The impact freshman of the 2012-13 season

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

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

Every season since the NBA implemented the one-year rule, college basketball fans have been treated to a plethora of freshman that jump on the scene and immediately make their presence known. Some stay for only one year, some stay for more. Here’ a list of players you may and may not know, but all are equally deserving of your attention when it comes to making an impact for their teams during the 2012-13 season.

THE ONES YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT

Alex Poythress – Kentucky

-Not the Big Blue Big Man you were expecting, huh? We’ve all heard about Nerlens Noel, from his raw offensive skill set to his Anthony Davis-clone defensive abilities. If that’s the case, Noel will get all the on-court attention from opponents, allowing Poythress to have a chance to get some spotlight. He’s got the penetration game and the build (6-8, 200) that screams “the next great John Calipari-coached combo forward.” With all the other incoming talent, he’s going to have to battle for buckets, but if you look at the skills coming in, the measurables and Cal’s history, Poythress fits the mold to possibly be another lottery pick out of Kentucky.

Kyle Anderson – UCLA

-No, this isn’t because Shabazz Muhammad isn’t eligible yet. He may be getting all the publicity, but the one thing Ben Howland’s best UCLA teams had were pass-first players he could rely on — Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison — which makes Anderson so crucial. He was by-far the best passer of the 2012 class and if he has a legitimate freshman campaign he’s probably only going to last for one season, anyway. He’s got the frame at 6-8, 215 and the vision to find anyone on the court. If he can average 6-8 assists and keep all those weapons — assuming Muhammad gets cleared — happy, he’ll be the reason Ben Howland gets deep into March.

Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State

-Teamed with LeBryan Nash, the 6-3, 200-pound Smart may be the missing piece for the most potent 1-2 punch in the  Big 12. The Cowboys aren’t long on guard depth this season, so expect Smart to start and play a lot of minutes, which in turn means he’ll have to minimize turnovers. He could be the difference between an NIT or an NCAA Tournament berth. I fully expect a first-team All-Big 12 season from him.

Perry Ellis – Kansas

-No one can replace Thomas Robinson. But someone has to fill his spot, and that’s probably going to have to be Ellis, ready or not. The 6-8, 225-pounder is going to be the relief to what might be the most bruise-filled season in Jeff Withey’s career. Ellis can do everything that T-Rob did, only obviously on a more raw level. There’s no better option at power forward. Could contend for as much as second-team All-Big 12.

Isaiah Austin – Baylor

Another tall, lanky power forward with wing skills that coach Scott Drew can find infinite uses for. It’s the cornerstone of the Drew attack and whoever is in that spot is almost guaranteed to be in the NBA after college under Drew (Quincy Acy, Perry Jones III, Ekpe Udou). Austin is this year’s lucky future millionaire. The 7-0, 210-pounder has such a skill set that some pundits were calling him a top pick if had been eligible for the 2012 Draft. He’s going to have to fill those voids left by Acy and Jones and is expected to use that length to catch a ton of lobs from Pierre Jackson.

THE ONES YOU’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT

Jordan Burgess – VCU

Burgess, 6-4, 210, will step into a loaded roster and has the expectations to fill his older brother Bradford’s shoes. He was the no. 100 player in Scout.com’s 2012 rankings and by all accounts, he’s got the exact same skill set that helped his older brother lead the Rams to a Final Four and two CAA tournament championships. He already knows what Shaka Smart expects.

C.J. Ford – Murray State

Murray State can’t survive on Isaiah Canaan alone, and that was supposed to be a question answered by Zay Jackson. But now Jackson appears to be facing a tough road back after being suspended following an incident this summer. Enter Ford, 6-1, 180, who has the tools to help fill the void left by the graduation of guards Jewaun Long and Donte Poole.

Semaj Christon – Xavier

He had a high-enough recruiting ranking to get his publicity, but unless you were a hardcore Recruitnik, Christon wasn’t a name up there with the Noels and Muhammads of 2012. If there ever was a freshman that I’d have to bet my life on to play early and often, Christon is most definitely it. Mark Lyons gets dismissed, heads to Arizona. Dez Wells gets expelled, he’s off to Maryland. Then freshman Myles Davis was declared a Prop 48, so Chris Mack will need the 6-3, 182-pound point guard to adjust quickly. It wouldn’t shock me to see Christon play in the 33-36-minute range in 2012-13.

Nick Osborne – Loyola-Chicago

I took to Twitter to find a name or two I hadn’t thought of, and @Title_BU reminded of Osborne, who was first-team all-state in Indiana and rated as high as the no. 2 player in the state. He’s got the size (6-8, 220) to toss people around in a conference like The Horizon League and in signing with a team that went 7-17 overall and 1-17 in conference, he’s going to be a central part of the Ramblers rebuilding efforts under Porter Moser.

Danuel House – Houston

This was a bit of a coup for third-year coach James Dickey. House was a high-major recruit that was supposed to be a get for an Arizona, Missouri or Georgetown. But the 6-7, 195-pound House stuck with the Cougars and he’s the big name in their 2012 recruiting class. There’s a huge logjam behind Memphis in Conference USA and if there’s a player that doesn’t play for the Tigers that can challenge for conference Freshman of the Year, it’s House.

NAMES TO WATCH: SOME OBVIOUS, SOME NOT SO MUCH
Archie Goodwin, Kentucky; Nerlens Noel, Kentucky; Sam Dekker, Wisconsin; Mitch McGary, Michigan; Anthony Bennett, UNLV; Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA*; Shaquille Cleare, Maryland; Montrezl Harrell, Louisville; Kris Dunn, Providence; Rodney Purvis, North Carolina State; Gary Harris, Michigan State; Langston Morris-Walker, Oregon State; Kellen Dunham, Butler; D.J. Balentine, Evansville; Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State; E.J. Reed, Long Island.
*Yet to be declared eligible by NCAA.
David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.

Four-star wing Romeo Weems commits to DePaul

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DePaul landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday afternoon, as four-star small forward Romeo Weems announced that he will be a Blue Demon. Weems, who attends New Haven HS in New Haven, Michigan, picked DePaul over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon and is considered by most major scouting services to be a Top 50 prospect in the 2019 graduating class.

The 6-foot-6 Weems plays his grassroots basketball for The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this spring. Weems also has experience playing for USA Basketball, as he was part of the Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas U16 title last year. Weems will also be part of the training camp from which the Under-17 team will be selected next month in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

DePaul managing to land a commitment from a prospect of Weems’ caliber, a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions while also being productive offensively, could be the shot in the arm that Dave Leitao’s program so desperately needs if they’re to improve their standing within the Big East.

Since making the move from Conference USA in 2005, DePaul has finished above .500 in a season just once (20-14 in 2006-07) with that also being the only time in which the Blue Demons finished above .500 in Big East play (9-7). Since Leitao, who led DePaul to its most recent NCAA tournament in 2005, returned for his second stint at the school the Blue Demons have gone 29-65.

Getting out of Allstate Arena and moving to the new Wintrust Arena ahead of last season was an important move for the DePaul program, but it’s been clear that the rebuild won’t be a “quick fix.” Bringing in a talent of Weems’ caliber should help DePaul moving forward, with the key now being to recruit well enough to ensure that the talented wing has ample help when he arrives on campus next year.

Among the players currently on the roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019 are guards Devin Gage and Justin Roberts and wing Darious Hall, who will sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring to DePaul from Arkansas. Hall appeared in 35 games for the Razorbacks this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game.