On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf provided us with a late-May conversation-starter when he posted a list of the Top 10 Impact Sophomores heading into next season.
The list isn’t bad. Texas point guard Javan Felix is in there, as is Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, Harvard’s Siyani Chambers, Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell.
But I have to take Myron to task for a name that he left off of the list: San Diego State’s Winston Shepard.
The Aztecs are going to be without a lead dog next season. Jamaal Franklin, their most talented player, is headed to the NBA. Chase Tapley, their assassin and go-to guy in the final minutes, has graduated.
JJ O’Brien and Xavier Thames are solid players. And I can write down a 7 or 8 player rotation for San Diego St. that sounds reasonably intimidating on paper. But San Diego St. loses its two most important players in Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin. Both took a high volume of shots, played a ton of minutes, and were super efficient. (Departing senior DeShawn Stephens rarely shot, but he was very efficient too.) Losing players like that just isn’t a recipe for a better season. And San Diego St. had only the 36th best margin-of-victory last year.
Tulane transfer Josh Davis enters, as does talented freshman Dakarai Allen. But neither of those guys are going to be able to fill the void left in the box score by Tapley and Franklin.
Shepard, however, has the talent to be that guy. He was ranked 21st nationally in the Class of 2012 by Rivals. He’s a 6-foot-8 point forward with the kind of versatile skill set that gives coaches nightmares. He’s got potential for days.
He’s also got a long way to go to reach that potential. He’s not a great shooter, he’s turnover prone, and he’s the kind of player that doesn’t realize that a) he’s not a great shooter; and b) he’s turnover prone. In other words, his shot selection and decision-making could stand to improve, and that should inherently make him a more efficiency player.
My point is that Shepard needs to put in the work this summer if he wants to get better and be the top dog for the Aztecs. But if he does — if he ends up making that jump that so many sophomores do — he could end up being the reason that SDSU makes their way back into the NCAA tournament. If he doesn’t, Steve Fisher might be looking at the NIT next season.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.