Kadeem Allen, an all-american guard for Hutchinson Community College the past two seasons, was named Junior College Player of the Year this week.
In two seasons at HCC, the 6-foot-3 Wilmington, N.C., native scored 1,425 points, averaging 25.9 points in the toughest NJCAA conference in the country. That was enough to pique the interest of Arizona head coach Sean Miller, who was able to get Allen signed and ready to enroll in Tucson next season.
Why is that relevant?
Because the biggest issue that Arizona had a season ago was their inability to create offense in half court sets. They were arguably the best defensive team in the country, even after Brandon Ashley was injured, but the only situation in which the Wildcats were consistently dangerous on the offensive end of the floor was in transition. And while Miller is bringing in yet another loaded recruiting class, headlined by top five recruit Stanley Johnson, he will once again have a team built around their defense but that is losing their best weapon in the half court: Nick Johnson.
That’s where Allen value is going to lie.
He may not end up starting for this group — my prediction on a starting lineup is that T.J. McConnell will be joined by Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski — but even playing the role of hired gun off the bench will be critical.
We had Arizona as the preseason No. 1 team in the country with the assumption that they would be losing Johnson and Aaron Gordon, and while he may not get as much hype as some of the other members of the team, Allen is going to be one of the keys to Arizona’s 2015 bid for a national 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.