February 19, 2008

Beasley, Walker form dynamic duo

It's hard to make Michael Beasley speechless these days. He earned a Big 12 weekly honor a league-record four straight weeks and shrugged, "That's nice." After a 40-point, 17-rebound eruption against Missouri, he announced, "I made it my business to help the team win." While Beasley and fellow freshman Bill Walker rank high on the hype meter as the fourth-best scoring duo in America, Beasley on Monday was shocked to learn something else.



They are also on pace to become the most prolific single-season scoring duo in Big 12 history.



"Whoa," Beasley said, pausing during a photo shoot at Bramlage Coliseum after Monday's practice.



"In the Big 12, period?" he continued. "I've never though about anything like that. That's hot."



Ready or not, Beasley-Walker is a sizzling duo unlike any pair of freshmen the Big 12 has seen. Looking for a better pair of scorers from a major conference team? There's currently none better. Beasley, the national player-of-the-year candidate and power forward entered the week fourth nationally in scoring (25.7 points) and No. 1 in rebounds (12.6). Meanwhile, Walker, the ying to Beasley's yang, puts up 16.4 points and grabs 6.7 rebounds -- numbers that rank No. 5 and No. 8 in the league, respectively.



They combined for 58 points on 18-for-31 shooting, including 3 for 5 on 3-pointers and went 19 for 22 on free throws with 26 rebounds in 50 total minutes during a 100-63 rout of Missouri on Saturday. Think that's a mouthful: They also combined for 54 points, then 40 and 47 in wins at Oklahoma and against then-No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 2 Kansas. Beasley ranks third in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (54.8) and Walker ninth (46.7). The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Beasley has drained 26 3-pointers -- one fewer than Walker, who at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, hit five against the Aggies.



They continue to be regarded as the most imposing one-two force in the Big 12 as No. 24 K-State, 18-6 overall and 8-2 in the Big 12, looks to curb a two-game Big 12 road skid Wednesday at Nebraska, 14-9 and 3-7, which has lost two straight.



Some believe they're the most talented duo anywhere. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler certainly wouldn't mind having both talents on his squad.



"Some of us would like to have one guy, but they have two averaging over 40 points (together) a game," Sadler said. "As a team, we have trouble scoring 40 points. To have two guys doing that speaks for itself."



Of course, there are other dominant tandems out there. When it comes to major programs, No. 3 North Carolina has national player-of-the-year candidate Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington, No. 15 Indiana has outstanding freshman Eric Gordon and D.J. White, and Arizona has Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger. All have had wonderful games and have tallied big numbers in big victories.



Walker also rattled off close friend O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson at Southern Cal, and Donte Green and Jonny Flynn at Syracuse as others to watch. That's the thing about these duos. Seems every good team has one.



"Just being freshmen, we're in that discussion," Walker said, "if not the best."



K-State first-year coach Frank Martin has his favorite combo. It wears No. 30 and No. 12 and fuels an offense that ranks 17th nationally (80.8 points) and third in the league. K-State is 12-2 when Beasley-Walker scores at least 40 points. The duo has soared for at least 43 in five of the last seven. Neither player ranks in the top 20 in minutes played in the Big 12. Beasley and Walker do average a combined 58.8 points per 40 minutes of actual action, though.






















TOP 10 SCORING DUOS: 2007-08





Team

Names/avg

tot avg

Niagara

Charron Fisher (28.2)

Tyrone Lewis (16.5)

44.7

VMI

Reggie Williams (27.1)

Chavis Holmes (17.1)

44.2

Tenn-Martin

Lester Hudson (25.8)

Marquis Weddle (16.4)

42.2

Kansas St.

Michael Beasley (25.7)

Bill Walker (16.4)

42.1

N Dakota St.

Ben Woodside (21.1)

Brett Winkelman (19.1)

40.2

N Carolina

Tyler Hansbrough (22.8)

Wayne Ellington (16.6)

39.4

Fair Dickinson

Manny Ubilla (21.0)

Sean Baptiste (18.3)

39.3

Indiana

Eric Gordon (21.7)

D. J. White (17.1)

38.8

Arizona

Jerryd Bayless (21.1)

Chase Budinger (17.5)

38.6

California

Ryan Anderson (22.0)

Patrick Christopher (16.3)

38.3




























BIG 12 YEARLY TOP SCORING DUOS






Yr

Team

Names/avg

tot avg

07-08

KSU

Beasley (25.7), Walker (16.4)

42.1

96-97

TT

Carr (23.1), Battie (18.8)

41.9

06-07

UT

Durant (25.8), Abrams (15.5)

41.3

97-98

KU

Pierce (20.4), LaFrentz (19.8)

40.2

00-01

MU

Rush (21.1), Gilbert (16.5)

37.6

01-02

MU

Rush (19.8), Gilbert (17.0)

36.8

02-03

TT

Emmett (21.8), Powell (15.0)

36.8

99-00

ISU

Fizer (22.8), Nurse (12.5)

35.3

05-06

ISU

Stinson (19.4), Blalock (15.4)

34.8

04-05

KU

Simien (20.3), Langford (14.4)

34.7

03-04

KU

Simien (17.8), Langford (15.5)

33.3

98-99

OSU

Peterson (17.7), Mason (15.4)

33.1





"If you take into consideration that after the non-conference schedule the Big 12 was the No. 1 RPI conference in the country," Martin said, "I'd like to think they're as good as any two in the country."



Sure, both of the Wildcats' young stars are prone to the occasional sub-par game. But it's rare. Beasley averages 27.7 points with Walker right behind at No. 2 with 17.8 points per contest in league games. SportsCenter likes dunks. They've got 38 between them, including Walker's reverse in traffic on Saturday that was an instant Top Gym Gem. Yet the soft, fall-away 18-footer by Beasley or the ankle-breaking first step by Walker -- and what he does with the ball next -- also keeps the NBA scouts and GMs scribbling on those notepads.



After scoring a Big 12-low 17 points in a 77-74 loss at Missouri on Feb. 2, Beasley needed less than 14 minutes against the Tigers on Saturday to record his 21st double-double of the season, just one shy of tying Carmelo Anthony's Division I freshman record of 22 (18 in the regular season). Beasley has posted more 20-point, 10-rebound performances (19) than anyone in the nation while his nine 30-point, 10-rebound efforts are two more than Kevin Durant totaled in 35 games a year ago. Beasley's 40 points were three off the Big 12 scoring mark by Clarence Gilbert in 2001. That's OK. Beasley became the first player in Big 12 history to score 40 points twice in a season and was only the third in the nation to do so two times in 2007-08.



Walker, who was banged up at the start of the season, had 30 points against California and 31 against Xavier in December, and has reached double figures in 19 of 22 games he's appeared in so far.



"You can't stop us," Beasley said. "What can you do? We both shoot 3s, both have a midrange game, both can handle the ball, both rebound. There's nothing you can do to stop both of us at one time. You can double me and Bill's just going to go to work. There's really nothing you can do unless you put three guys on me and two on him."



Senior point guard Clent Stewart hasn't seen anything like it.



"Last year you saw Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin as a point guard and wing man," he said. "This is really two wing men that can really play as posts and it's really tremendous, the power they display down low."



Now pull back from the national scene and focus on the 12-year history of the Big 12 " a league that has had a nation-leading five Final Four teams in the last six years, two Naismith and Wooden Award winners and 17 consensus All-Americans. Although the Big 12 doesn't keep track of its yearly top-scoring duos, the bucket-by-the-minute nightmares of Paul Pierce-Raef LaFrentz, Kevin Durant-A.J. Abrams, Kareem Rush-Clarence Gilbert and Marcus Fizer-Michael Nurse undoubtedly still conjure visions of lost hope for some opposing coaches.



Martin has seen opponents scheme and strategize against Beasley and Walker nightly. Rarely has a team brought both of them down to earth. Asked how he'd do it, even Martin was stumped.



"It's a hard question. They're so strong and explosive at the rim that you can't guard them with anybody that's not big and strong," he said. "When you guard them with guys that are big and strong and not very athletic, they're both so good away from the rim that you get some serious problems. If I had to play them I'd do everything I could to guard the other four guys and try to neutralize one of them to where they play to their averages and not above their averages.



"I've been around some good players. In college, I don't think I've been around two guys who are as physically imposing as these two guys are."



Sadler and the Huskers got a taste of Beasley-Walker when they combined for 52 points during a 74-59 dismantling in Manhattan on Feb. 6.



"They're two pros," he said. "Anytime you're going to win in this league and have a chance to be in the top, you've got to have two pros. If you look at the teams that are at the top of this league " Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas State -- that's what separates them from the rest of us."



While putting K-State on their shoulders, Beasley and Walker continue to elevate themselves toward a class of their own.



And once in a while, that's enough to even make a 19-year-old superstar stop and think.




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