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Michigan, Louisville and others need these role players to take the next step
In mid-March, Mitch McGary and Montrezl Harrell were a pair of freshmen still working through their rookie seasons.
By April 8, they were key big men in the national championship game.
The fortunes for McGary and Harrell took abrupt turns once tournament season began, raising the bar for their sophomore years. In 2013-14, Michigan and Louisville will expect more of what McGary and Harrell delivered during the postseason. The breakout last year will need to become the norm starting in November.
Beyond McGary and Harrell, we’ve pinpointed 10 other highly regarded sophomores who need to break out in 2013-14.
Some, like Kansas’ Perry Ellis, showed flashes of potential a year ago. Others like Indiana’s Jeremy Hollowell and Syracuse’s Jerami Grant played on loaded teams that could afford to allow their star recruits to gain some seasoning on the bench.
In general, we’ve picked 12 sophomores who were not full-time players a year ago as freshmen who will need to become impact, all-conference players as sophomores.
12 SOPHOMORES ON THE SPOT IN 2013-14
Mitch McGary, Michigan
As a freshman: 39 games, eight starts, 19.7 minutes per game, 7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Outlook: How is McGary going to top his production during the NCAA Tournament, when he became the MVP of a team that included the national player of the year? After a pedestrian freshman regular season, McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds as the Wolverines reached the national title game. With Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway gone, he may be expected to average close to that as a sophomore.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
As a freshman: 40 games, three starts, 16.2 minutes per game, 5.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Outlook: Harrell had the “where did that come from” moment of the Big East Tournament when he had 20 points and seven rebounds in the championship game against Syracuse. In the three games leading up to the game against Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, he was a combined 5 of 12 from the field. He went 7 of 13 against the Orange alone. With all of the returning pieces back from the national champions, Louisville doesn’t need that kind of production from Harrell, but he is moving to center to replace first-round NBA Draft pick Gorgui Dieng. At 6-8 and 235 pounds, though, Harrell may be undersized for the move.
Perry Ellis, Kansas
As a freshman: 37 games, three starts, 13.6 minutes per game, 5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Outlook: With the entire starting five gone, Ellis suddenly is a grizzled veteran. Freshman Andrew Wiggins will be the focal point and could have a Kevin Durant-like impact, but Ellis is a key cog. Ellis was a decorated local player at Wichita (Kan.) Heights expecting to make an impact on a senior-laden team, but he struggled on both sides of the court through most of his freshman season. He was a non-factor for stretches during Big 12 season before busting out for 23 points against Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. If Wiggins is a superstar from Day One as predicted, the Jayhawks still need the athletic 6-8 forward to give more than 5.8 points per game against Big 12 competition.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
As a freshman: 29 games, 14 starts, 23.6 minutes per game, 8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Outlook: Cauley-Stein has more experience than most of the names on this list, primarily because he took a larger role when Nerlens Noel was lost for the season. Cauley-Stein, who averaged 10.2 points and 8.4 rebounds over the final eight games with Noel out, will be one of the few veterans on a team that lacked them last season.
Jeremy Hollowell, Indiana
As a freshman: 33 games, 0 starts, 9.7 minutes per game, 2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Outlook: All eyes will be on the point guard Yogi Ferrell — the only returning starter — and the incoming freshman Noah Vonleh. But Hollowell has a chance to lead the Hoosiers in scoring. The 6-foot-8 forward can shoot the 3 and drive to the basket. He’ll also take a bit of pressure off Ferrell with his passing ability.
Jerami Grant, Syracuse
As a freshman: 40 games, nine starts, 14.3 minutes per game, 3.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Outlook: Syracuse has a proven track record of letting long and athletic frontcourt players take a year or two to develop before breaking out as sophomores and juniors — think of C.J. Fair and James Southerland. Grant flourished (8.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) when Southerland was suspended midseason, but Syracuse will expect that and more from Grant this year. Also fitting into the sophomore on-the-spot category for Syracuse is center Dajuan Coleman, whose playing time diminished after a midseason knee injury.
Winston Shepard, San Diego State
As a freshman: 31 games, two starts, 20.3 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Outlook: The top recruit in school history looked more like a long-term project last season than the last big-time recruit San Diego State signed, Kawhi Leonard. The Aztecs add a double-double threat in Josh Davis, a transfer from Tulane. But they also need someone to replace the stat-sheet-stuffing versatility of Jamaal Franklin, who led the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. As a recruit, Shepard looked like the kind of player who could offer that skill set. As a freshman, Shepard shot only 42.7 percent from inside the arc.
Shaquille Cleare, Maryland
As a freshman: 37 games, eight starts, 12 minutes per game, 3.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Outlook: The presence of Alex Len meant Cleare was expendable as a freshman. That won’t be the case with Cleare a sophomore and Len off to the NBA Draft as the No. 5 overall pick. The 6-9 Cleare won’t match Len’s height, but Mark Turgeon has been impressed with Cleare’s ability to shed 15-20 pounds during the offseason.
Kris Dunn, Providence
As a freshman: 25 games, 18 starts, 27.2 minutes per game, 5.7 ppg, 3.1 apg
Outlook: Dunn was part of a one-two punch Providence coach Ed Cooley signed out of the class of 2012. Ricky Ledo never played for the Friars, sitting out as a partial qualifier before going to the the NBA Draft. Dunn played a limited role behind Vincent Council last season, but he’ll run the point for a team hoping to reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2004.
Kellen Dunham, Butler
As a freshman: 35 games, 13 starts, 26.1 minutes per game, 9.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg
Outlook: Rotnei Clarke helped return Butler to the NCAA Tournament after his transfer from Arkansas. Dunham, a major recruit for the Bulldogs, was Butler’s second-best shooter from long range last season by a wide margin behind Clarke. If he’s going to shoot at a high volume, he’ll have to do better than 34.5 percent from 3-point range and 37.5 overall from the field.
Ron Baker, Wichita State
As a freshman: 18 games, 15 starts, 26.1 minutes per game, 8.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Outlook: For all intents and purposes, Baker was a full-time starter for Wichita State, but the guard missed 21 games of his redshirt freshman season with a stress fracture in his right foot. He gave Wichita State the 3-point threat it needed during the Shockers’ Final Four run, shooting 4 of 6 from long range in the upset of No. 1 seed Gonzaga. If Baker can stay healthy, he’ll be part of a new-look sophomore backcourt with Fred VanVleet (4.3 ppg last season) running the point.
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga
As a freshman: 34 games, one start, 10.7 minutes per game, 5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Outlook: It’s probably a little much to expect Karnowski to take a jump like Kelly Olynyk did last season. Olynyk went from 5.8 points and 13.5 minutes in 2010-11 to 17.8 points and 26.4 minutes after a redshirt season. Still, Gonzaga likes the development of its 7-foot-1 Polish center.