robinson, who left to become head coach at North Carolina State for the 1990-91 season.
At just 5'7", Jennings was not only a dynamic scorer, but went on to become one of the greatest passers in college basketball history. With just a flick of the wrist, Jennings tossed mid-court alley-oops to explosive leapers Rodney English and Calvin Talford with regularity and made the Bucs worth the price of admission for college hoops lovers.
Jennings went on to finish with 983 assists in his college career, which ranked second all-time upon his graduation in 1991 and still ranks fourth in NCAA Division I history. He was a two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year honoree.
Jennings won the Frances Pomeroy Award for the best player under six feet tall as a senior and was a consensus Associated Press Second Team All-America selection as senior. He was signed as a free agent by the Golden State Warriors in 1992, where he played three years alongside Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway before retiring.