“That's Fez. He's a foreign exchange student.”
-- Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), That 70’s Show
Foreign stars in the college game are nothing new; think Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Vasco Evtimov (OK, bad example). Chalk it up to the globalization of the game, or the belief that, like Prince Akeem, they can all come to America to find their queen. Whatever the cause, players are coming from far (Cameroon) and even farther (South Korea) to play the game. The Tenth Power has broken down the numbers and the cultural barriers to bring you the 10 best Fezs in the game today.
1. Hasheem Thabeet, C UConn (Tanzania). His offensive game is still a work in progress and he struggles against bulkier bigs (see Luke Harangody, Arizne Onuaku and DeJuan Blair) but Thabeet remains the nation's premier shot-blocker and the latest African-born center to star in the Big East. Am I the only one who every time an African player pops up has flashes of Kevin Bacon scouring villages for talent?
2. Patrick Mills, G Saint Mary’s (Australia). From the Men at Work music that pipes through the McKeon Pavilion speakers to the "Fear the Roo" T-shirts, Saint Mary's has become Cali's Land Down Under. The best of the Gales' five-man Aussie contingent, Patty's star rose after an impressive showing in the Beijing Olympics on the Australian National Team. The fleet-footed guard's return from a broken hand could be Saint Mary's key to an NCAA at-large bid.
3. Greivis Vasquez, G Maryland (Venezuela). One of three Venezuelans in the college ranks (along with Marquette's David Cubillan and Rutgers' Gregory Echenique), Vasquez is the only one with a triple-double on his resume, which he had in the Terrapins' upset of North Carolina. His love/hate relationship with Maryland fans is so dramatic it's like the stuff of a telenovela.
4. A.J. Ogilvy, C Vanderbilt (Australia). Yes, another Aussie. It sort of feels like that Crocodile Dundee era when everyone was obsessed with all things Aussie for about six weeks. Ogilvy, a sophomore, would be higher on this list had he not taken a step back as the Commodores' centerpiece this season. Still, his 15.9 points and seven rebounds a game are nothing to scoff at.
5. Denis Clemente, G Kansas State (Puerto Rico). OK, technically Puerto Rico is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States, but it’s not a state so Clemente still fits the qualifications. The second cousin of Baseball Hall of Famer Roberto, Denis has earned himself quite a reputation this season with the elbow to Kansas' Brady Morningstar's head and punching Tyrel Reed in the head. Those issues aside, since mid-January Clemente has averaged 18 points and scored 44 vs. Texas and 33 against Missouri.
6. Daniel Hackett, G USC (Italy). The junior has found himself in the news this season for the wrong reasons. First, there's the NCAA investigation into whether he and his father, Rudy, USC’s strength and conditioning coordinator, were a "package deal"; then he reportedly got into a shoving match with teammate Dwight Lewis. He is doing some headline-worthy things on the court for the enigmatic Trojans, standing third in the Pac-10 in assists (4.8) and is scoring 14.6 points per game in the last six outings.
7. A.D. Vassallo, G-F Virginia Tech (Puerto Rico). The Hokies' leading scorer (18.9 ppg) and one of the ACC's leading three-point shooter, Vassallo has a thirst for dunking on guys (exhibits A and B oh, and for Dr. Pepper.
8. Samardo Samuels, F-C Louisville (Jamaica). After his blazing start, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound former USA Today National high school Player of the Year appeared to be a lock for the Big East Rookie of the Year. He's slowed down, but it’s still hard to argue with Samuels' credentials (12 ppg, 4.8 rpg) or his toughness after getting his two front teeth knocked out against St. John's.
9. Luke Nevill, C Utah (Australia). Nifty's pro potential may not be bright as the last Aussie to play the position for the Utes (former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut) but Nevill appears to be following in Bogut's footsteps I putting Utah in line to make the tourney. He's having a career year as a senior, averaging 17 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2. 8 blocks and he's added a little fire to his game.
10. Jonathan Tavernari F BYU (Brazil). Tavernari is best known for being on the receiving end of a disturbing Three Stooges-style eye poke and had to be silenced by the Cougars staff for riling up Wake Forest earlier this season. But there is substance with the drama as he forms a potent duo with Lee Cummard in delivering 16.4 points and 7.3 boards per game.