Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breakout Players

Sam Young of Pitt went from averaging 7.2 ppg and 3.0 rpg as a sophomore to 18.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg as a junior. Russell Westbrook went from scoring 3.4 ppg in limited action as a freshman to starting as a sophomore and averaging 12.7 ppg and 3.9 apg while playing his way into the fourth overall pick in last year's draft.

Every year there are guys that come from college basketball obscrurity and burst on the scene by putting up all-american type numbers and performances. Who are the guys that will have a break out year in 2008-2009?

DeJuan Blair, Pitt: Blair has already proven that he is one of the best at establishing position in the post, and may be the country's best rebounder. With the Panthers losing the perimeter scoring of Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin, and with Levance Fields still nursing a bad foot, Blair should get plenty of opportunities to score down low.

Damion James, Texas: That Rick Barnes recruiting class that included Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin, and James is looking pretty good now, huh? James is a combo forward that has been primarily a hustle guy in his first two years with the 'Horns, but with Augustin and Durant gone, expect for James to be more aggressive with the ball offensively. The most impressive thing about James is that he can score so many different ways - knocking down three's, attacking the basket from the wing, finishing on a break, getting an offensive put back. To be fair, can a guy really have a break out year coming off of a season where he averaged a double double? 

Jodie Meeks, Kentucky: Meeks is a 6'4" combo guard that had a promising freshman season in 2006-2007, but battled injuries (including a sports hernia he underwent surgery for in April) which limited him to 11 games in 2007-2008. With the departure of Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford, and Derrick Jasper, Meeks is going to be logging a lot of minutes in an inexperienced UK back court, and now that he is finally healthy, expect a big year out of the junior.

Cole Aldrich, Kansas: Aldrich was a Mickey D's all-american coming out of high school, but as a freshman was stuck behind the three-headed monster of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, and Sasha Kaun. He had a coming out party in the Final Four against UNC, going for 8 points, 7 boards (4 offensive), and 4 blocks in 18 minutes. Aldrich should get a lot of chances as the only front court returner for the Jayhawks.

Chandler Parsons, Florida: Parsons performed well during his freshman year in Gainesville, posting 8.4 ppg and 4.0 rpg in just 20.7 mpg. At 6'9", he is a combo forward, although his lack of bulk as a freshman forced him to spend a lot of time on the perimeter. Word is that Parsons spent the summer in the weight room, putting on 20-plus pounds of muscle. Billy Donovan has a knack for getting his bigs to improve dramatically between their freshman and sophomore years (Marreese Speights, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, to name a few).

Chris Allen, Michigan State: Allen was a top 25 recruit coming out of Georgia, but as a freshman he was lost in the shuffle of the Spartans back court. With Drew Neitzel gone, Allen is probably the best option for Tom Izzo at off-guard. Like Neitzel, Allen gets a lot of his points off of his jump shot, and should get plenty of attempts if teams are going to pay too much attention to Raymarr Morgan.

Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, Georgetown: With the loss of Jonathan Wallace and Roy Hibbert, Georgetown may be looking at having to speed up their style of play, mainly because it would better suit these two sophomores. Wright, who was slowed by an injured ankle last year, is one of the quickest guards in the Big East end to end. Freeman, at 6'4", 240 lb, is one of the most powerful wing players in the country, but he is deceivingly athletic and is a more-than-capable three point shooter. With Georgetown returning just four rotation guys, expect the Hoyas to rely heavily on Wright and Freeman.

James Anderson, Oklahoma State: Anderson, a 6'6" shooting guard, didn't exactly have a quiet freshman season, leading the Cowboys in scoring at 13.3 ppg. With a year to get used to head coach Travis Ford and their top four scorers back from a year ago, this OK State squad should make some noise in the Big XII, and Anderson will be the guy leading the way.

Craig Brackins, Iowa State: Brackins is as talented as they come. The athletic, 6'10" sophomore can play both on the block and on the perimeter, and is a very good three-point shooter (he had 33 points and 8 three's against Baylor last year). Iowa State graduated Jiri Hubalek and Rahshon Clark, and lost Wesley Johnson as a transfer, which means Brackins will be the focal point of the Cyclone offense this year.

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