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.

Arizona State will have more size, lineup options this season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State was one of college basketball’s biggest surprises during the 2017-18 season, rising to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.

The Sun Devils’ run came a year ahead of their coach’s schedule.

“I looked at it like this was going to be the year,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said Wednesday. “Maybe before last season, I had a pretty good suspicion we would exceed expectations of what people thought, but really deep down this was the year with having the size in the front court and having a high-level recruiting class.”

Led by senior guards Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Kodi Justice, Arizona State knocked off Kansas and Xavier while putting together the first undefeated non-conference schedule in school history. The Sun Devils had a little more trouble when the Pac-12 season started, but their resume was good enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Syracuse in the first round.

The senior trio is gone to graduation, but there’s plenty left in the cupboard at Arizona State.

Dynamic point guard Remy Martin is back after a stellar freshman season, ready to take the reins of Arizona State’s offense. The big men who complemented the senior guards also return, led by Romello White and De’Quon Lake. The Sun Devils also will have forwards Mickey Mitchell and Kimani Lawrence for the entire season.

Arizona State should get a big boost from transfers Zylan Cheatham (San Diego State) and Rob Edwards (Cleveland State), who know Hurley’s system after practicing with the team while sitting out last season.

Add to it a stellar recruiting class by Hurley, led by five-star forward Taeshon Cherry, and the Sun Devils should be in position for the program’s first consecutive NCAA Tournaments since 1978-80.

“We lose three guys that were critical to what we did, very key players to what we’re building, but we’re replacing them with six guys that are very capable,” Hurley said. “Last year we were under the radar, especially initially … but the secret’s out. We have good players, we had a great season last year and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to do it again.”

Out of necessity, Hurley played a guard-oriented style his first few years in Tempe, often with four guards on the court at the same time. It worked when Holder, Evans and Justice were making shots, but a lack of size inside limited what the Sun Devils could do and led to matchup problems.

The additions of White and Lake last season helped even things up for Arizona State inside, but there were still size issues once the Pac-12 season started.

Next season’s roster will give Hurley more lineup options.

The Sun Devils will be bigger, not just inside, but at the guard spots. Martin is 6-foot, but Edwards and Canadian freshman Luguentz Dort are 6-4, and Finnish freshman Elias Valtonen is 6-6. And Uros Plavsic, an active 7-footer from Serbia, gives Arizona State the type of inside presence it hasn’t had in years.

“The way our roster is constructed and built this year, we’re going to be bigger even at the guard positions,” Hurley said. “We have real good size at the wing positions. We’re just going have more options, more depth.”

With that size may come a change in the way the Sun Devils play.

Holder, Evans, Justice and Martin played a high-energy, sharpshooting game, so Hurley tailored the offense to their skills. Arizona State took 41 percent of its shots from 3-point range, making 36 percent.

Now that the Sun Devils have size inside, Hurley may go to more of an inside-out offense rather than the other way around.

“This year’s roster gives me a ton of options to play a lot of different ways,” Hurley said. “I could see scenarios where there’s five guys 6-7 or bigger, which I’ve never had.”

The Sun Devils will have a new look, but appear to be ready to take another step in Hurley’s rebuilding project.

Former UConn assistant levies serious accusations at Kevin Ollie

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On Thursday, after a Freedom Of Information Act request filed by local newspapers, UConn released more than 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to the investigation that led to the decision to fire of Kevin Ollie.

In those documents were the fairly innocuous NCAA violations that were allegedly committed by Ollie that UConn used as “just cause” for firing him and digging themselves out of the $10 million that he was owed on that contract.

But that is just the beginning of where this thing gets interesting, because there are more accusations levied at Ollie than what UConn was able to confirm.

Let’s start with this one: Former assistant coach Glen Miller said that Ollie paid $30,000 to the mother of a recruit to allow her to afford an apartment and move to Connecticut to be closer to her son. He didn’t have any first-hand information — his wife had befriended the mother of the player and opened up about it while they were on a road trip together — but that’s not the only bomb that Miller tried to drop. He also alleged that Ollie fired his former agent because he wouldn’t help him to recruit, which Miller implies is the agent paying players to go to UConn.

Again, none of these allegations are corroborated. This is Miller, a long-time UConn assistant that was fired — and is clearly still bitter about it — passing along things that he had heard second-hand. One story was from his wife, the other was from one of the most powerful agents in the business. There’s no proof those conversations actually happened, let alone that what was discussed is actually true.

But this is a good example of just how ugly this thing has a chance to get.

There is $10 million on the line for a school and a state that is not exactly overflowing in cash, but is there a larger cost that could be associated with this decision? Could fighting to save that $10 million eventually turn up major violations within the UConn program?

As it stands, Ollie has not technically been fired by UConn yet. He is only suspended with pay as of now. The process to fire him included a hearing with athletic director David Benedict in April and a hearing with school president Susan Herbst last month. Both Benedict and, as of yesterday, Herbst supported the decision to fire Ollie with cause, meaning that he will now be forced to face arbitration. If that ruling goes against him, he will have the option to take UConn to court, which, it seems, he will be willing to do.

Which is where the headache for UConn comes into play.

Do they really want to have a case that has already had these accusations come to light get discussed in a court of law? If this is what a FOIA turns up, what happens during depositions? For a program that has already dealt with their share of NCAA scandals — which, mind you, did not get Jim Calhoun fired — is it really worth the money to risk having even more turn up?

The worst kept secret in college basketball is that UConn is grasping at straws with this decision. They want anything they can find that will allow them to get out from underneath what, in hindsight, was a terrible contract.

And in the end, that could cost them more than just money.

Report: Alleged NCAA violations against former UConn coach Kevin Ollie revealed

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie allegedly committed multiple NCAA violations that led to his dismissal last spring, according to a report released Wednesday by the Hartford Courant.

Ollie was dismissed from the position after a disappointing 2017-18 campaign as he’s been in a battle with the school over the remaining $10 million on his contract. Since Ollie was fired for just cause, the school is trying to withhold that remaining money as the case will proceed to arbitration. UConn president Susan Herbst upheld the school’s decision to terminate Ollie for just cause on Tuesday as he is still, technically, suspended without pay.

According to documents obtained by The Courant under a Freedom of Information Act request, Ollie and his staff committed multiple violations, including an impermissible phone call between Huskies legend Ray Allen and a recruit. Multiple UConn players were also sent to work with an outside trainer on campus, and later, in Atlanta. Another violation occurred when Ollie shot baskets with recruit James Akinjo during an official visit as the video was posted by Akinjo’s guardian on Twitter. The video was later deleted.

Among the 1,355 pages of documents that The Courant obtained, it includes the NCAA’s transcripts from their investigation as well as UConn’s case to terminate Ollie as head coach.

Perhaps the worst violation includes the alleged involvement of the trainer, as Ollie allegedly had a friendship with Derrek Hamilton. During the 2015-16 season, Hamilton allegedly worked out UConn players after hours during on-campus workouts as well as off-campus workouts. Three players also allegedly traveled to Atlanta to train with Hamilton as the players were fed, transported and housed for free — all of which are NCAA violations.

The NCAA has yet to proceed with any action against UConn as 900 pages of the report were based on the NCAA’s interviews and findings. Former UConn coach Glen Miller was also granted immunity in exchange for his testimony to the NCAA regarding the violations.

These alleged violations are a new step in the Ollie case, as the case does not look great for him to receive the remaining $10 million on the contract. Ollie and UConn still have to go through arbitration, but the release of these documents, and alleged violations, is very hurtful to Ollie’s case.

Harvard captain Chris Egi opts for Wall Street instead of pro basketball dreams

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Harvard forward and team captain Chris Egi is opting to skip potential professional basketball options in order to pursue a career on Wall Street.

In a great profile from Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada, the 6-foot-9 Egi will become an investment analyst at Goldman Sachs after his four-year career with the Crimson ended after this season.

At one point considered a top-100 prospect in his high school Class of 2014, Egi never found consistent footing on the Harvard basketball team as he played sparingly over the course of his four seasons. Injuries and a competitive roster forced Egi to re-evaluate his basketball ambitions as a concussion forced him to miss a lot of his senior season.

“I kind of made an agreement with myself that I’d put it all in for a final shot senior year. But chances were it wasn’t going to be basketball for me unless something great happened,” Egi said in the story.

“[Playing professionally] would be a great experience and part of me wants to do it. But part of me feels like this isn’t the path for me and there are a lot of opportunities here that aren’t about playing basketball and I want to take advantage of those and get started on this new journey.”

While Egi never got stable playing time with Harvard, he could have been an intriguing professional player thanks to his run-and-jump athleticism. Since Egi is also Canadian, he would not have fit under some international league policies that limit the number of American players on certain rosters. If healthy, Egi could have eventually morphed into a serviceable pro after a disappointing college basketball career.

In the classroom at Harvard, however, things were hardly disappointing for Egi. In fact, it appears he might have made the correct decision by going the Wall Street route. Selected to give a commencement speech at Harvard’s underclass graduation late in May, Egi shined as he told his family’s story and personal experiences at the Ivy League school he always dreamed of attending.

As Michael Porter Jr. joins Puma, will brand make splash into college basketball?

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As the 2018 NBA Draft approaches, Puma has made major headlines by signing a handful of lottery picks — including the potential top two picks in Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley.

Puma’s aggressive move to get back into basketball continued on Wednesday afternoon as ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported that Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. — another likely top-10 pick — will sign a multi-year deal with the apparel company.

Dormant in the basketball business since Vince Carter signed with the brand as a rookie in 1998, Puma has become one of the intriguing subplots of this year’s draft as they attempt to position themselves in a crowded basketball apparel market that includes heavyweights like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

But while Puma has made a splash by signing three potential top ten picks, and another potential lottery pick in Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith, the intriguing question becomes what the brand might do at the college and grassroots levels of basketball?

Besides targeting 2018 NBA draft picks, Puma has recently made a strong push as a lifestyle brand by forging partnerships with music icons like Jay-Z and Rihanna. The brand’s soccer division also received a boost when they opted to sign Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku to a roster that already included the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The company also has a longstanding partnership with 11-time Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt.

So, even outside of professional basketball, Puma is trying to make major moves, while spending major money, over the last several months.

Having star NBA talents signed to apparel deals is one thing. Those same companies often attempt to align with as many college programs and high school programs as possible. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have also formed their own spring and summer grassroots basketball leagues over the last decade with the EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet and the Under Armour Association.

While Puma is undoubtedly spending enough to be seen by the masses, it’s hard to say if they have the monetary means, or the labor, to make a major push into smaller basketball levels like college and the AAU scene. Multiple basketball and apparel sources speculated to NBCSports.com that Puma’s sudden rise into the NBA doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll want to make the leap into college or high school basketball.

That’s been the natural progression of the other apparel companies who have made a major mark in basketball, as those brands value the long-term relationships and local credibility that comes with having top-notch college and high school players wearing their product.

Maybe Puma doesn’t see things that way as they try to align themselves with star professional players. And for all of the talk of Nike having long-term relationships with Ayton, Bagley and Porter, all three of them jumped at the chance to make the most money with the new(ish) kids on the block. Money will still be the ultimate factor in a lot of athletes signing with apparel companies.

If Puma does decide to enter the college athletics arms race, it would certainly make for a fascinating apparel company to enter the mix. Since Puma has credibility in sports like golf, tennis, soccer and track and field they could also make a splash signing larger schools to long-term apparel deals that go across all sports.

But it remains to be seen what Puma’s long-term goal is after signing four strong draft prospects. Puma is off to a great start re-entering basketball, but we have no idea what kind of end-goal they have in mind. Or if that even involves college basketball.