2013-2014 Season Preview: College Hoops Breakout Players

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

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

Last November, there were a precious few who actually knew who Kelly Olynyk was. Fast forward a year, and he turned an all-american season into becoming a lottery pick. Every year, there are players that break out and become stars, whether it’s because of a larger role thanks to someone’s departure or the fact that they spent their summer getting after it in the gym. Here are 21 guys that have a chance to do just that this season.

1. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: I think Harrell is in line for a huge season with the Cardinals. Harrell played really well in limited minutes as a freshman and was quite impressive competing for Team USA at the U19 World Championships. He can’t replace Gorgui Dieng’s passing ability or shot-blocking, but he’s an aggressive big man that will attack the glass, run the floor and play hard for 40 minutes. On a team that lacks interior depth, he could average a double-double.

’12-’13: 5.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg

2. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker is one of the most talented players to come through the Wisconsin program in recent years, the rare five-star recruit that Bo Ryan lands. An athletic, 6-foot-7 wing with range, Dekker should be Wisconsin’s No. 1 option offensively with Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Breusewitz graduation. If he can play with the efficiency he had as freshman with a heavier work load, Dekker has a shot at being Big Ten Player of the Year.

’12-’13: 9.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 39.1% 3PT

3. Rodney Hood, Duke: Hood spent last season sitting out in Durham after transferring into the program from Mississippi State, and despite the fact that he’s on a team with Jabari Parker and Rasheed Sulaimon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hood have the kind of season that earns him All-American consideration. As a freshman, the athletic, 6-foot-8 lefty found a way to average double-figures on a team that included Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. That’s more impressive that it sounds.

’11-’12: 10.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg

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4. Perry Ellis, Kansas: Ellis entered Kansas as a freshman with loads of hype surrounding his ability to score the ball, but he didn’t quite live up to those expectations, although that had more to do with opportunity than effectiveness: he posted an offensive rating of 114.1. As the starting four for the Jayhawks this year, Ellis will likely be the No. 2 option offensively, along with Wayne Selden. With defenses keying on Wiggins, don’t be surprised to see Ellis thrive.

’12-’13: 5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg

5. Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith spent last season sitting out after transferring from Virginia Tech, and after a year of working on his game, the sophomore will have a chance to slide into Florida’s lineup immediately. With Will Yeguete banged up and Chris Walker enrolling in December, the versatile forward will have a chance to earn his minutes early in the season.

’11-’12: 6.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.9 apg

6. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri: It’s weird to list someone that averaged 16.5 points as a breakout candidate, but I’d counter with this: How many of you saw Clarkson play at Tulsa? Missouri is ecstatic about how well he’s progressed, so don’t be surprised to see the 6-foot-5 wing generate all-SEC buzz, put his name on the NBA’s radar and become a guy that the nation knows.

’11-’12: 16.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg

7. Mike Tobey, Virginia: This prediction may be a year too early for Tobey, as UVA returns Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell and plays as slow a pace as you’ll find nationally. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from paying attention to this 6-foot-10 sophomore. He put up impressive, efficiency numbers in limited minutes as a freshman and made the U19 team.

’12-’13: 6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 13.9 mpg

8. Ty Wallace, Cal: Wallace put up solid numbers and was impressive in spurts as a freshman, but his efficiency numbers were fairly low thanks to a season-long shooting slump. But this 6-foot-4 slasher will have the opportunity for more minutes and shots thanks to Allen Crabbe’s departure. If he improves from the perimeter, Wallace will have a big season.

’12-’13: 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg

9. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State: With Deshaun Thomas gone, someone is going to have to take on the role of go-to scorer for Ohio State, and if last year’s stretch run is any indication, Ross should be that guy. He averaged 17.7 points in the last three tournament games. Consistency will be the key to his season.

’12-’13: 8.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 16.8 mpg

10. A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Hammons was dominant at times as a freshman, but he also had stretches where he disappeared. Conditioning was an issue for the big fella, and he reportedly lost more than 25 pounds this offseason. If Purdue makes a run at the NCAA tournament, a lot of it will have to do with this potential all-Big Ten sophomore.

’12-’13: 10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg

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Eleven more guys that should be in for a big season

  • Kris Dunn, Providence (5.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.2 apg): The best point guard in the Class of 2012 is finally healthy.
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (7.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg): A lockdown defender, Hield will need to expand his offensive game to offset Oklahoma’s heavy losses.
  • Jerami Grant, Syracuse (3.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg): With James Southerland gone, there will be plenty of minutes for Grant this season.
  • Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona (6.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg): Tarczewski needs to take the next step as a physical interior presence for the Wildcats.
  • Josh Scott, Colorado (10.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg): Scott’s 20 pounds of extra muscle should help him in the paint.
  • Kyle Anderson, UCLA (9.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg): With Shabazz gone, Anderson will show what he can do with an offense running through him.
  • Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga (5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg): Conditioning is the only thing holding back the seven-foot Mt. Poland.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg): Cauley-Stein is not Kentucky’s starting center. He oozes upside, but can he reach his potential?
  • Josh Smith, Georgetown (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg): An in-shape Josh Smith is a lottery pick. It’s also something we’ve never seen.
  • Tyrone Garland, La Salle (13.1 ppg, 2.0 apg): The SW Philly Floater will be the primary scorer for La Salle with Ramon Galloway gone.
  • Ben Carter, Oregon (2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg): There are minutes in Oregon’s front court available, and Carter played well in spurts last year.

Kentucky clarifies ‘false reports’ they did not shake Kansas State hands after loss

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After Kansas State knocked off Kentucky in the Sweet 16, the purple Wildcats alleged that the blue Wildcats did not shake their hands after the game.

“They didn’t shake our hands,” Kansas State junior guard Amaad Wainright told ESPN last night. “It’s sorry.”

“They know what they did.”

Kentucky bristled at the allegations.

“They were turned and celebrating, so I walked off,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “There was no disrespect for anything. It’s just that they were celebrating, and I was happy for them.”

“My team’s not like that. There’s no disrespect in any way. They beat us. They deserved to win the game.”

NCAA amends rule to allow Isaac Haas to play

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BOSTON — The NCAA has changed their interpretation of the rule that kept Isaac Haas out of the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Haas broke his elbow in Purdue’s first round win over Cal St.-Fullerton, but he was not allowed to play in a second round game against Butler because his brace did not meet NCAA standards.

So they changed those standards.

“With ample time this week to review the intent of the playing rule, the committee decided to provide a more contemporary interpretation, while keeping health and safety for all players the highest priority,” said Gavitt. “Technology has improved materials used in braces, so now there will be more flexibility in applying the rule as long as the brace is fully covered and padded. Isaac and other players in similar circumstances should be able to play, as long as the brace is safe for all.”

Sources have told NBC Sports that, despite Haas’ lobbying to get onto the court, he is not expected to play on Friday night. If he does, it will be in a very limited capacity.

“He didn’t practice the last two days,” Painter said on Thursday, “and when you don’t practice, you don’t play.”

“I don’t see him playing until he can practice and show me he can shoot a right-handed free throw and get a rebound with two hands.”

USC’s Chimezie Metu declares for NBA draft

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USC junior forward Chimezie Metu announced on Thursday evening that he will be declaring for the NBA draft:

This decision is not surprising. Metu finished his degree — Law History and Culture —  in three seasons. He held himself out of USC’s NIT games in an effort to keep himself from getting injured with NBA workouts on the horizon.

Metu averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 boards and 1.6 blocks for the Trojans this season. He is considered a borderline first round pick.

VIDEO: Kansas State legend celebrates revenge on Kentucky 67 years in the making

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In 1951, Kansas State lost to Kentucky in the National Championship game.

Ernie Barrett, who eventually became the school’s athletic director and is known as “Mr. K-State“, played on that team.

He’s wanted to get revenge on Big Blue ever since.

On Thursday night, Kansas State did.

Ernie was there, and here was his reaction in the locker room:

Keenan Evans perseveres through toe injury as Texas Tech looks to get through East Region

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BOSTON — It was a gut punch when they got the call.

After a dreadful 3-15 freshman season, Tubby Smith had turned Texas Tech around his sophomore year, when Keenan Evans had averaged 8.7 points and 2.9 assists, respectable enough given the role that Tubby asks his point guards to play. The core of that team — a sophomore class that also included Zach Smith, Justin Gray and Norense Odiase — were returning. Tubby was making some in-roads in Texas. Everything was pointing up.

And then the former Kentucky head coach left for Memphis, a job that would chew him up and spit him out within two years.

“As parents, we definitely thought about what his next step would be,” Kenny Evans said. Who would Texas Tech hire? What if they didn’t like him? What if he didn’t like Keenan? It didn’t help matters that the Evans family had a weird and unique bond with Tubby.

The Evans’ family is as athletic as athletic gets. Keenan’s basketball IQ and guile come from his mom, Shantell, who was an all-SWAC guard at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. His athleticism comes from his dad, Kenny, who was an Olympic high-jumper. He finished 13th in the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, which also happened to be the Games where Tubby was an assistant coach for USA Basketball. Kenny, an Arkansas-native and high school basketball star, knew who Tubby Smith was; he was less than two years removed from winning a national title out of the same conference as his Razorbacks, and Kenny says he idolized Nolan Richardson and his Arkansas teams.

“You don’t see a lot of celebrities in Arkansas,” Kenny said, so when the Track & Field team was put next to the USA Basketball team, he did what any red-blooded American would do: He asked them for pictures.

One of those pictures was with Tubby — Kenny’s mother was a fan — and that picture ended up being displayed in the Evans house for years to come.

Suffice to say, Tubby’s name carried some weight with the family. It was part of what made Keenan decide to play at Texas Tech. And it’s one of the reasons why Keenan’s parents wanted to do their homework on the good ole’ boy Tech hired that was on his third job in three weeks, his sixth job in six seasons and a little more than four years removed from coaching in the ABA.

(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Chris Beard’s roots run deep in Texas.

He went to high school just outside Houston. He was a manager at Texas during his time as a student. After graduating, he spent 14 of the next 16 seasons coaching in Texas, with one-year layovers at Junior Colleges in Kansas and Oklahoma along the way.

Throw in a one-year stay with the South Carolina Warriors and one season with Arkansas-Little Rock, and Beard lived outside Texas for just four years since childhood. And, as his assistant coach Chris Ogden puts it, “Beard’s a relationship guy.” He knows people all over the state, and when he got the job at Texas Tech — where he had previously been an Associate Head Coach under Bobby Knight — Kenny started getting calls from people vouching for him.

Give him a chance.

He may not have the national title-pedigree that Tubby does, but he’s got a shot at getting there one day.

Hear him out.

And Beard made sure they would have the chance to do so. Almost immediately after setting foot in Lubbock, the new Tech staff got to work trying to develop relationships with his new players and their families. Beard had a one-on-one meeting with every single member of the Texas Tech roster, which is not uncommon. He then took a flight to meet with the family of every member of his team. To sit down in front of them, look them in the eye and get to know them personally, as more than just the people that his players hear from when they go over their data plan or when those on-campus parking tickets start to add up.

“When I called them to let them know that Coach Beard said he was going to fly out to see [them], they were kind of shook,” Keenan said. “‘Wow, he’s really going to fly to everybody’s family around the country?’ They were really in shock and that stood out to them as well.”

“Not a lot of coaches do that. Fly to each person’s family, sit down and meet them, introduce himself. That played a big part in [my decision to stay] as well.”

The other part of it was that Keenan believed in the plan, in the vision that Beard had, for both the program and himself.

You see, the way Tubby uses his point guard is different than the way Beard does.

“Tubby is more old school,” Kenny explains. “He envisioned his point guards not shooting much and running the offense. Chris is new school. He recognizes you need to me more dynamic at the point guard spot. You gotta be a threat to score to get assists.”

And Beard knew he had the guy he needed in Keenan.

The staff was not unfamiliar with him when they took over. Ogden had recruited Keenan’s high school teammates, so he had seen him plenty. They knew what Keenan would be able to do when unleashed, and they knew what kind of a player and a worker they were inheriting.

“I just believed in his process, believed that he wanted to win at this level,” Evans said. “He believed in me, so I believed in him, and he gave me an opportunity. And he’s still doing that.”

“What I’m most appreciative of Keenan is he basically trusted me before he had to. He basically took me at my word,” Beard said. “He trusted me from day one, and I asked him to do a lot of things that he had never done before in his career.”

It paid off.

Tech struggled last season, but as a senior, Keenan morphed into one of college basketball’s best players. He’s averaging 17.8 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 boards entering Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup with Purdue, numbers that would have been more impressive in a year that could have truly been legendary if it wasn’t for an awkward landing after a jump shot that resulted in unfortunate toe injury that Keenan suffered at Baylor on February 17th.

Keenan did not play in the second half of that game. He did play at at Oklahoma State and against Kansas in the two subsequent games, but anyone watching knew that he wasn’t himself. He sat out a road trip to West Virginia.

Four straight losses.

Sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with a home game left against Kansas and a grasp on Big 12 Player of the Year turned into just another victim of the Jayhawks’ 14-year reign over the conference.

And if you don’t think that was hard for Keenan to handle, you don’t know Keenan.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Keenan Evans has always picked up on things quickly.

Everyone has that one friend that is annoyingly good at everything, whether it’s pool, or bowling, or Fortnite. That’s Keenan, and that’s why Keenan’s mom — an all-conference basketball player herself — had to stop training him by the time he was in the fourth grade.

He was just getting too good, too quickly.

That can be a slippery slope. If you’re a natural, if things come too easily to you, work ethic might not be your forte. With Keenan, it worked the other way. When he got good at one thing, he wanted to perfect the next thing. The best are the best because they are addicted to improvement, and Keenan falls into that category.

“The Keenan Evans story is not me or Tubby,” Beard said. “It is Keenan Evans. This guy self-made himself into one of the best players in college basketball, and I can tell you how he’s done it. He’s done it with a lot of work. He’s in the gym every day. He’s in the film room a lot. He’s a guy that’s changed his body in the weight room.”

That’s what made this toe issue so devastating.

We’re talking about a guy that is known within the Texas Tech locker room as being their hardest work. Three-a-days in the gym. He’s made himself into a star. He earned his shot at getting a Big 12 title and a Player of the Year award, and it got taken away from him.

Because of a toe.

“Simply stated, a lot of guys wouldn’t even be playing on it right now,” Beard said. “Keenan is playing on it and playing at a high level. He’s just an absolute warrior.”

“I’ve never coached a tougher guy than Keenan Evans.”

“It was tough to overcome just because I felt like I was letting my team down in a way,” Keenan said. “It wasn’t my fault, but also [my toe’s] just not 100 percent, and I still battle with it every night.”

According to Kenny, the struggle was as much mental as physical.

“It was devastating for him,” he said. “He tried to be strong for his teammates. He could have shut it down and gotten ready for everything after college. But that’s not us, that’s not our family, that’s not Keenan.”

He does his best to stay off the foot when he’s not playing games. His time on the practice floor is limited. When media is granted access to the Texas Tech locker room, Keenan’s foot is in a big, yellow bucket full of ice water. He doesn’t have the same explosiveness. He can’t push off of it the way he did before the injury. And that’s before you get to the mental side of it, having the confidence in himself and his body to be able to try and do the things he’s been doing all season long.

And in this tournament, it’s worked.

Keenan has scored 45 points through two games, and 33 of those 45 points have come in the second half. He made every shot he took in the second half of a come-from-behind win over Stephen F. Austin in the opener. He hit the go-ahead three and threw a lob to Zhaire Smith for the clinching basket in the final two minutes of the win over Florida. All told, in his last five games, Evans is averaging 17 of his 21.2 points and shooting 26-for-37 from the floor after halftime.

He is Texas Tech’s closer, and with a date against No. 2-seed Purdue in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, Evans will likely be called upon to close once again.

Just the way Beard likes it.

“I just love coaching him,” he said. “I just don’t want it to end. I want to coach that guy another day. It is like when you go to a good movie and you know it’s getting towards the end, but you are loving the movie so much, you want it to go a little bit farther. Or you’ve got a good plate of enchiladas and you’re looking at it, and you only have two bites left, but it’s so good, you turn it into three bites.”

“I want it to keep lasting.”