With one school claiming the top three returning scorers in the Big 12, the rest of the league will depend on newcomers to challenge Oklahoma State’s veteran roster.
Nowhere is that more clear than at Kansas where the Jayhawks’ outlook changed in an instant when super-freshman Andrew Wiggins signed to play for Bill Self. He’s not the only big-time newcomer going to Lawrence, but he might be the most important new face for any team in the country.
Beyond Kansas and Oklahoma State, the league’s two frontrunners, other teams are counting on transfers to keep them in NCAA contention (Iowa State) or to return them to the field after a rare one-year drought (West Virginia, Texas).
Our series has looked at the key transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury in the ACC and the American. Now we take a look at the new faces in the Big 12.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Before March 3, Kansas’ streak of nine seasons with at least a share of the Big 12 title was in question. After March 3, the Jayhawks became an instant top-10 contender with the signing of Wiggins. He’s the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he’s already predicted to be the next Kevin Durant in the college game. Like Durant, Wiggins is a long forward who can play all over the court. The bar is high — Durant averaged 25.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds in one season at Texas — but Wiggins can reach it.
DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Few teams have had more success in the transfer market than Iowa State. The Cyclones have added Royce White and Will Clyburn for NCAA Tournament runs, and now Iowa State adds Kane. Kane was a major recruit to sign with Marshall, but the Thundering Herd never made the NCAA Tournament despite Kane’s 15.6 points per game average in three seasons. The statsheet stuffer averaged 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, including seven helpers per game last season.
Tarik Black, Kansas
Black wasn’t the top player on a Memphis team that lost in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t make him any less of a coveted transfer after the season. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Tigers, but Kansas believes he can provide a physical presence for the Jayhawks’ frontcourt. After Kansas lost all five starters, Black's experience will be an asset.
Kenny Chery, Baylor
Junior college transfer
With center Isaiah Austin returning, Baylor’s biggest hole to fill was left by point guard Pierre Jackson. The Bears will fill it with Chery, a productive point guard from the junior college ranks. He averaged 16.4 points per game at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., but he’s going to have to be a distributor with Baylor’s talent in the frontcourt plus long-range shooter Brady Heslip.
Jonathan Holton, West Virginia
Junior college transfer
Bob Huggins will try his hand at another Atlantic 10 product in the frontcourt after La Salle’s Aaric Murray flamed out in Morgantown this past season. Holton averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds at Rhode Island in 2011-12 before going to junior college. In 2013-14, he could be West Virginia’s top player, but he also has off-court issues in his past. Holton pleaded no contest to charges of voyeurism in May and was placed on probation.
Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp and Joel Embiid, Kansas
Wiggins and Black were the latest additions to Kansas’ group of newcomers, but it would be foolish to overlook the rest of the No. 2 signing class in the country after Kentucky. Selden will see plenty of minutes with his ability to play point guard and shooting guard, especially if Naadir Tharpe can’t hold down the point. Embiid is raw but an outstanding shot-blocker, while Greene and Frankamp will give KU a presence from 3-point range.
Kendal Yancy-Harris, Texas
Texas is looking for any answer it can find after collapsing to 16-18 overall and 7-11 in the Big 12 last season. Yancy-Harris is ready to contribute immediately, but the Longhorns have not had the best recent track record with highly touted guards, from Avery Bradley to Cory Joseph to Myck Kabongo.
Karviar Shepherd, TCU
Shepherd's season was in limbo until the weekend, when he was declared academically eligible to play for the Frogs. The 6-10, 225-pound center is a top-100 recruit leading a freshman class the Frogs hope will turn around the program in the Big 12.
Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma
Spangler averaged only 6.6 minutes per game in his time at Gonzaga, but he’s being asked to fill the shoes of All-Big 12 performer Romero Osby with the Sooners. Osby has given Spangler, who starred in high school at Blanchard (Okla.) Bridge Creek, a resounding seal of approval.
Devin Williams, West Virginia
The Mountaineers' top signee comes from Huggins’ old stomping grounds in Cincinnati and could be a key building block as West Virginia tries to regain its footing in the Big 12. The 6-8 power forward also considered Ohio State and Memphis, but he could be a force in the paint for West Virginia as a rookie.
Amric Fields, TCU
Returning from injury
TCU is going to struggle, but the outlook is better with Shepherd and Fields available. TCU is looking to Fields to make a full recovery from a knee injury that knocked him out after the third week of the season. Before his injury, the 6-9, 220-pound Fields had played in 69 consecutive games, averaging 9.6 points per game as a sophomore.
Other new faces to watch:
Ishmael Wainright, Baylor
Baylor’s top recruit could fill a spot immediately on the wing. The Bears also added Denver transfer Royce O’Neal (11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg last season) to boost depth at small forward.
Stevie Clark, Oklahoma State
Clark may become a big-time scorer, but for now he’s backing up Marcus Smart at the point.
Gary Gaskins, Oklahoma State
Junior college transfer
The Cowboys have a handful of athletic forwards starting with Mike Cobbins and Kamari Murphy, but the 6-10 Gaskins will offer more help off the bench.
Trey Zeigler, TCU
The former top-100 recruit has bounced from Central Michigan to Pittsburgh to TCU.
Aaron Ross, Texas Tech
Redshirt freshman/returning from injury
The Red Raiders had to wait a year for one of their top prospects when Ross went down with a torn ACL last season. Ross is a 6-8, 235-pound forward with a nice outside shot.