2014-2015 Season Preview: Terry Rozier, Monte Morris headline potential Breakout Stars

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Terry Rozier (Getty Images) and Monte Morris (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Last year, Frank Kaminsky entered the season as a no-name stiff that diehard Big Ten fans knew about. He ended the season as one of the nation’s most improved players and set himself up to be a preseason All-American as a senior. He was the epitome of a Breakout Star.

Here are 25 guys that are in a position to make that kind of an improvement this season.

THE TOP TEN

1. Terry Rozier, Louisville: Rozier was probably the best NBA prospect on Louisville’s roster last season, but playing as a freshman behind an All-American and the reigning JuCo Player of the Year will make it tough to grab minutes. Well, Russ Smith off to the NBA now, meaning that the opportunity is there for Rozier to shine. Expect the 6-foot-2 combo-guard to put together an all-ACC caliber season as the most talented member of Rick Pitino’s back court.

RELATED: Rozier is ready for his time to shine

2. Monte Morris, Iowa State: Morris played behind — and, eventually, alongside, as he started the last 15 games — All-American Deandre Kane as a freshman, so his production was somewhat limited. What’s tantalizing, however, is that long with the 6.8 points he averaged and 40.6 percent he shot from three, Morris averaged 3.7 assists to just 0.8 turnovers. After the start of league play, he had 103 assists and just 18 turnovers, including a seven game stretch with 46 assists and four turnovers. He’ll be the ignition for Fred Hoiberg’s high-powered offense this season.

3. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: I’m torn on how I feel about Hollis-Jefferson as a breakout star. On the one hand, he’s a sensational athlete with the physical tools and intangibles — he defends, he plays hard, he’s aggressive — that make him a favorite of coaches, fans and media alike. And he spent the offseason improving the one weakness in his game: his jumper. But with Stanley Johnson and Kadeem Allen entering the program, and Brandon Ashley healthy, I’m afraid he’ll be relegated to being a role player for Sean Miller, limiting his numbers. Regardless, there aren’t five wing forwards in the country better than him.

4. Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina: Meeks was an inconsistent as any player in the country as a freshman. He’d have games where he played like a lottery pick with three games where he was completely ineffective sandwiched between them. He spent the offseason getting in shape, losing a ton of weight to the point that he’s now throwing down windmill dunks. He’ll be UNC’s low-post anchor this year.

5. Norman Powell, UCLA: Powell has spent the last two seasons as one of the west coast’s best-kept secrets, as he was stuck playing behind now-NBA players like Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine on UCLA’s perimeter. With a back court that is now quite young and inexperienced, Powell will take over the leadership role. If he’s not a first-team all-Pac 12 performer, it will be a disappointment.

MORE: Powell sees himself as a key for UCLA this season

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6. Zak Irvin, Michigan: Irvin averaged 6.7 points and shot 42.5 percent from three (on 3.9 attempts per game) as a freshman despite playing just over 15 minutes a night. Irvin shouldn’t be expected to make the same kind of jump that Nik Stauskas did as a sophomore, as he’s not the same kind of playmaker off the bounce. But he’s a lethal shooter and will score a lot of points keeping defenses honest and creating space for Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert.

7. Deonte Burton, Marquette: Burton has all the makings of a breakout star. He was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school that played limited minutes (12.6 mpg) but was quite productive (6.9 ppg) during that playing time. He’s in a situation, with new head coach Steve Wojociechowski desperate for players with scoring pop, where his defensive liabilities can be overlooked and he’ll get plenty of shots. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t averaged 15 points as a sophomore.

8. Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s: Jordan posted solid numbers as a freshman — 9.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.0 apg — but didn’t play his best basketball until the final month and a half of the season, when head coach Steve Lavin started allowing him more freedom offensively.

9. Kasey Hill, Florida: A top ten recruit in the class of 2013, Hill struggled with ankle injuries and a shaky perimeter jumper, not to mention being stuck behind All-American Scottie Wilbekin on a veteran-laden team as a freshman. He’ll be Billy Donovan’s lead guard this season, and will be expected to produce like it.

10. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Wiltjer was a top 25 recruit in high school, but he was never in good enough shape — or good enough defensively — to see significant time during his two seasons at Kentucky. All he’s done since is spend two offseasons and a full school year redshirting with the same staff that transformed Kelly Olynyk into a lottery pick. He’s the perfect four-man for a team with Kevin Pangos and Przemek Karnowski, at least offensively.

TEN MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON

  • 11. Damian Jones, Vanderbilt: Jones didn’t get much attention as a freshman because he played for Vandy, but he averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 boards for the ‘Dores.
  • 12. Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State: Iwundu had promising moments as a freshman and should emerge as Kansas State’s secondary-option on the perimeter as a sophomore.
  • 13. Austin Nichols, Memphis: Nichols averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 boards for the Tigers as a freshman when the team was built around four senior guards. They’ll rely entirely on their front court this year.
  • 14. Anthony Gill, Virginia: Playing for Virginia is always going to limit offensive statistics, but the junior was the best big man in March for the ‘Hoos.
  • 15. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: It’s hard to put either Dekker or Hayes on a breakout player list, as Dekker was hardly a secret last year and Hayes will be a role player in a loaded front court. But Dekker’s grown, both in height and as a player, and Hayes is good enough to start for all but about 20 teams this year. Both are much more improved than their stats will show.
  • 16. Rodney Purvis, UConn: Purvis was a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2012, but averaged just 8.5 points in his first season at N.C. State. He transferred and sat out last season at UConn. Their perimeter is loaded again, but Purvis should be the No. 2 option to Ryan Boatright.
  • 17. BeeJay Anya, N.C. State: Like Kennedy Meeks, Anya was a highly-recruited big-boned big man that had promising moments as a freshman and lost a ton of weight during the offseason. His wingspan is 7-foot-9.
  • 18. Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington: Williams-Goss is low on this list because he averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 boards and 4.4 assists as a freshman. But he’s on this list because I think he has a shot to become an All-American as a sophomore.
  • 19. Keith Frazier, SMU: The former McDonald’s All-American averaged 5.4 points in just over 15 minutes. With no Emmanuel Mudiay this season, the Mustangs will need another source of back court scoring pop.
  • 20. ShawnDre’ Jones, Richmond: As a freshman, the 5-foot-10 Jones put up impressive numbers when his playing time increased after an injury to Cedric Lindsay.

HONORABLE MENTION: Troy Williams (Indiana), Wayne Selden (Kansas), Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame), Kendrick Nunn (Illinois), Nick King (Memphis)

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.