The impact freshman of the 2012-13 season

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of The Lists we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Every season since the NBA implemented the one-year rule, college basketball fans have been treated to a plethora of freshman that jump on the scene and immediately make their presence known. Some stay for only one year, some stay for more. Here’ a list of players you may and may not know, but all are equally deserving of your attention when it comes to making an impact for their teams during the 2012-13 season.

THE ONES YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT

Alex Poythress – Kentucky

-Not the Big Blue Big Man you were expecting, huh? We’ve all heard about Nerlens Noel, from his raw offensive skill set to his Anthony Davis-clone defensive abilities. If that’s the case, Noel will get all the on-court attention from opponents, allowing Poythress to have a chance to get some spotlight. He’s got the penetration game and the build (6-8, 200) that screams “the next great John Calipari-coached combo forward.” With all the other incoming talent, he’s going to have to battle for buckets, but if you look at the skills coming in, the measurables and Cal’s history, Poythress fits the mold to possibly be another lottery pick out of Kentucky.

Kyle Anderson – UCLA

-No, this isn’t because Shabazz Muhammad isn’t eligible yet. He may be getting all the publicity, but the one thing Ben Howland’s best UCLA teams had were pass-first players he could rely on — Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison — which makes Anderson so crucial. He was by-far the best passer of the 2012 class and if he has a legitimate freshman campaign he’s probably only going to last for one season, anyway. He’s got the frame at 6-8, 215 and the vision to find anyone on the court. If he can average 6-8 assists and keep all those weapons — assuming Muhammad gets cleared — happy, he’ll be the reason Ben Howland gets deep into March.

Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State

-Teamed with LeBryan Nash, the 6-3, 200-pound Smart may be the missing piece for the most potent 1-2 punch in the  Big 12. The Cowboys aren’t long on guard depth this season, so expect Smart to start and play a lot of minutes, which in turn means he’ll have to minimize turnovers. He could be the difference between an NIT or an NCAA Tournament berth. I fully expect a first-team All-Big 12 season from him.

Perry Ellis – Kansas

-No one can replace Thomas Robinson. But someone has to fill his spot, and that’s probably going to have to be Ellis, ready or not. The 6-8, 225-pounder is going to be the relief to what might be the most bruise-filled season in Jeff Withey’s career. Ellis can do everything that T-Rob did, only obviously on a more raw level. There’s no better option at power forward. Could contend for as much as second-team All-Big 12.

Isaiah Austin – Baylor

Another tall, lanky power forward with wing skills that coach Scott Drew can find infinite uses for. It’s the cornerstone of the Drew attack and whoever is in that spot is almost guaranteed to be in the NBA after college under Drew (Quincy Acy, Perry Jones III, Ekpe Udou). Austin is this year’s lucky future millionaire. The 7-0, 210-pounder has such a skill set that some pundits were calling him a top pick if had been eligible for the 2012 Draft. He’s going to have to fill those voids left by Acy and Jones and is expected to use that length to catch a ton of lobs from Pierre Jackson.

THE ONES YOU’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT

Jordan Burgess – VCU

Burgess, 6-4, 210, will step into a loaded roster and has the expectations to fill his older brother Bradford’s shoes. He was the no. 100 player in Scout.com’s 2012 rankings and by all accounts, he’s got the exact same skill set that helped his older brother lead the Rams to a Final Four and two CAA tournament championships. He already knows what Shaka Smart expects.

C.J. Ford – Murray State

Murray State can’t survive on Isaiah Canaan alone, and that was supposed to be a question answered by Zay Jackson. But now Jackson appears to be facing a tough road back after being suspended following an incident this summer. Enter Ford, 6-1, 180, who has the tools to help fill the void left by the graduation of guards Jewaun Long and Donte Poole.

Semaj Christon – Xavier

He had a high-enough recruiting ranking to get his publicity, but unless you were a hardcore Recruitnik, Christon wasn’t a name up there with the Noels and Muhammads of 2012. If there ever was a freshman that I’d have to bet my life on to play early and often, Christon is most definitely it. Mark Lyons gets dismissed, heads to Arizona. Dez Wells gets expelled, he’s off to Maryland. Then freshman Myles Davis was declared a Prop 48, so Chris Mack will need the 6-3, 182-pound point guard to adjust quickly. It wouldn’t shock me to see Christon play in the 33-36-minute range in 2012-13.

Nick Osborne – Loyola-Chicago

I took to Twitter to find a name or two I hadn’t thought of, and @Title_BU reminded of Osborne, who was first-team all-state in Indiana and rated as high as the no. 2 player in the state. He’s got the size (6-8, 220) to toss people around in a conference like The Horizon League and in signing with a team that went 7-17 overall and 1-17 in conference, he’s going to be a central part of the Ramblers rebuilding efforts under Porter Moser.

Danuel House – Houston

This was a bit of a coup for third-year coach James Dickey. House was a high-major recruit that was supposed to be a get for an Arizona, Missouri or Georgetown. But the 6-7, 195-pound House stuck with the Cougars and he’s the big name in their 2012 recruiting class. There’s a huge logjam behind Memphis in Conference USA and if there’s a player that doesn’t play for the Tigers that can challenge for conference Freshman of the Year, it’s House.

NAMES TO WATCH: SOME OBVIOUS, SOME NOT SO MUCH
Archie Goodwin, Kentucky; Nerlens Noel, Kentucky; Sam Dekker, Wisconsin; Mitch McGary, Michigan; Anthony Bennett, UNLV; Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA*; Shaquille Cleare, Maryland; Montrezl Harrell, Louisville; Kris Dunn, Providence; Rodney Purvis, North Carolina State; Gary Harris, Michigan State; Langston Morris-Walker, Oregon State; Kellen Dunham, Butler; D.J. Balentine, Evansville; Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State; E.J. Reed, Long Island.
*Yet to be declared eligible by NCAA.
David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.