College basketball’s players, coaches and observers don’t obsess over speed the way it is scrutinized in college football.
But it’s still interesting to discuss the short list of players who might own the “fastest player in college basketball” title.
Not long ago, I was at the Weatherup Center, talking with Arizona State coach Herb Sendek about point guard Jahii Carson. “We have the fastest point guard in college basketball,” Sendek said. “Who’s faster than him?”
“Do you remember that play last season at Oregon State,” I asked. “When he went the length of the court off a made free throw?”
Said Sendek: “Oh, I’ll never forget it.”
Carson starts sprinting after taking the inbounds near the opposing free throw line. And then … Usain Bolt. He’s gone. Just 3.4 seconds later, he scores on a layup.
It does look like Carson has elite speed. But the fastest point guard in the game? Maybe. He’s certainly in a small group.
We can’t forget Oregon’s Johnathan Loyd, who returned five kicks for touchdowns as a senior return man at his high school in Nevada. And then there’s Memphis point guard Joe Jackson. Penn State's Tim Frazier was definitely on this list prior to his ACL injury. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a headache for perimeter defenders all season.
If I’m picking one player, however, to go coast to coast in college basketball, there’s really no debate. It has to be Louisville’s Russ Smith. I think Smith is the fastest player in college basketball and I’m not sure it’s even close. But he’s not a true point guard.
Again, this isn’t college football so speed isn’t measured the same way. But it’s still an interesting debate.