College Basketball’s Breakout Stars

Associated Press

Here are fifteen players poised to have major breakout years in college basketball in 2015-16: 

Grayson Allen, Duke

The easiest pick ever. Allen was a McDonald’s All-American that was on the wrong side of a playing time crunch, got his chance late in the season and capitalized, lighting Wake Forest up for 27 points before playing his way into the conversation as a potential early-entry candidate with his performance in the Final Four. The only thing that concerns me about this pick is that the Blue Devils have been experimenting with Allen at the point, which is not his natural position. He’s a team player, so he’ll do it no questions asked, but playing out of a position is a good way for a sophomore to see his production and efficiency capped.

Kam Williams, Ohio State

Williams is a bucket-getter, a big time scorer that has spent his first two seasons in Columbus redshirting and playing behind D’angelo Russell. In 15.7 minutes last season, the 6-foot-2 Baltimore native averaged 5.3 points. With Russell and Shannon Scott gone, Williams is a guy that could being the beneficiary of those extra possessions. He’ll be streaky at times, but when he gets going, watch out.

Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

I’m not sure if Koenig technically qualifies for this list, as he kind of had his breakout season in the second half of last year. A junior, he took over the starting point guard role for the Badgers when Trae Jackson went down with injury and never looked back. This year, with all that the Badgers lost, Koenig will have a chance to be more of a focal point offensively. If Wisconsin is going to finish in the top four in the Big Ten — something they’ve done in each of Bo Ryan’s 14 seasons as head coach — this guy will be a big reason why.

Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

This pick may not seem to make sense given the fact that he may end up being the fourth option offensively on his team. But here’s the thing about Ulis: he’s a prototypical point guard, a throwback kind of dude that’s going to be way more important to Kentucky than his stats will suggest on both ends of the floor. I think the public at large, and not just Big Blue Nation, will see that this season.

Dillon Brooks, Oregon

Brooks was a revelation as a freshman, enrolling in college a year early to become one of the better newcomers in the Pac-12. He averaged 11.6 points, numbers that will go up this season with leading scorer Joseph Young graduating and Dylan Ennis and Jordan Bell out with foot injuries. I think Brooks has a chance to be a first-team all-Pac 12 player this season.

Josh Hart, Villanova

Hart is the typical power wing that Jay Wright has been so successsful with over the years. He’s a better scorer than he gets credit for and is a terrific defender and offensive rebounder. Everyone is going to talk about Villanova’s guards — Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson — but Hart should end up being an all-Big East player this season and could end up their most valuable player.

Ben Bentil, Providence

Bentil was fantastic for the Friars for stretches late in the season. With LaDontae Henton and Carson Derosiers graduating and Paschal Chukwu transferring to Syracuse, there will plenty of opportunities available for Bentil, who will be the major beneficiary of Kris Dunn’s play making ability.

Malik Pope, San Diego State

Pope has worlds of potential. He’s a 6-foot-10 small forward that’s athletic and has three point range. It’s been a long time since he was completely healthy for an entire season, and as a result, his consistency has suffered. If Pope can managed to stay out of the trainer’s room for a full season, we could be looking at SDSU’s next lottery pick.

Patrick McCaw, UNLV

Everyone talks about Dave Rice’s ability to reel in five-star recruits from all over the country, but perhaps his best find in recent years has been McCaw, a 6-foot-5 guard that graduated from Montrose Christian. McCaw has impressed early this year after averaged 9.6 points and 2.7 assists as a freshman.

Patrick McCaw (AP Photo)
Patrick McCaw (AP Photo)

Jalen Reynolds, Xavier

Reynolds is an athletic, 6-foot-9 power forward that played behind Matt Stainbrook and averaged 9.9 points and 6.1 boards in right around 20 minutes last season. As Xavier’s go-to low-post option playing a more significant role this season, Reynolds should be in for an uptick in production.

Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt

Baldwin was arguably the most underrated freshman in the SEC last season, averaging 9.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.1 boards for a Vanderbilt team that won eight of their last ten in the regular season. We expect the Commodores that be top 15-good this season, and if they do, a large part of it will be because of Baldwin’s improvement.

Abdul-Malik Abu, N.C. State

Abu is a prototype college four, a powerfully athletic, 6-foot-8 dunking machine that threw down his fair share of posters last season. As the rest of his game catches up to his athleticism, and with more playing time available to him this year, Abu could end up being the best big man on the Wolfpack and a borderline all-ACC player.

Isaac Copeland, Georgetown

Copeland has a ton of ability and is a perfect fit for what John Thompson III wants out of his fours — he can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor, he can cut to the rim. Copeland has a little bit of Hollis Thompson in his game. As a freshman, he put together some big time performances, although he was far too inconsistent. Don’t be surprised if Copeland is in the conversation for all-Big East by the time the season ends.

James Webb III, Boise State

Webb’s inclusion on this list isn’t because I think he’s going to greatly improve on the 11.6 points and 8.0 boards he averaged last think. He’s here because I think people are going to end up paying quite a bit more attention to him this year. He’s got a chance to be a first round pick come June.

Daniel Hamilton, UConn

Hamilton, a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2014, entered UConn with the reputation for being a gunner. Then the 6-foot-7 small forward went out and averaged 10.9 points, 7.6 boards and 3.7 assists as a freshman. He’s got a real shot at being the AAC Player of the Year this season.


  • Nate Mason, Minnesota: Mason emerged as the second-best guard in Minnesota’s back court last season, and with Dre Mathieu and Andre Hollins gone, he’ll be the guy running the show this year.
  • Vince Edwards, Purdue: If Edwards can become a more consistent perimeter shooter, he can make the Boilermakers a very dangerous team given the size in their front court. If not, he could lose some minutes to the guys that can better create space.
  • Konstantinos Mitoglou, Wake Forest: Mitoglou is a 6-foot-10 freshman that averaged 9.7 points and shot 38.5 percent from three in his first season in Winston-Salem. He’s a really nice asset for Danny Manning.
  • Brekkot Chapman, Utah: Chapman averaged 5.7 points and shot 44.2 percent from three in 15 minutes as a freshman for the Utes. His shooting ability at 6-foot-7 helps create the space that allows Utah to be effective in pick-and-roll actions.
  • Yante Maten, Georgia: Maten was quite productive in limited minutes as a freshman for the Bulldogs. With Georgia’s front line graduating and with a senior-laden, talented back court returning, Maten is going to play a major role in whether UGA can compete at the top of the SEC.
  • Reid Travis, Stanford: Travis, an undersized four, had a promising start to his freshman season that was interrupted as he battled injury. The Cardinal lose their top three scorers from last year, meaning he will have plenty of opportunities.
  • Jonathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was just a three-star recruit when he arrived in Waco, but the athletic, 6-foot-10 center had some truly dominating performances during the year. Motley, teaming with Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, will give the Bears one of the nation’s best front lines.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”