April 5th has been declared as 'Unsung Player Day' recognizing those hardworkers in the NBA who don't seem to get any spotlight. Our friend at With Malice describes the day in more detail:
"Yup, I’m declaring April 5th ‘Unsung Player Day’… we should recognize the guys who toil and work hard every day, for no recognition. Well, today’s your day. In reality, these guys are just as responsible for making the NBA what it is today - every team needs role-players, guys to come on and give that valuable 2-5 minutes. Without them, there is no NBA. I would encourage NBA bloggers to put up an ‘unsung player’ on their blog on April 5th."
Without further delay, Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you HHN's Unsung Players:
Unsung Player: Jake Voskuhl, Toronto Raptors
He averages 6:24 minutes of playing time, 0.9 ppg, 1.5 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.1 blocks and 150% effort. Sure he's not one of the most talented players: he can't run up the court that fast, he can't hit that corner three but #77 Robert Jacob "Jake" Voskuhl hustles. He's known more as one of the Raptors' cheer squad off of the bench as he's the only guy you'll jumping off of the bench after a Chris Bosh dunk or after an Anthony Parker corner three and he's the first guy you see giving props/high fives when players are making their way back to the bench after a timeout.
When he's on the court, it's for either one of two things a) it's garbage time or b) he's forced to tangle with big men like Shaq, Yao or Dwight Howard and be that extra six fouls. He puts out that 100% effort that may have been lacking with the Raptors this season as he'll defend to the best of his ability, he'll talk smack to Shaq and he'll give you that extra shove when you go for that layup. Sure he's known as the guy who took out Zach Randolph in December, or as the guy who set a record in the fastest foul out in Raptors history (6 fouls in 7:30) but you cannot fault the guy for his hustle, his effort and his team spirit. He has even earned his own term "The Voskuhl" at Basketbawful:
"Voskuhl (voss-cull) noun. When a big man's combined fouls and turnovers exceed his combined points and rebounds over the course of a game.
Usage example: With Michael Redd out for the season, the Bucks need Dan Gadzuric to contribute more than his usual Voskuhl."
If I had to pick between Patrick O'Bryant who just lounges on the Raptors' bench, or a guy like Voskuhl who will jump off the bench and support the team anyway he can, I'll take Voskuhl any day. Shoot, the guy will even attend your birthday party.
Props goes out to Jake Voskuhl!
Unsung Player: Aaron Gray, Chicago Bulls (from our resident Bulls Fan, Sean Francois)
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Aaron Gray is a name the casual basketball fan likely isn't familiar with unless you follow college hoops or you're a Chicago Bulls fan. In college he played at Pitt with Canadian, Levon Kendall. With his offensive skills as a big man, Aaron was a 'go to' player on that defensive minded squad.
With the Bulls trying to decide how they would divide up the remaining minutes at center, with Drew Gooden starting, Aaron stepped in and played quality minutes in the early stages of the season, and made the most of his time on the court. Defensively speaking, Aaron isn't the strongest option at the 5 spot but in a Bulls' 3 point loss vs. the Magic in early November Aaron came off the bench and went 3-4, for 6 points, and grabbed 5 boards (3 of them offensive) in 11:41 of playing time.
Due to injuries, between Dec. 6 & January 6, Aaron started 15 of 16 games. Overall this season, Aaron has been a 'DNP-CD' for 23 of the 76 games played thus far. Since his span of starts in December, when Aaron gets minutes now it's usually to relieve someone in foul trouble, or garbage time in a blow out. Despite his lack of burn, he just keeps working on his game in practice staying ready in case he needs to step up like he did earlier in the season when Drew Gooden was out with ankle and groin issues, and before Joakim Noah solidified his spot in the Bulls' lineup.
With that said, my 'unsung player' nod goes to Aaron Gray!
Be sure to check out With Malice on April 5th for the whole collection of the Unsung Players of the NBA.