Louisiana Tech likes to tout sophomore Paul Millsap as the "Nation's Best-Kept Secret." Coaches around the WAC must be wondering what's taking the nation so long to learn what they already know -- Millsap is the most dangerous player in the conference.
The athletic 6-foot-8 forward from Grambling, La., took the league by storm a year ago, averaging a double-double in his first collegiate season. Millsap put up 15.6 points per game and led the nation in rebounding with 12.5 per game, 3.5 more than any other WAC player. He became the first WAC player and second freshman in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding. An easy choice as Newcomer of the Year in the WAC and a first-team all-conference selection, Millsap now looks to lead Louisiana Tech into the league's upper echelon.
And with four starters back from last year's seventh-place team (8-10 in the league), the Bulldogs are a safe pick as the WAC's breakthrough team in 2004-05.
Millsap is the most well-rounded player in the league, and he is armed with a strong supporting cast.
Senior guards Corey Dean and Donell Allick lead a strong backcourt. Both players can score and create opportunities for others. Allick led the team with 3.6 assists per game a year ago, and both averaged double figures in scoring.
Allick and Millsap were newcomers last year, but both started the bulk of the season for the Bulldogs. Their return, along with fellow starter Dean and Wayne Powell, gives Tech one of the most experienced teams in the conference.
If that wasn't enough, the Bulldogs brought in a solid recruiting class stacked with junior college players. Three guards -- Jason Bray, Daevon Haskins and Marcus Elliott - and forward Michael Wilds should be able to add immediate depth and possibly challenge for starting spots. Bray is a 6-5 sharpshooter who gives the Bulldogs an outside threat, while Haskins is a pure point guard who averaged more than five assists per game in junior college.
While the pieces are in place for the Bulldogs to make a run in the WAC, the main component will be Millsap. The team's success level may very well depend on how well he plays as a marked man within the league this year.