College Basketballs Breakout Stars

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Every year, before the season starts, we put together a list of players with a chance to take a major step forward during the season.

Sometimes we nail our picks because they’re too obvious to avoid – think Grayson Allen, Ben Bentil and Dillon Brooks.

Sometimes, we actually look savvy, like when we said Patrick McCaw would be the best player at UNLV. 

And then sometimes, we ruin all our credibility by saying Malik Pope could play his way into being a lottery pick.

It’s all a guessing game, really, and we’ll call our guesses quasi-educated. 

At any rate, here are the 16 players that we think will be 2016-17’s Breakout Stars.

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon |Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

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Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel, Louisville

Mitchell was one of my favorite players in the Class of 2015, and that did not change during the course of the 2015-16 season. He saw limited minutes early in the year, but by the end of ACC play, he was showing flashes of just how good he can be. Mitchell is a perfect fit for the style that Rick Pitino’s teams play. He’s a strong, athletic combo-guard that is a nightmate defensively and can play both on and off the ball offensively. He needs to get more consistent shooting the ball from the perimeter, but if he does, don’t be shocked to see Mitchell play his way into the mix as a first-team all-ACC candidate.

And, believe it or not, Adel may actually be the better of the two. His freshman season was derailed by injuries, but Adel has been one of the best players in Louisville practices since he arrived on campus. One of the reasons that Pitino brought in a pair of grad transfers for the 2015-16 season was that he knew how good that freshman class would be in time while also being aware of the fact that they needed a year of seasoning at the college level. Adel and Mitchell got that last season. It will pay dividends this year.

Jalen Adams, UConn

Kevin Ollie brought recruited Jalen Adams with the intention of turning over the reins of the program to him eventually. Adams, who hails from the same area of Boston that Shabazz Napier grew up, appears ready to take over that role this year. UConn has an impressive amount of talent on their roster this season, but if the Huskies are going to have a chance to live up to the expectations of that fan base, they are going to need Adams to come-of-age this season. He had an up-and-down freshman year, but there were some performances – 19 points at Cincinnati, 22 points vs. the Bearcats in the AAC tournament, 11 points and eight assists vs. Temple – that showed just how good he can be.

O.G. Anunoby, Indiana

Seeing Anunoby’s name on a list like this shouldn’t shock you, not with the way that he played at the end of last season or with the amount of NBA Draft hype that he has entering this season. But here’s the thing about Anunoby: Part of his appeal as a pro is that he’s an ideal role player. Players that have the size to guard a four, the quickness to guard a one, the ability to knock down threes and attack close outs, and the willingness to accept a role are so valuable. That may as well be a scouting report on Anunoby. So while he projects as a very good pro and should prove that this season, it may not be a situation where that shows up in the box score every night.

LEAGUE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Big Ten | SECMid-Majors

DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 17: OG Anunoby #3 of the Indiana Hoosiers shoots a reverse dunk over Chuck Ester #0 of the Chattanooga Mocs in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 17, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
OG Anunoby (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Carlton Bragg, Kansas

Bragg is probably the fifth-most valuable starter on the Jayhawk roster. He’s also a good bet to lead the Jayhawks in scoring this season. The way that the Kansas offense works is that the ball gets funnelled to the guy that can score out of the post. That was Perry Ellis the last three seasons, and Ellis led the Jayhawks in scoring in two of those three years. Bragg may not be as good as Ellis just yet, but he is an adequate replacement given how skilled he is offensively. I wouldn’t be shocked if he averaged 15 points this season.

Edmond Sumner, Xavier

Yes, Sumner was a star last season. Yes, he’s already on the radar of teams drafting in the first round. Yes, he was an all-Big East player as a freshman. But Sumner is no where near a national name at this point, and, quite frankly, he is no where near being a finished product. He’s a guy that’s still learning about to play at his size (6-foot-6) and athleticism thanks to a late growth spurt. Sumner still has plenty of room to get better, and that should be scary.

Tyler Lydon, Syracuse

Lydon is the player that Jim Boeheim has been dreaming about for years. He’s a long, athletic 6-foot-9 shot-blocker that can also step out and knock down threes. I’m not sure that it’s possible to find a player that better fits the way that he plays than Lydon. One interesting thing to watch here: How much will Lydon be able to produce on a team that doesn’t have great point guard play? He’s a shot-maker. He’s not a shot-creator.

Ja’Quan Newton, Miami

Jim Larrañaga’s offense is at its best when it is built around a point guard who thrives in ball-screen actions. It was Shane Larkin in 2013, it was Angel Rodriguez last season and it will be Ja’Quan Newton this year. With Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan gone, Newton will inherit the role of Miami’s go-to guy, and he has the talent to be an all-ACC player.

POSITION RANKS: Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wings | Big Men

Miami guard Ja'Quan Newton (0) prepares to shoot against Charlotte during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Miami guard Ja’Quan Newton (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Chimezie Metu, USC

As a freshman, Metu averaged 6.4 points, 3.5 boards and 1.6 blocks in just over 18 minutes last season, and this year, playing on a team that lost starting big man Nikola Jovanovic, he’ll be asked to play a much bigger role. Metu has the athleticism that Andy Enfield loves in his centers, and he’s also added some weight and a perimeter jumper this offseason.

London Perrantes, Virginia

Everyone knows who London Perrantes is at this point. He’s won 89 games in his college basketball career. His arrival at UVA coincided with the Wahoos becoming one of the ACC’s best basketball programs. But there’s never been a point in time where he was going to be asked to carry as much of the load offensively as he’ll be asked to carry this season. I think we’re going to see a different Perrantes than we’ve become accustomed to with Malcolm Brogdon gone.

Markus McDuffie, Wichita State

No Fred VanVleet. No Ron Baker. It’s a new era in Wichita, and it will be McDuffie that is asked to usher it in. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-7 wing that showed impressive flashes as a freshman on a team that was dominated by upper-classmen. If the Shockers are to repeat as MVC champs, it will be because McDuffie realized his potential.

Isaac Haas, Purdue

Haas averaged 9.8 points in just over 14 minutes this past season, but his playing time was limited because the Boilermakers had a guy on the roster by the name of A.J. Hammons. Haas should be able to see upwards of 25-30 minutes this season, but the major question mark with him is endurance. He’s a 7-foot-2, 300-pound kid that looks like he’s chiseled out of stone. It’s hard work moving that body up and down the floor.

Shake Milton, SMU

Milton is a guy that is all over the radar of NBA scouts because he’s a 6-foot-5 point guard with a 6-foot-11 wingspan that shot 42.6 percent from three. He also averaged 10.5 points and 2.7 assists playing behind Nic Moore. If he can take over the lead guard role in SMU’s offense, he could play his way into being a first round pick.

D.J. Hogg, Texas A&M

Someone is going to have to do the scoring for the Aggies this season, and it might as well be Hogg, who, at 6-foot-8, is one of the best shooters in the SEC. His presence will be important for a team that is trying to create space for the massive Tyler Davis in the paint.

Deonte Burton, Iowa State

I’m torn on Burton. On the one hand, his ability to play a Draymond Green-esque role for the Cyclones will be critical to their ability to survive playing small-ball. He has the talent and the physical tools to do so. But he has yet to prove that he can be consistent at the Big 12 level. Let’s put it like this: If Iowa State turns out to be a top 25 team this season it will be because Burton proved he deserved to be on this list.

Markus Derrickson, Georgetown

The Hoyas have a couple of candidates for this list on their roster – some due to the fact they’ve underperformed for two seasons – but we’re going with Derrickson. He’s had a terrific summer and has the size and shooting ability that makes him a perfect fit in the offense that JT3 runs.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans dunks against the UCLA Bruins during a first-round game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 9, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. USC won 95-71. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Chimezie Metu (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

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AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.

Wichita State hires ORU’s Paul Mills to lead program

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Wichita State hired Paul Mills away from Oral Roberts to turn around its languishing program, landing what has been one of the hottest names among mid-major coaches.

The 50-year-old Mills led the the Golden Eagles to two of the past three NCAA Tournaments, engineering upsets of Ohio State and Florida as a No. 15 seed in 2021 before going 30-5 this past season and losing to Duke as a No. 5 seed.

He replaces Isaac Brown, who was fired after three seasons as the Shockers slowly slipped toward mediocrity.

“My family and I are extremely excited about being a part of Wichita State,” said Mills, who will be introduced during a news conference at Charles Koch Arena. “The rich history, winning tradition and unbelievable community support will keep us working on behalf of the greatest fans in all of college basketball.”

Mills got his break in coaching when he joined Scott Drew’s first staff at Baylor in 2003, working alongside future Kansas State coach Jerome Tang in helping to turn around a program that had been mired in controversy. Mills stayed for 14 years, helping to reach seven NCAA Tournaments, before replacing Scott Sutton at Oral Roberts before the 2017 season.

Mills went just 11-21 each of his first two seasons in Tulsa, but the seeds of a turnaround had been planted, and the Golden Eagles have not had a losing season since. The biggest step came two years ago, when Mills led Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16 of an NCAA Tournament played entirely within an Indianapolis “bubble environment” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Golden Eagles slipped to 19-12 the following year before winning 30 games and the Summit League title this past season, when they were led by high-scoring guard Max Abmas, an honorable mention All-American selection.

“Paul Mills’ heart for people, passion for life and approach to the development of young people and programs is energizing,” Wichita State athletic director Kevin Saal said in a statement. “He aligns with Shocker Athletics’ core values, facilitates a first-class student-athlete experience and fuels broad-based competitive excellence.”

The hiring of Mills comes as the Shockers try to position themselves at the forefront of a new-look American Athletic Conference. Perennial powerhouse Houston is joining Central Florida and Cincinnati in leaving for the Big 12 after this season, and six new schools are due to arrive from Conference USA for the start of next season.

Wichita State, a power under Ralph Miller and Gene Smithson in the 1960s, returned to prominence when Mark Turgeon took over in 2000. But it was under Gregg Marshall, who resigned in November 2020 amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players, that it began to soar. The Shockers advanced to the Final Four in 2013, finished the regular season unbeaten the following year and at one point went to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Brown, who was Marshall’s top recruiter, led them back to the NCAA Tournament in his first year. But the Shockers were just 15-13 last year and 17-15 this past season, leading Saal to decide that a coaching change was necessary.

Turns out the answer Saal was looking for was just a few hours south at Oral Roberts.

Arizona State extends Bobby Hurley through 2025-26 season

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State agreed to a contract extension with head coach Bobby Hurley that runs through the 2025-26 season.

The deal announced on Tuesday is subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. Hurley’s previous contract was set to expire after next season.

“Coach Hurley has made our program relevant nationally with many significant wins and an exciting style, along with a firm commitment to the academic success of our student-athletes,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “He has made it clear to us that he wants to be here and we have done likewise with him. We share a strong confidence in the present and future state of Sun Devil men’s basketball.”

Hurley led the Sun Devils to 23 wins this season and their third trip to the NCAA Tournament the last five times it has been played. Arizona State beat Nevada in the First Four before losing to Texas Christian on a last-second shot last Friday.

The Sun Devils have won at least 20 games four of the past six seasons. They are 141-113 in eight seasons under Hurley.

Mark Campbell new TCU women’s coach after taking Sacramento State to NCAA

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Campbell was hired as TCU’s women’s basketball coach after the former Oregon assistant took Sacramento State to its first NCAA Tournament in an impressive and quick turnaround.

Sacramento State was coming off a 3-22 season when Campbell was hired two years ago. The Hornets won 14 games in Campbell’s first season, and then made another 11-win improvement this season while finishing 25-8 with Big Sky regular-season and tournament championships.

During his seven seasons on Oregon’s staff before that, the Ducks had some of the nation’s top recruiting classes. That included Campbell recruiting Sabrina Ionescu, who became the AP player of the year in 2020 before she was the first overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Campbell replaces Raegan Pebley, who stepped down after nine seasons as TCU’s coach with a 141-138 record. The Horned Frogs were 8-23 this season, including 1-17 in Big 12 play during the regular season.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati described Campbell as an elite recruiter and program builder.

“Similar to his success at Sacramento State, he was instrumental in Oregon quickly becoming one of the nation’s most successful programs, reaching their first NCAA Elite Eight and then Final Four,” Donati said.

The Frogs haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. That was their ninth NCAA appearance, all coming in a 10-season span without making it past the second round.

Boston College extends Earl Grant through 2028-29 season

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BOSTON – Boston College coach Earl Grant has agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2028-29 season.

Grant took over as Eagles coach prior to the 2021-22 season and finished 13-20. Boston College went 16-17 this past season, but it had three wins over nationally ranked teams for the first time in 14 years.

“My family and I have enjoyed being a part of this amazing community,” Grant said in a statement. “Boston is a great city and we are glad to call it our home. I am thankful for the efforts of my staff to help move the program forward.”

The Eagles finished 9-11 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, their most wins in the league play since 2010-11. Quinten Post also became the first Boston College player to be named Most Improved Player.

In announcing the extension, athletic director Blake James expressed optimism about the direction of the program.

“Earl has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program over the last two seasons and we are looking forward to him doing so for many years to come,” James said.