After posting averages of 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game as a freshman, Baylor center Isaiah Austin was a player some expected to move on to the professional ranks. But Austin decided to return to Waco for his sophomore season, with an injured shoulder impacting the decision-making process. In early May Austin underwent surgery to repair a torn posterior labrum, with Baylor announcing that it expected the recovery to take anywhere from four to six months.
The minimum expectation was that Austin would be ready in time for the Bears’ season opener against Colorado on November 8, and on Thursday the school announced that the 7-1 big man has been medically cleared. Baylor, like many teams across the country, will begin practicing on Friday (some way wait until the end of the weekend or even next week to get going).
Isaiah Austin has been medically cleared after offseason shoulder surgery. Baylor practice starts tomorrow. #SicEm
The return of both Austin and Cory Jefferson resulted in head coach Scott Drew having one of the nation’s deepest front courts. After being a reserve in each of his first two seasons at Baylor Jefferson took full advantage of the increase in playing time, averaging 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per contest in 2012-13. Baylor also welcomes back sophomores Rico Gathers (5.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Taurean Prince (3.7, 2.2), and they also add Chad Rykhoek (he redshirted last season) and true freshman Johnathan Motley.
Given the amount of options (and talent) at Baylor’s disposal this season they’ll be fine inside, especially with Austin cleared to take the court. The biggest question for Baylor is whether or not junior college transfer Kenny Chery can pick up where the departed Pierre Jackson left off at the point. If so, Big 12 favorites Kansas and Oklahoma State will have some company in the race for the conference title.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.